Ferrari fetches record $16m

A red 1957 Ferrari has become the most expensive car sold at auction after fetching $US16.4 million ($A15.7 million).

The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa prototype, which competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race, was on the block with hundreds of other collectible cars during a series of auctions coinciding with the annual Monterey Car Week gathering in California.

Despite recent sharemarket turmoil, buyers competed aggressively for trophy autos, establishing records for cars and auction houses.

''The ultra-rich remain ultra-rich,'' said Marcel Massini, a Swiss-based Ferrari historian, who attended several auctions last week. ''The very, very best sells easily and incredibly high.''

''The stock market being volatile almost helped us,'' said Max Girardo, managing director of RM Auctions in Europe. It makes classic cars even more desirable, he said, because they are seen as safe tangible assets.

RM Auctions set a record for a Mercedes-Benz with the $US9.7 million sale of a silver 1937 540K Spezial Roadster. The same model fetched $US8.25 million four years ago, according to Mr Girardo.

One of the star lots at the auction house Bonhams, a 1925 Rolls-Royce New Phantom, custom-designed for the Bengal tiger hunting expeditions of India's Maharajah of Kotah, failed to sell. It was expected to bring $US750,000 to $US1 million.

Also unsold was a 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe owned by Sammy Davis jnr, which was expected to bring between $US475,000 and $US550,000.

At another auction held by Gooding and Co, a 1931 Duesenberg, which was expected to fetch up to $US7 million, sold for $US10.34 million, topping the $US4.5 million auction record for a ''Duesy''.

The car was commissioned by Captain George Whittell jnr, who had a pet lion and a 162-square-kilometre Lake Tahoe estate. He liquidated his entire stock portfolio for $US50 million just two weeks before the 1929 crash.

At RM Auctions, Steve McQueen's slate-gray 1970 Porsche 911s, which featured in the movie Le Mans, sold for $US1.4 million, setting a record for the model at auction.


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