8 min read
03 Oct

You see, "expensive" and "valuable," though often used interchangeably, mean different things. "Most expensive" typically refers to the highest monetary cost or price something can command in the market. It's a measure of the price tag. "Most valuable," on the other hand, is a broader concept. It can encompass not only monetary worth but also the significance, utility, or importance of something. In short, something can be highly valuable without being the most expensive, and vice versa. 

For example, a family heirloom may not have a high monetary price, but it can hold immense sentimental value to the owner. Conversely, a luxury sports car may be the most expensive in its category due to several quantifiable factors, but it might not have the same overall value as a reliable family vehicle for someone who needs practical transportation. So, while the two terms are related, they don't always mean the same thing. Value can be subjective, multifaceted, and extending beyond just the price. 

So, in lieu of the most expensive classic cars, this article takes a broader approach. Indeed, high value typically commands a high price tag, but we’re more concerned about the weight of their historical importance, developmental significance, and industry relevance. Ergo, here are the ten most valuable cars we know. 

Related Reading: The 15 Most Sought-After Classic Cars Of All Time 

10. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider

  • Production Years: 1936 - 1947
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 12 Est.
  • Highest Sale: $19,054,874
1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider.

The 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider was a remarkable sports car renowned for its elegance and performance. It was part of the 8C 2900 series, known for its powerful 2.9-liter straight-eight engine. 

This particular Spider variant was designed by Carrozzeria Touring and featured a sleek, aerodynamic body with lightweight aluminum construction. It was considered one of the most beautiful cars of its time. 

During its era, the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider was highly competitive in racing, with victories at prestigious events like the Mille Miglia. It is believed that just 12 of these touring Spiders were ever produced, making them extremely rare and valuable today among collectors and enthusiasts. A copy changed hands for $19 million at a 2019 auction. 

9. 1955 Jaguar D-Type

  • Production Years: 1954–1957
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 75
  • Highest Sale: $21,780,000
1955 Jaguar D-Type.

The 1955 Jaguar D-Type was a legendary sports car renowned for its success in endurance racing. It was an evolution of the earlier C-Type and featured aerodynamic styling and a robust inline-six engine.  

In 1955, the D-Type achieved a historic victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, dominating the competition and securing the top four positions. This achievement cemented its status as one of the most iconic race cars in history. 

The D-Type's success on the track and its innovative design, including its monocoque construction, left a lasting legacy in the world of sports car racing, making it an iconic piece of automotive history. 

8. 1935 Duesenberg SSJ

  • Production Years: 1929–1937
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 2
  • Highest Sale: $22,000,000
1935_Duesenberg_SSJ via Forbes.

The 1935 Duesenberg SSJ was a rare and exceptional American luxury car. It was based on the Duesenberg Model J and was created in limited numbers. What set the SSJ apart was its powerful 400-horsepower supercharged inline-eight engine that made it one of the fastest cars of its time. 

This car was favored by celebrities like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper due to its exceptional performance. In fact, Gable and Cooper owned the only two “35 Duesenberg SSJ ever made, making them incredibly rare and highly sought after by collectors today. 

The Duesenberg SSJ remains an iconic symbol of American automotive extravagance and craftsmanship. 

7. Aston Martin DBR1

  • Production Years: 1956–1959
  • Production Numbers: 5
  • Market Valuation: $22,500,000
Aston Martin DBR1.

The Aston Martin DBR1 is an iconic sports car that gained fame in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was designed for endurance racing and is best known for its victory at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Powered by a powerful inline-six engine, the DBR1’s lightweight body and superb handling transformed it into a formidable competitor on the racetrack. Drivers like Carroll Shelby and Stirling Moss piloted the DBR1 to numerous wins. Notably, the 1959 Le Mans victory marked a historic achievement for Aston Martin. 

However, a 1956 DBR1 crossed the auction block in 2017 and left $22.5 million in its wake. The car is celebrated as one of the most legendary and valuable sports cars ever produced. 

6. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S NART Spider

  • Production Years: 1966–1968
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 10
  • Highest Sale: $27,500,000
1967.Ferrari.275.GTB-4.NART.Spyder via Wikipedia.

The 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S NART Spider is an ultra-rare and highly sought-after sports car. It was created at the request of Ferrari's North American distributor, Luigi Chinetti, and only ten were ever built. 

This convertible Spider variant of the 275 GTB/4 featured a 3.3-liter V12 engine with four camshafts. Its elegant and sporty design reflected the best of Ferrari's craftsmanship. 

Due to its exclusivity and connection to the famous NART racing team, the 275 GTB/4S NART Spider has become one of the most coveted and valuable classic Ferraris, fetching astronomical prices at auctions. 

Related Reading: The 1948-1953 Bristol 401: A Classic British Luxury Sports Car That Time Almost Forgot 

5. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM

  • Production Years: 1956
  • Production Numbers: 4
  • Highest Sale: $28,050,000
1956 Ferrari_290_MM_Scaglietti_Spyder Tino Rossini via Wikimedia.

The 1956 Ferrari 290 MM was a legendary racing car built by Ferrari for competition in endurance racing. It was powered by a 3.5-liter V12 engine designed by Gioachino Colombo. The 290 MM gained fame by winning the Mille Miglia in 1956 driven by Eugenio Castellotti. 

It was also driven by legendary drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio and Phil Hill. This car's success on the track solidified Ferrari's dominance in motorsport during the 1950s. 

Today, the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM is considered a prized collector's item and a symbol of Ferrari's racing heritage. It changed hands for a mouth-watering $28 million at auction in 2015. 

4. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196

  • Production Years: 1954–1955
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 10
  • Highest Sale: $29,604,866
1954 Mercedes-Benz W196.

The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 was a groundbreaking Formula One racing car. It featured advanced technology, including a fuel-injected straight-eight engine and a streamlined body. 

The W196 achieved significant success in 1954 and 1955, winning multiple Formula One World Championships with drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss behind the wheel. 

This car marked Mercedes-Benz's return to motorsport after World War II and showcased their engineering excellence. The W196 remains a symbol of innovation and dominance in Formula One history. 

3. 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider

  • Production Years: 1957–1958
  • Production Numbers: 4
  • Highest Sale: $35,916,918
1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider.

The 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider was a legendary sports car known for its exceptional power and racing prowess. It was equipped with a 4.0-liter V12 engine producing around 360 horsepower. 

Driven by racing legends like Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, the 335 S Spider secured victories in prestigious races, including the 1957 Mille Miglia. It was also part of the Ferrari team's efforts to win the World Sportscar Championship. 

Not only has this car's track success and rarity made it one of the most coveted and valuable Ferraris in automotive history, but this was also the most technologically advanced Ferrari car produced that year. 

2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

  • Production Years: 1962–1964
  • Model-Year Production Numbers: 33
  • Highest Sale: $48,405,000
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Though not quite the Holy Grail (1963 Ferrari 250 GTO), the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO is an iconic and highly sought-after sports car. It was built for GT racing and featured a 3.0-liter V12 engine. 

Notably, the 250 GTO dominated various racing competitions, winning the Tour de France Automobile and other prestigious events in the early 1960s. It's often considered one of the greatest sports cars ever built. 

Today, the Ferrari 250 GTO is an extremely rare and valuable collector's item, with some models fetching record-breaking prices at auctions. One was sold for a bank-breaking $48.4 million in 2018. 

1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe

  • Production Years: 1955
  • Production Numbers: 2
  • Highest Sale: $141,459,750.00
1955_Mercedes-Benz_300_SLR_Uhlenhaut_Coupe_,_Mercedes_Museum_,_Stuttgart_,_Germany_Ank_Kumar via Wikimedia.

The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe is an ultra-rare and legendary sports car developed for racing and based on the successful 300 SLR sports car. 

Named after Mercedes-Benz engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, this Coupe version featured gullwing doors and a 3.0-liter straight-eight engine. Due to safety concerns, only two were ever built. One of these cars became famous as Uhlenhaut's personal vehicle and was renowned for its high-speed capabilities. 

Today, these coupes are among the most valuable and coveted classic Mercedes-Benz cars, symbolizing the brand's racing heritage and engineering excellence. 

1955_Mercedes-Benz_300_SLR_Uhlenhaut_Coupe_,__Ank_Kumar via Wikimedia.

In 2022, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe set a new record as the most expensive car ever sold, reaching a staggering €135 million around $142 million) at an auction by RM Sotheby’s at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. 

The car, previously owned by Mercedes-Benz with chassis #00008/55, was purchased by an anonymous buyer through Simon Kidston, head of Kidston SA. It was the second of two built and frequently used by Uhlenhaut himself. The record-breaking sale surpassed the previous record held by a Ferrari 250 GTO.. 

How We Found The Most Valuable Classic Cars

Ferrari 250 GTO classic car.

First of all, we can very well determine a marque’s true value by the long-term relevance of their products. 

You’d agree with us that valuing a brand should go beyond traditional metrics like stock market capitalization (we’re looking at you, Tesla) to considering a company's worth based on the very best of what it has sold. You can think of it as a "lifetime achievement award" for the brand. 

Using this approach challenges the conventional notion of value, which often relies on stock market speculation. It forces us to appraise a brand’s value based on its tangible and iconic products, ergo, classic cars. Classic cars are tangible assets with a known and lasting value. 

Unlike stock prices, they are less susceptible to the whims of market sentiment. Yes, there can be different ways to measure the value of an automotive brand, one of which is to consider the historical significance and record prices achieved by classic models, such as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR and high-value Ferrari cars. 

Then again, should a few special cars and collectibles truly represent the entire brand's value? This question forces us to reconsider if a brand's reputation and value should hang solely on its most exceptional offerings. 

So, by taking a more nuanced approach to valuing automotive brands, taking into account their iconic products and historical significance alongside traditional financial metrics, we can more accurately gauge the quality of a brand and their product’s value. 

Credit: Hargety Insider, Conceptcarz

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