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When people say ‘just’ 51 million for a Ferrari 250 GTO

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A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO has just sold with RM Sotheby’s in New York for $51.7 million. ‘Just $51.7 million’ as some observers noted. Why is that so?

First of all, after Mercedes sold a 300 SLR through RM Sotheby’s at a private auction for the record sum of $142 million in 2019, all eyes in the market were on the Ferrari 250 GTO. How would the GTO’s price evolve, now a Mercedes had broken the 100 million barrier? Up until then, RM Sotheby’s sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO at $48.4 million was the record at a public sale.

Photo RM Sotheby’s

High expectations

It is clear expectations were higher, with observers hoping 60 to 70 million amounts were feasible. Let’s not forget, the Uhlenhaut Mercedes 300 SLR is just one of two existing cars, and the only one that would come on the market. But a Ferrari 250 GTO is just marginally less exclusive. Just 36 cars were made in the factory. That this one – chassis 3765 GT – ultimately made ‘just’ over $50 million (including premiums) is down to what some interpret as ‘complicated history’.

Photo RM Sotheby’s

Le Mans history

First of all, we disagree. ‘Complicated’ means this car started life as a Ferrari 330 LM, or a 250 GTO with a 4-litre engine instead of the standard production 3-litre V12. On top of that, 3765 GT is the only 4-litre 250 GTO that was campaigned by the factory – known as SEFAC Ferrari then – at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1962. The race wasn’t a success, Mike Parkes spent a long time digging the car out of a sand trap after locking up all four wheels.

Photo RM Sotheby’s

In the end, Ferrari retired the car with overheating problems. But 3765 GT had demonstrated its speed, with Parkes setting second fastest overall on Thursday practice. And in its very first outing at the Nürburgring 1000 Km, 3765 GT came second overall and first GT with the 390 hp 4-litre engine. After Le Mans, Ferrari put the car in 250 GTO spec, with a 3-litre engine, and sold it to an owner in Trieste, Italy. The owner, Pietro Ferraro, raced his new car in the 1964 Trieste-Opicina hill climb, finishing a fine fifth.

Photo RM Sotheby’s

Targa Florio

The next owner, Ferdinando Latteri from Sicily, campaigned the car more extensively, notably in the 1965 Targa Florio. We understand the argument that maybe this GTO did not fully meet expectations because ‘if you spend this kind of money, you want the best of GTOs.’ On the other hand, this was a Ferrari 250 GTO, raced by the factory, at Le Mans. If only it had kept its 4-litre engine.

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Photo RM Sotheby’s

Stupid amount

Then again, it’s a little too easy to set aside 51.7 million as ‘just’ that amount. This is still a huge amount of money to be paid for a car, and it still counts as the highest amount ever to be paid for a car at a public auction. It also comes at a time when the market seems to be coming down a bit.

Car trader Simon Kidston talked to the previous owner and wrote about it in an Instagram post. ‘I wish I was a fly on the wall when the seller’s car buddies hear what it sold for.’ 3765 GT had been with the previous owner for 38 years. It had been the car he craved for, and he paid over $500,000 for it when he bought it. A price his friends found stupid at the time.

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