Auction Report

In a week full of expensive cars, these were Monterey 2023's top sales

by Andrew Newton
23 August 2023 5 min read
Evan Klein

The five auctions leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance are not for bargain hunters. With an average price knocking on the door of half a million dollars, everything is expensive, and it’s where many of the priciest and prettiest cars we see all year change hands.

Though total sales and sell-through rate were down from 2022’s Monterey auctions, drawing that distinction is like saying real estate is crazier in Manhattan than it is in Miami. They’re both off the charts. Here’s this year’s cream of the crop—the most expensive cars sold in 2023’s biggest week of expensive cars.

1912 Simplex 50 HP Toy Tonneau

Gooding & Co.

Sold for $4,075,000 at Gooding & Co.

There hasn’t been a Simplex automobile company for over a century, but these New York- and New Jersey-built motorcars were alive and well in Monterey this year, with three examples on offer. That there was a relative rush of Simplex consignments after the surprise $4.845M sale of one in Scottsdale this year is probably not a coincidence.

Like the car in Scottsdale, this one had that timeless combination of performance, design, and a good story. The 50 HP was ordered in February 1912 (when the Titanic was still afloat) by Pennsylvania rich guy William P. Snyder. After having it fitted with this Quinby Toy Tonneau body, he drove it onto the Long Island Ferry where he met his future wife, who also happened to be driving a Simplex 50 HP. Supposedly they raced after getting off the ferry, and she won. They nevertheless used his car (this one) on their honeymoon. It has been in the same family since new, 111 years ago. It must be a great car to hang on to it for that long. Or to pay $4.1M for it.

1995 Ferrari F50

Broad Arrow

Sold for $4,240,000 at Broad Arrow

The top sale of day one in Monterey was this euro-spec Ferrari F50 with 11,500 km (7150 miles). Other F50s have sold for more (including the one Broad Arrow sold here last year for $5.175M), but $4M-$5M has been the going rate for these cars lately. In the not-too-distant past they were worth half this much, but analog hypercars from the ’90s have come on big since 2020.

1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Cabriolet

Gooding & Co.

Sold for $4,515,000 at Gooding & Co.

Clothed in glorious Castagna coachwork and restored by Paul Russell and Company, this Alfa 8C won its class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2008. The following year, it sold at Gooding’s Pebble Beach auction for $4.18M. The market for high-dollar prewar cars isn’t always the most active or talked about, but results like this show that it is stable.

1914 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout

Gooding & Co.

Sold for $4,735,0000 at Gooding & Co.

If you were a sporting gentleman in pre-WWI America and wanted the fastest thing on four wheels, a Mercer Raceabout would have been on your list. When it was introduced in 1911 it didn’t bring home the first Indy 500 victory, but won nearly everywhere else. A spartan thing with no doors or compartments and very little bodywork, but ample power from its thumping 300-cid T-head four, it will easily cruise at modern highway speeds. There aren’t many centenarian sports cars that can do that.

This Raceabout is a later model with the desirable four-speed gearbox, and was reportedly driven by the great Ralph De Palma in the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Old-Timer Race. At this price, it is also the most expensive Mercer ever sold at auction, beating the previous record, a $2.53M car sold here nine years ago, by 89 percent.

1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4

RM Sotheby’s/Tim Scott

Sold for $5,395,000 at RM Sotheby’s

Delivered new to Steve McQueen and driven by the movie star for his commute to the set of Bullitt, this Ferrari 275 GTB/4 was restored by Ferrari Classiche from 2010-13. Then, in 2014, it became one of the biggest ever examples of a “McQueen premium” when it sold for $10.175M. At the time, the price was over triple what a 275 GTB/4 owned by anybody else named Steve would have been worth.

Nine years later the car was back in Monterey, and it sold for only a little more than half as much. Why the big drop? Well, there is no exact science to pricing celebrity cars, but in this case it was probably a combination of bidders getting carried away the first time combined with the fact that when a high-profile auction car causes a stir, there tends to be less excitement around it the second time it comes to market.

1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Tourer

RM Sotheby’s/Darin Schnabel

Sold for $5,395,000 at RM Sotheby’s

Out of a dozen Bugattis on offer this year, this Type 57SC was the priciest. Ordered new by Bugatti’s London outfit and bodied by London coachbuilder Corsica, it started life as a 57S but early on was upgraded to the special “SC” specs with Roots-style supercharger. At some point the Corsica four-seat tourer coachwork became separated from the rest of the car, but they’ve thankfully since been reunited.

RM Sotheby’s sold this car in Scottsdale two years ago for $4,735,000, then the buyer immediately turned it over to RM Auto Restoration for a full restoration that took a reported 6000 hours and $700K to complete. Although the car was rewarded for the restoration with this higher price, given all the shop bills, auction fees, etc., there wasn’t really a financial upside. The odometer shows just seven more digits since it was last sold, probably test miles, so the restoration is fresh and ready to be enjoyed.

1959 Ferrari 410 Superamerica

RM Sotheby’s/Jacopo Pieretti

Sold for $6,605,000 at RM Sotheby’s

An earlier 410 Superamerica with some, um, assembly required sold for $2.81M earlier in the week, but this later Series III car doesn’t need a thing. Restored in 2020, it’s the fourth of 12 Series III examples built, and reportedly one of only seven cars factory-equipped with covered headlights. That restoration somewhat rewarded it, because it sold here back in 2017, still wearing an old resto from the ’70s, for $5.335M.

1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB

Gooding & Co.

Sold for $9,465,000 at Gooding & Co.

A gentleman’s GT that could be driven to the track, win, and then driven home again, the 250 Short Wheelbase (SWB) was built at the height of Ferrari’s sports car racing dominance in the early ’60s and each of the 167 examples built is special.

This one didn’t boast race history, but it makes up for that in its originality. Sold new in Italy, it’s a four-owner car and had never been offered for public sale before Pebble Beach. It’s almost totally unrestored, which is rare in a world of top shelf classic Ferraris that’s full of concours queens. The bidders were big fans, because this price exceeds SWB #1 condition (Concours, or best-in-the-world) value in the Hagerty Price Guide.

1957 Jaguar XKSS

RM Sotheby’s

Sold for $13,205,000 at RM Sotheby’s

While it was born of a practical need to offload inventory (expensive, hard-to-sell D-Type race cars), today the XKSS is Jaguar’s most sought-after production model. If you can even call a 16-car run “production,” that is. They don’t often come to market, and the last XKSS we saw at auction failed to sell at an $11.9M high bid in 2017.

Because it’s been so long since we’ve seen a real-deal XKSS at auction (there are replicas and continuation cars), it’s no surprise that this one broke the record to become the most expensive model to ever sell publicly.

1967 Ferrari 412P

Evan Klein

Sold for $30,255,000 at Bonhams

Assuming it met its reserve and sold, this was always going to be the most expensive thing at Monterey Car Week. It had the potential to be the most expensive car sold at auction all year, at least until a Ferrari 250 GTO was announced for auction coming up this November.

The 412 P was essentially a customer version of Ferrari’s 330 P3 and P4 prototypes that were taking the fight to the Ford GT40 during the companies’ famous mid-’60s feud. Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, the 412 P is rare—just four were built, and total 412 P/330 P3/330 P4 production numbers less than a dozen. This one’s best major result was a third-place finish at Spa, but it also ran at Le Mans and Brands Hatch, earning valuable points to help push Ferrari to the top of the 1967 World Sportscar Championship. It raced at non-championship events in Europe and Africa as well. Then, an American on the West Coast modified it for street use before he turned around and sold it for $10,000.

Fast forward to 2023, and it entered the room to an opening bid $27M, and after a surprisingly quiet few minutes sold at a $27.5M winning bid ($30,255,000 with premium). Not much excitement on the auction block, then, but that’s enough to make it the fifth most valuable car to ever sell at auction and the fourth most valuable Ferrari.


  • Gary Bechtold says:

    The F50’s surge in popularity and pricing is not a shock. It lived in the F40’s shadow but it is still a great car.

  • paul s murray says:

    Of all these cars the Bugatti is the one tickles my fancy the most , even if its outside my usual era of interest. (Mind you though I will crank a U if I see a Morgan, and yes that’s a hint) . I’m not evolved enough to get the appeal of brass cars beyond appreciating the simple utility of their design or most of those that slowly came after. Sorry. Bugatti combined engineering and art (his first love) and you can see that here. It’s sleek, elegant, ‘don’t dare change a thing’ perfect. Everything else here, even though notable, is racing for second when it comes to pure aesthetic appeal.

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