A Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta owned by the scion of a wealthy Italian family for 49 years may race off as the world's most expensive car when it's auctioned for as much as $75 million.
Bonhams will offer the 1962 red two-seat coupe Aug. 14 in Carmel, California. The sale is among six days of events and auctions for vintage car collectors starting today in the picturesque central coast towns of Carmel and Monterey and at the oceanside Pebble Beach golf course.
The auctions last year fetched a record $312 million for a series of classic car sales, according to Hagerty Group LLC, a Traverse City, Michigan-based insurer and classic car database. In the heated market for vintage collectibles, Hagerty estimates this year's total will be $450 million.
A 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer became the most expensive auto in October, when it fetched $52 million in a private transaction, Bloomberg News reported. The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO may garner $60 million to $75 million, according to an estimate by Hagerty. Bonhams declined to give an official estimate.
"We're confident we're going to break the record," Robert Brooks, Bonhams chairman, said in a phone interview from the company's London headquarters.
It's anyone's guess on the final price, he said. "It's difficult to know where it will go from there," if the record is surpassed.
The Ferrari 250 GTO was bought in 1965 by Fabrizio Violati, whose family made its money in agriculture and mineral water bottling and distribution, according to Bonhams. The car placed second at the 1962 Tour de France Automobile race. Violati, who died in 2010, was the fourth and last owner of the Ferrari, Bonhams said.
The sale, along with nine other Ferraris from Violati's Maranello Rosso collection, boosts the lineup at Bonhams on Aug. 14 and 15 to 116 autos.
The top lots at RM Auctions, based in Blenheim, Ontario, and Gooding & Co., based in Santa Monica, California, also come from the venerated Italian car company.
RM Auctions is offering three Ferraris with estimates starting at $10 million, including a two-tone gray 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale, one of three existing models, which Hagerty estimates at $25 million. RM Auctions, without providing an estimate, said it expects the car will beat last year's $27.5 million 1967 Ferrari 275 NART Spider. The convertible's price was the most paid at auction for a car by the Italian manufacturer and the most for any car bought at a U.S. public sale.
RM Auctions is also offering a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 owned by the late actor Steve McQueen, with an estimate of $8 million to $12 million. In 2011, RM Auctions sold McQueen's slate-gray 1970 Porsche 911S featured in the movie "Le Mans," for $1.4 million, setting a record for the model at auction.
"We will exceed our sales total from last year," said Max Girardo, RM Auction's managing director. "Ferraris have always attracted a lot of attention and have done very well."
Gooding will auction 121 cars including a white 1966 Ferrari 365P Berlinetta Speciale "Tre Posti" that Hagerty estimates may sell for $25 million.
"There's a lot on the market but there is more demand," David Gooding, the company's president, said in a telephone interview. "Pretty much everybody that was an active buyer and collector last year is still very active and there are new people coming in."
The values of vintage cars have risen along with other high-end collectibles, including art and wine, as wealthy individuals' appetite for alternative investments grow. The eye- popping prices for the top lots will lift total sales but the market for autos in the six and low seven-figure range may slow, experts said.
"Last year was an outlier," said Dietrich Hatlapa, founder of the Historic Automobile Group International, a London-based investment researcher that specializes in classic cars. "We find it perfectly normal that after the strong growth in 2013 we see lower growth in 2014."
The overall Historic Automobile Group's HAGI Top Index, which measures price changes in the top end of the automobile market, rose 8.4 percent this year through July compared with 27 percent in the same period in 2013.
The average price at the California sales rose to $415,895 last year, compared with $327,370 in 2012, according to Hagerty. Yet last year's auctions found buyers for 57 percent of the offered lots, down from 66 percent in 2012, according to Hagerty.
Prices "could level out for a while, as the world takes its collective breath," said McKeel Hagerty, chief executive officer of Hagerty. "The world has built a lot more wealth than it has built vintage Ferraris or Mercedes."
Events kick off today with a memorabilia expo in Monterey while auction houses showcase cars starting Aug. 13. The Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance on Aug. 14 hosts an event for drivers of about 160 vintage cars that wind their way along 80 miles of scenic roads from Pebble Beach to Big Sur. On Aug. 17, 220 cars and motorcycles, including a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV and a Maserati Centennial, will be displayed on the golf links and be judged for their historical accuracy, technical merit and style, according to the Concours d'Elegance website.