The Top Three Classic Cars of 2023: Bugatti, Ferrari, and Mercedes- Rank as the Most Expensive

    The Classic Car Industry: A Year of Familiar Faces

    In a year marked by economic uncertainty and cooling values, collectors have shown their unwavering commitment to paying top dollar for the rarest cars in the world. The highest-selling cars of 2023 have been dominated by the iconic Italian automaker, Ferrari. Out of the 10 cars sold publicly at the highest prices, seven proudly wore the dancing stallion badge from Modena, Italy.

    The pinnacle of the year came on November 13, when a 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO by Scaglietti fetched a staggering $51.7 million at an RM Sotheby’s auction in New York City. This antique racer not only set a record for the most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction but also claimed the title of the most expensive car sold publicly in 2023.

    The Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO surpassed its closest competitors by a significant margin. A 1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta sold for $30.2 million in August, followed by an $18.8 million Formula 1 Mercedes sold in November, and an $18 million 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider sold in March. The fifth spot was claimed by a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, which fetched €15.7 million ($17 million) at an Artcurial auction in July.

    Despite these phenomenal sales, the latter part of the year has seen some soft results, possibly due to macroeconomic factors such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. This suggests that collectors may exercise more caution in their purchasing decisions in the coming months.

    Juan Diego Calle, the founder and CEO of, which compiles data on classic cars, remarks that collectors, especially those at the top end of the market, are not greatly influenced by interest rates but are sensitive to macroeconomic events. As uncertainties loom, collectors start to consider the global situation and its potential impact on their investments.

    The classic car industry in 2023 can be succinctly summarized in three words: nothing new here. Out of the top 10 highest-selling cars, seven were Ferraris, affirming the brand’s enduring popularity. Notable mentions go to a 1972 Ferrari 312 PB, which sold for €12 million at RM Sotheby’s, and a 1957 Jaguar XKSS, which fetched $13.2 million at the same auction. The other marque making the list was a 2022 Bugatti Chiron Profilée, sold for €9.7 million at RM Sotheby’s.

    The presence of the Bugatti on the list is particularly significant as it is one of the last models expected to rely solely on combustion engines. Bugatti is set to introduce a new hybrid vehicle in the near future, increasing the desirability and value of existing models, as highlighted by Craig Jackson, the chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Co.

    Amidst the eye-watering prices, it is important to acknowledge the challenges faced by the classic car market this year. The final sale price of $51.7 million for the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO fell short of RM Sotheby’s initial estimate of exceeding $60 million. However, this discrepancy did not dampen the mood of the auction, which was hosted by comedian James Corden and held at the extravagant Awakening Theater in the Wynn Las Vegas.

    October, the first month to witness a decline in dollar volumes of public sales compared to the previous year, experienced a significant drop of 23.4% according to data. Overall, 2023 has seen a 3.7% decrease in sales from the same period in 2022, with total sales amounting to $3.9 billion compared to $4 billion last year.

    At a recent RM Sotheby’s auction in Las Vegas, 80% of the lots sold for less than their low estimate, indicating a somewhat lackluster performance. Notably, a pair of Ferrari LaFerraris, typically valued at over $4 million each, failed to find buyers, including a 1990 Ferrari F40 GT.

    The Monterey Car Week auctions in August, considered a barometer for the collector car market, revealed vulnerabilities early on. For instance, a 1967 Ferrari 412P estimated to sell for up to $40 million went under the hammer for $30.2 million at Bonhams. Similarly, a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM failed to meet its reserve and remained unsold during the RM Sotheby’s auction.

    By the end of the week, total sales reached approximately $400 million across five auction houses, a decrease from the $473 million recorded in 2022. The average sale price also witnessed a decline, dropping from $591,768 to $477,981.

    Despite these challenges, certain brands such as Bugatti, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz remain resilient in the market. The 2002 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Roadster sold for $10.2 million at RM Sotheby’s, while a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta fetched $9.5 million at Gooding & Co., securing a spot in the top 10 car sales of 2023.

    The classic car market at the upper echelons appears to be in good health, according to Juan Diego Calle. Collectors have made their preferences clear, opting to purchase fewer cars and sticking with the tried-and-tested brands they know.

    In conclusion, the classic car industry in 2023 has witnessed extraordinary sales, especially within the Ferrari realm. However, challenges such as declining sales volumes, failed auctions, and uncertainties in the global landscape have cast a shadow of doubt on the market’s future. Collectors, while still enthusiastic, have become more cautious in their buying decisions, resulting in a year defined by familiar faces rather than groundbreaking new entrants.

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