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World's most expensive car is now 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO

A 1963 Ferrari 250GTO series 1 is on

A 1963 Ferrari 250GTO series 1 is on display during an exhibition and competition of classic Ferrari cars at a Hong Kong Hotel. Only 36 cars of this model were built between 1962-1964. (Nov. 30, 1996) Credit: AP

A 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer has become the world’s most expensive car, selling for $52 million.

The red competition car, formerly owned by the Greenwich, Conn.-based collector Paul Pappalardo, was acquired by an unidentified buyer in a private transaction, said three specialist traders who independently confirmed the purchase and price to Bloomberg News. Recently, the car has been owned by a Spanish collector, the car website said.

The price is a 49 percent increase on the record for any auto, achieved last year for another 250 GTO. Values of classic cars, particularly Ferraris of the 1950s and 1960s, continue to grow, attracting new enthusiasts, investors and speculators — and prompting fears of a bubble in the market.

“Today the GTO is considered the top car to own,” the California-based dealer Don Williams of Blackhawk Collection said in an interview. “It’s like the Mona Lisa. It has a mystique. If you have a GTO, you have a great collection.”

The car was acquired by Pappalardo in 1974, restored and subsequently driven by the collector in many historic races, including the 2002 Le Mans Classic, before being sold on.

“We don’t confirm these things,” Pappalardo said when telephoned last night. “I have no comment.”

Stirling Moss

The Italian marque’s 250 GTO, created in 1962 to compete at the Le Mans 24-Hour and other Grand-Touring car races, is the world’s most desirable and expensive car. Only 39 were produced. An apple-green version, made for the British race driver Stirling Moss, was sold privately for a record $35 million, Bloomberg News reported in June 2012.

The latest record-breaking GTO, chassis number 5111, has a distinguished competition history, having won the 1963 Tour de France road race with the French driver Jean Guichet at the wheel.

New buyers have been attracted by classic cars’ investment potential, as well as the chance they give to participate in concours and racing events.

The bellwether auctions in California timed to coincide with the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance raised a record $301.9 million in August. The total, which included $27.5 million for a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spyder convertible, was the highest for a series of classic-car sales anywhere in the world, according to the Michigan-based Hagerty database.

Pink Floyd

The highest prices for investment-grade autos have been achieved through discreet private sales. Owners of other Ferrari GTOs, who include Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, have recently received offers between $40 million and $50 million from prospective purchasers, dealers said.

Mason was among the GTO owners convening for a 50th- anniversary get-together in France in July 2012. He was joined by the Goldman Sachs banking scion Peter Sachs; Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart; and Lawrence Stroll, the financier who built Tommy Hilfiger into a global brand in the 1990s.

“It’s a cult car,” the London-based Ferrari dealer Joe Macari said in an interview. “If you’re a billionaire, you feel you have to have one. I don’t understand the appeal of them. They’re not very beautiful and they never won Le Mans. I’d rather have a Testa Rossa.”

The HAGI F index of private and public sales of rare Ferraris was up 54.52 percent for the year, the London-based Historic Auto Group said in a report in August.

Sustainable Rises

“Nothing goes up like that in the mid-term,” HAGI founder Dietrich Hatlapa said in an interview. “Price rises of 55 percent aren’t sustainable in any market. We’re not saying the market is going to collapse. It will probably average out over time.”

Hatlapa said that prices of the rarest Ferraris have risen at an average annual rate of 15 percent for more than 30 years.

The current excitement in the classic Ferrari market has been confirmed by other individual owners.

The Belgian-based collector Johan van Puyvelde exhibited an unrestored 1948 Ferrari 166 Inter-Sport Corsa competition car in the Salon Prive concours show at Syon House, London, last month.

That Ferrari had been bought from a Californian private seller for between $2 million and $2.5 million last year. Van Puyvelde was recently offered $4 million for the car, the Belgian collector said in an interview.

“It is a bubble for certain cars,” said van Puyvelde, surrounded by well-heeled Salon Prive visitors, enjoying their complimentary Pommery champagne and barbecued lobster lunches. “The people who buy the top things do use them. The market is driven by genuine enthusiasm. They want to take part in events like this. I don’t think that many people are buying just for investment.”

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