California auctioneer Goodings & Co., sold a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa for $16.4 million on Saturday, the highest price ever paid for a car at auction. The previous record was $12 million, also for a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa.
The car is the first of Testa Rossa built and was used as a prototype for the many others that came during the 1950s and 1960s. The car has 300-horsepower, a 3.0-liter V-12 engine, a four-speed manual transmission and was used in races in both the U.S. and Europe.
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While the price would certainly seem to be an indicator of great strength in the classic car market, the truth is actually more complicated. It’s a tale of two markets. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported back in 2009, “One restorer estimated that sale prices for 1960s muscle cars are down by as much as 40 percent in the past two years. Yet at the other end of the market, the rarified air of multimillion-dollar luxury cars from the 1930s, sales are just fine.”
The wealthiest buyers are finding their collecting tastes somewhat immune to the recession. But the more aspirational collectors are tightening their belts, and so the middle and lower ends of the market are often getting hammered. And that dynamic isn’t just limited to classic cars; it’s happening across the antique market. Jean R. Vidos, president of New Orleans Auction Galleries, told me that “average and middle of the road antiques have become overly accessible, which has driven the prices down.”
An opportunity, perhaps, for small-time collectors.