2023 was a huge year for the collector car market. Record prices were set seemingly left and right while a variety of collections were offered by different auction companies that offered glimpses into lesser-known areas of the hobby. Considering all the cars that changed hands at auctions throughout the year it can be challenging to determine which were the most significant sales, but that’s what we’ve done here. Of course, significant doesn’t mean the most expensive cars to sell, though the record holder for 2023 is certainly present on our list, but the real focus is on the cars that give us a hint of what might be in the coming years, which areas of the market are ripe to take off, and just how serious some people take this hobby of ours.
It’s definitely the most significant car to sell at auction in recent memory. The 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO by Scaglietti that was sold by RM Sotheby’s may not have set the record for the most expensive car ever sold at auction – that honor goes to the SLR that was also sold by RM Sotheby’s in 2022 – but this auction gave a glimpse into the world of the truly high-end Ferrari enthusiasts. After commission the GTO, the only one from 1962 that was fielded by Scuderia Ferrari themselves, sold for $51,705,000. A previous winner of Best of Show at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and complete with plenty of documentation, our sincere hope is that the new owner takes this to the track and drives it the way it was built to be driven.
This 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider Series I was sold by RM Sotheby’s at their Monterey auction and left many in the collector car world speechless. Having seen the remains of this car in person in Monterey, it really didn’t seem like something that would sell for $1,875,000 but here we are! When the hammer dropped the room erupted into a mixture of applause and shocked gasps as everyone processed what had just happened. The reality is that the only way this car will ever turn a profit for its new owner, if it ever will, is to be restored by Ferrari Classiche and that is undoubtedly the plan. It’s the only way the car will get the coveted Red Book and, regardless of how much it appeared to be scrap metal, once Ferrari gives it their stamp of approval it will stand up to any other Mondial on the market.
Part of the Gateway Automobile Museum Collection, this 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept car is one of a kind and the only remaining example of a stunning model from GM Motorama. GM supplied the car as a knocked-down kit to E.L. Cord who kept it at his home in California for some years before the car was restored to the stunning piece of engineering that attendees of Broad Arrow’s Radius Auction were privileged enough to see in person. Photographs hardly do this car justice, but the particularly notable thing about the F-88 is the glimpse it provided into the somewhat niche world of collecting concept cars. We’ve seen some interesting ones at auction over the years but there’s something about the F-88 that lets the imagination run wild, thinking what if it went into production? What would be different about cars today if GM had put all of those styling cues into production? We’ll never know the answer, but we do know that its selling price of $1,765,000 means this will be remembered by us and many others in the collector car world for a long time to come.
This matching-numbers 1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta was certainly the star of the show for Bonhams at The Quail Auction. Displayed on its own, roped off from auction attendees, the history carried by this 412P was palpable every time the rotating platform that carried it completed another turn. It was a phenomenal example of a prototype race car from Ferrari’s most memorable and successful period of competition in endurance racing. It was fitting to see this car sell the same year that saw Ferrari finally take another overall victory at Le Mans. If this car tells us anything, along with the GTO that sold in New York, it’s that the market is ripe for the finest competition Ferraris to cross the auction block. This one spent nine years being restored and it won’t surprise us to see another major Ferrari such as this at auction in 2024.
It’s not really a surprise to see the most unique cars on display when walking around Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction and this 1989 Ferrari F40 was no exception. It was an early production F40 and something of a one-off example as it presents in Nardo Gray. It spent some of its early life racing in the Ferrari/Porsche Challenge series so it’s somewhat impressive that it still retains its matching-numbers engine and gearbox. It changed hands a few times in the 90s, finally landing in the collection of Michel Oprey who had more mechanical work done to it, finally settling on a car that can produce between 700 and 1,000 horsepower, depending on its configuration. It’s certainly a color that we’ve not seen on another F40 and frankly, we don’t know why not. It’s stunning and got every bit of attention and bidding it deserved on the block in Scottsdale, selling for a remarkable $2,750,000.
This wasn’t the only Carrera GT to cross an auction block in 2023, but it still stands out to us. One of the 644 examples of this supercar that were sold new in the US, it spent its first 3,300 miles with a black exterior, just as it left the factory. The consignor took ownership of the car and went all-out having the car repainted in the bespoke PPG Red that it still wears today. The work was completed by Karosserie of Wayne, PA, which happens to be the Pagani-certified paint shop, while also being factory certified by Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, and Porsche. The car was stripped to bare carbon-fiber before the stunning red paint was applied. It benefits from some other tweaks including replacing the hydraulic rear spoiler actuators with an electric system, while the original hydraulic one was kept with the car and was included in the sale. Showing 3,310 miles when it was sold by Barrett-Jackson, it landed in the right collection before the winning bidder was able to get their hands on a unique Carrera GT.
It was the year for Ferrari collectors as each and every auction seemed to offer something special for fans of the prancing horse. This 1962 Ferrari SWB California Spider was one of only 37 built with covered headlights. It was another well-documented car, having spent the majority of its life in two major Ferrari collections, starting in the early 1970s. Another matching-numbers car, it was Ferrari Classiche Certified and even won the SWB California Cup at Cavallino Classic. More than just being the only example to leave the factory in Azzurro Metallizzato, this California Spider was initially built for the 1962 New York International Auto Show and thus was equipped with some unique options from the factory. It’s both incredible, but also not a surprise that this sold for $18,045,000, right within the pre-auction estimate.
The Ferrari F50 holds a special place in the history of the Scuderia and their production cars as it was the last of Ferrari’s analog supercars. This example is one of only 349 that were built and is a European-spec car with comparatively low mileage, showing less than 11,500 km since new when it was offered by Broad Arrow in Monterey. It came with thorough documentation by Marcel Massini, as one would expect for a Ferrari of this caliber, and is a matching-numbers example. It spent most of its life, between 1996 and 2023 in the collections of two owners in Japan, one of which was the Matsuda Collection. Selling for a very strong $4,240,000, this car is the epitome of 1990s Ferrari.
It wasn’t the most expensive car sold by Mecum at their Monterey auction in 2023, but this 1969 Datsun Fairlady Z432 deserves a place on this list. It’s one of only 299 examples that were built between 1969 and 1970 and was offered as part of the Mike and Debbie Rogers Datsun Collection. It was restored once in Japan and then again in London prior to being imported to the US. It’s equipped with its matching-numbers inline six-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. It’s understandably a right-hand drive car and is finished in a stunning Orange with a black interior. It won Best in Show at Nashville ZCON in 2021 and sits ready to stun at the next show it attends. Extremely rare in the US, this paints a picture of the JDM market maturing and starting to see the sort of prices classic muscle cars were achieving five to ten years ago. We expect to see even more interest in JDM cars in the coming years.
Gooding & Company have always had a knack for consigning the finest unrestored cars on the market and this Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta is no exception. It presented very well in its original color combination of Grigio Metallizzato with Beige Leather interior and was extremely well-documented, having just four owners since it was new. That documentation also showed that it was a numbers-matching example, as well as showing that it was owned by the same collector from 1967 to 1985. It had never previously been offered by an auction company and Gooding & Company certainly knew what they were doing as they sold this Ferrari for $9,465,000, solidly inside their pre-auction estimate.
Once part of the Otis Chandler Collection, this 1969 Dodge Hemi Daytona has had a series of well-known owners and is the lowest mileage four-speed Hemi Daytona still equipped with its original engine known to exist, its odometer showing only 6,490 miles when it was consigned by Mecum for their 2023 Kissimmee auction. It came with two broadcast sheets and was restored by Roger Gibson who made this the first Mopar to be restored with the correct factory markings on its undercarriage. Equipped with power steering and power brakes, this was an ISCA show car in the 1970s and thus wore a custom paint job. Photographs of the car before and after the restoration show the custom paint it wore in the 70s and the Copper Metallic with white bumblebee stripe that it currently wears. It’s not every day that the Dodge Hemi Daytona against which all other Hemi Daytonas are judged hits the auction block and that is reason enough for it to make our list of the most significant sales of 2023.
What's Next for 2024?
Undoubtedly more records will be set in the coming year, likely in Scottsdale if not earlier in the month when Mecum will offer more than 4,000 vehicles for sale in Kissimmee, but 2023 will remain an important year in the collector car world, having bore witness to so many unique cars at so many different auctions. There most likely won’t be another GTO on an auction block in the coming year, but the market seems ready for other high-end collectibles, whether they’re from Maranello or Detroit.