The most expensive Ferrari ever auctioned: 1962 250 GTO sells for US$52m in New York

The biopic Ferrari, which depicts the life of Enzo Ferrari, the Prancing Horse's founder, is set to be released in the United States during the Christmas season. With over a month leading up to its premiere, Ferrari has already grabbed headlines as a one-of-a-kind 1962 250 GTO sold for a record-breaking US$51.7 million on Tuesday (13 November) at RM Sotheby's.  

Back in 2018, another 250 GTO set an auction record for a car at US$48.4 million. That record, though, was smashed by a one-of-two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé last year when it fetched a whopping US$143.1 million. 

While the 250 GTO sold this time failed to reclaim the title of the most expensive car ever auctioned, it still became the most expensive Ferrari as well as the second-most expensive car in auction history. 

1962 Ferrari 330 LM / 250 GTO
Manufactured in 1962
Chassis Number: 3765
Estimate upon request (Expected to fetch in the region of US$60 million)
Hammer Price: US$47,000,000
Sold: US$51,705,000

Auction House: RM Sotheby's
Sale: The One - 1962 Ferrari GTO
Date: 13 November 2023

Ferrari's 250 series had been a dominant force in the automotive industry from the 1950s onwards. Standing for "Grand Tourer", the GT model was made a sports car suitable for long journeys, meaning high-performance systems and comfortability were equally important.

While the racecar version in the series, the 250 GT Berlinetta, brought Ferrari great success on the racetrack, by late 1961 Ferrari realized it was increasingly approaching its limits, and began to develop a competition replacement for the model – the more powerful 250 GTO. 

Giotto Bizzarrini, the chief engineer responsible for its design, focused on the car's aerodynamics to improve top speed and stability. This resulted in the car's aesthetically pleasing streamlined bodywork, lower and sleeker, with a small rear wing, and a more slanted windshield. 

Perhaps most significantly, the new chassis architecture and the dry-sump oil system allowed for the engine to be placed lower than its predecessor, ensuring a lower centre of gravity and correspondingly improved handling. 

The interior of the present car features a clean and sleek design

The engine was placed lower, allowing for an improvement in stability

The chassis number of this car is 3765

The production of 250 GTO spanned from 1962 to 1964, with 36 examples ever rolled off the line. But described by RM Sotheby's as "The One", this present car, Chassis number 3765, is not just one of the 36; it is the only Works GTO example that was originally equipped with a 4-litre engine, instead of 3 litres for regular 250 GTOs. 

The reason behind this modification was that this particular 250 GTO was designated to race for their official team, Scuderia Ferrari, while all other examples were entrusted to privateers – a move to secure more championship points but not beat the factory cars.

Piloted by works drivers Mike Parkes and Willy Mairesse, Chassis number 3765 made its debut at the 1962 Nürburgring 1,000 Kilometer, where it clinched a class win and a second-overall finish.

Later that year, the speed machine went on to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an even more powerful engine that boosted the horsepower to 390, but it failed to finish due to overheating.

This 250 GTO was raced by Ferrari's official race team in 1962

After its retirement, the car changed hands several times and eventually made its way to North America. Its latest owner, Ohio-based collector Jim Jaeger, acquired the car in 1985 and has kept it in his collection for 38 years until the present sale. It is reported that Jaeger purchased the car for US$500,000.

Now fetching US$51.7 million, it realised a remarkable 103-fold increase in value over 38 years and became the second-most expensive car ever sold at auction.

The reshuffled top three most expensive cars sold at auction are as follows:

  1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR 'Uhlenhaut Coupé' | Sold: €135,000,000 | Date: 5 May 2022
  2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO | Sold: US$51,705,000 | Date: 13 November 2023
  3. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO | Sold: US$48,405,000 | Date: 26 August 2018

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR 'Uhlenhaut Coupé' | Sold: €135,000,000, 5 May 2022

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO | Sold: US$48,405,000 | Date: 26 August 2018