RM sells GTO for $51.7m in New York
It had been billed as ‘The One’, a unique and fleeting opportunity which the auction house had compared to “a Perseid meteor... a flash of lightning... a speed machine so celebrated that it qualifies as the very definition of a legend,” writes Simon Kidston.
Last night RM Sotheby’s bravely put a 1962 Ferrari 330LM/ 250 GTO up for auction in a single-lot event preceding the season’s flagship art sales at their New York headquarters. Displayed in pride of place in the ground floor lobby, it was wheeled into the saleroom as guests sipped champagne and mingled. Some 250 invitees crammed into the brightly lit gallery to find out whether history would be made.
The pre-sale estimate had been “In excess of $60 million” since the surprise announcement of its offering had been made in Monterey, giving plenty of time for potential buyers to check their piggy banks and do their homework. Online forums buzzed with the news, everyone with an opinion. The biggest discussion revolved around what the car actually was: some of the more critical Ferrari experts pointed out that it was in fact born as a closely related 330 LM before conversion to 250 GTO for a private buyer after a season as a works experimental racer.
You might think this would add value, but in a tightly knit collector community where image is often as important as substance, not everybody wants a trophy they have to explain to their peers. In practical terms, although it looks virtually identical to a 250 GTO, this car started life with a larger four-litre engine, a four-speed gearbox and a slightly different chassis (Tipo 538 vs 539) before being rebuilt to definitive 250 GTO (three-litre, five-speed) spec for resale to an Italian gentleman driver in ’63. The factory sold it again in 1967, now painted yellow to the USA for $8,000, and it has been here ever since. The old school collector from Ohio who sold it last night had paid $525,000 back in 1985 (soon after taking his radar detector business public) and was unlikely to be taking it home.
The British auctioneer opened the bidding confidently at $34 million, immediately disappointing any bottom feeders. Four telephone bidders quickly took this to 36, 38, 40, 42 then 45, at which point the auctioneer announced the car was selling. Another telephone came back at 46, then 46.5, but an RM director’s commission bid of $47 million silenced the telephones and hung in the air until the auctioneer’s hammer came down to seal the car’s fate: $51.7 million with premium. “A new record for a Ferrari at auction” was announced to audience applause and emotional hugs around the table where the seller and his family were seated. Is it the highest price paid for a GTO, or any other Ferrari? Not by some margin, but it’s not a bad validation either for the man who heard about the car being for sale by chance whilst attending a race meeting at Sebring 38 years ago, immediately drove 4.5 hours to see it and bought it the same day.
The key to this sale was the goodwill generated by long-term ownership for all the right reasons, and the perceived likelihood that the opportunity to buy a car which nonetheless gets you into the GTO club for that price may not, despite it being a huge amount of money, come around again anytime soon. There aren’t, after all, many batons like this left to be passed.
Photo courtesy of and strictly copyright RM Sotheby’s