According to Hagarty Insurance, the collector car market is beginning to cool off. For the first time since 2009, there was no year-over-year gain at Monterey Car Week, which suggests that the skyrocketing prices for classics are beginning to run out of steam. But if you’ve sunk your life savings into collectible iron, it isn’t time to panic yet, this isn’t an early ’90s redux — when vintage Ferraris lost over 50% of their value seemingly overnight. Hagarty suggests that the price of collectible iron is merely beginning to level off, which means that the buy-in is still incredibly high, and average Joes will still have to keep dreaming when it comes to buying that perfect vintage long-hood Porsche 911.
If there were any disappointments at Monterey this year, it was that it couldn’t top 2014’s $402.6 million take. Instead, the major auction houses pulled in at least $390 million – or higher than the GDP of most island nations. The average price of a car sold was $497,557, and for the first time, cars from the ’80s and ’90s began to outshine postwar beauties from the ’50s and ’60s. Ferraris still ruled the roost, but there were still a few surprises to keep things interesting.
While a number of single cars fetched millions, and quite a few changed hands for over $10 million. Of those, here of the five best-selling classics from Monterey Car Week 2015.
5. (tie) 1956 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta Competizione “Tour de France”
Proving yet again that Ferrari 250s are worth more than their weight in gold, RM Sotheby’s sold this 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione with a body by Scaglietti for a whopping $13.2 million. The blue GT was one of just seven built, and won the 1956 Tour de France Auto race. On top of its rich competition history, it’s spent the last 59 years meticulously cared for, and has a reputation for winning awards at Monterey, taking Best in Class at the 1994 International Ferrari Concours d’Elegance, and Third in Class at the 2004 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
5. (tie) 1953 Jaguar C-type Works Lightweight
Tied for fifth on the list is a former Ferrari 250 killer, a Jaguar C-Type Works Lightweight from 1953. A competition car loosely based on the XK120, the C-Type thrust Jaguar into the spotlight in the early ’50s as a force to be reckoned with in motorsports. While every C-Type is a blue-chip collectable (only about 50 were built) this car was one of just three lightweight cars built by Jaguar, and finished fourth at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the other two factory-works Jags taking the top two positions. The car spent the 1950s racing all over Europe before being snapped up by a string of collectors. Its latest owner bought the car through RM Sotheby’s for $13.2 million.
4. 1998 McLaren F1 ‘LM Specification’
Selling for an incredible $13,750,000, this McLaren F1 proves that ’90s cars are officially blue-chip collectibles. This McLaren, chassis number 073, was the second-to-last F1 road car built, and sold new to a “high-profile” owner in 1998. But the best road car wasn’t good enough, so the owner had McLaren upgrade the car to LM-spec, and upgrade the interior. The result is an F1 with essentially the same mechanicals as the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning cars, with a bespoke interior that’s far more luxurious than the one that came stock. Because of its provenance and exclusivity, RM Sotheby’s made a tidy profit off this one.
3. 1962 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale
When people think timeless Ferrari style, they usually think Pininfarina. While other Italian coachbuilders have wrapped Ferraris in gorgeous bodywork throughout the years (see the Scaglietti-bodied cars on this list), Bertone isn’t generally thought of as being particularly close to the Prancing Horse. The design house is best remembered for the Lamborghini Miura and Fiat X1/9, but this Ferrari 250 GT one-off was designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro (DeLorean DMC-12, BMW M1), and served as Nuccio Bertone’s personal car in the ’60s. With a front-end inspired by Ferrari’s Formula 1 cars (much like today’s LaFerrari), this unique piece of history was sold by Gooding and Company for $16.5 million.
2. 1961 Ferrari 250GT California SWB Spider
There are Ferrari 250s, and then there’s the California SWB Covered-Headlight Spider – The Ferrari 250 to most collectors. The red Spider was immortalized in pop culture by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986. Before that, it was simply known as one of the most beautiful cars ever built. It’s always a big deal when any of the 106 Californias go up for auction, and this red and tan example (originally blue over red) is the most desirable color combination. Gooding and Company let this one go for $16,830,000.
1. 1964 Ferrari 250LM
Despite “late-classics” making a strong showing at Monterey, it shouldn’t be surprising that a midcentury Ferrari – a 250 no less – would change hands as the most expensive car of the week. This 250 with coachwork by Scaglietti is one of just 32 mid-engined LM (or, Le Mans) cars built, and with its V12 mounted amidships, the car’s proportions make it one of the most beautiful cars of its era. After spending most of its first two decades racing around England, the car has been in the hands of collectors for nearly 30 years, and astonishingly is mostly original. The gavel fell on this car at RM Sotheby’s, with the winner parting with $17.6 million to take this former racer home.
As these prices show, the market may be cooling, but it doesn’t seem like the collector car bubble is ready to burst anytime soon. And cooling of period or not, Monterey Car Week is one of the impressive auto events on U.S. soil. From The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, to historic races, to the deluge of classics up for sale, this year’s was one for the ages. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings, even if it means that our dream cars have moved that much further out of reach.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS