If you want to watch the numbers fly past in dizzying array, California's Monterey Peninsula is the place to be this weekend — or this whole week, for that matter.
Yes, there's the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance this Sunday, and the various sideshows and general gasoline-fueled ambiance that permeates the scene. All that is a given, and the given includes simply strolling up and down the streets in Carmel or Monterey, watching the odd Lamborghini or Alvis slide smoothly by. That will cost you nothing.
But the real action is at the auctions. Six major auction houses are in town for the week and if yesterday's event at Bonhams' Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel Valley is any indication, those dollar bills (and euros) will indeed be flying.
Bonhams sold a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO for $38,115,000, a new world record for any car sold at auction. (It's not the highest price paid for one of these rare cars, however. Last year, a Connecticut collector sold his own 250 GTO privately for $52 million.)
And why are people paying so much for these cars? Only 39 of them were made — 36 in 1962 and 1963, and three more in 1964. Estimates are that only 33 of them still exist. Most of their owners are rich (Ed. note: this just in?) and most of these cars are stashed away in private collections.
Frankly, they are beautiful cars, although I would put the 1963-64 250 GT Lusso up there with the 250 GTO. By today's standards of performance car — you can buy any number of go-fast autos with 500-plus horsepower right off the showroom floor — the 250 GTO is fairly modest. It has a three-liter V12 engine that pumps out 300 horsepower (a new Mustang 5.0 GT beats that by more than 100 horsepower and you'd still have $38,071,000 left over if you bought the Mustang instead of the Bonhams Ferrari.)
Yet, and yet. A few years ago, a generous owner took me for a ride around Sonoma Raceway in his 250 GTO and it was absolutely thrilling. It was noisy, it was fast and it was fun. Then, too, when considering why these cars are so expensive, there is scarcity; this drives prices up. And so does the exclusivity of belonging to the tiny club of people who own one of these prized cars.
So... to the person who bought the car at Bonhams' auction — thanks for keeping the used car market solvent.