In May 2012, Edvard Munch’s eerie expressionist painting “The Scream” sold for a record $120 million. At the time, this historic sale reset the art market and raised eyebrows worldwide. Last week the collector car world may have reached a similar pinnacle with the $70 million private sale of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO. This stunning transaction has rippled through the market and has dramatically upped the ante on the vintage Ferrari market. This car is likely the priciest Ferrari on the planet and possibly the most expensive car in the world.
David MacNeil, (the founder of WeatherTech accessories) is the proud new owner of this ultra-rare Ferrari—chassis #4153 GT. I met David at Pebble Beach in 2016—he is a very successful entrepreneur with a burning passion for cars. Given his keen appetite for collector cars, the purchase of this 250 GTO may be less about money (or investing) and more about raw obsession. Either way, this car is the perfect addition to his already stunning collection of rare Ferraris.
Collectible cars are now often considered art. With the MacNeil GTO purchase last week, ultra-special Ferraris seem to be closing in on Van Gogh, Warhol, and Picasso value territory. Given the prices that Ferraris of this era and rarity now command, all indications are that Enzo Ferrari’s work may legitimately be joining the ranks of the greatest artists of all time. The frothiness of the last decade has desensitized art collectors to the regular sale of $50 million paintings at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The Edvard Munch painting pushed the market over $100 million—could transactions of $100 million Ferraris be far behind?
Back in the mid-1960’s, Ferrari was struggling to keep the lights on. Ironically, while the Company was fighting for survival, it was concurrently manufacturing cars like the now priceless MacNeil GTO. During this tumultuous period, Ferrari was on the edge financially—at one point Enzo considered selling his fledgling empire to Ford. The deal fell apart, and Ferrari went at it alone—the rest is history. In the 1960’s, Scuderia Ferrari enjoyed unprecedented racing success and its record is the story of legends. The history has been written, and the market has spoken—nothing on the road can compare to a coach built Ferrari with race history from this critical era. If Enzo were alive today, “il Commendatore” would be shocked at the prices these cars now command.
Is the MacNeil GTO a sign of a lunatic market top? Or rather does this record-setting sale usher in the beginning of a new era of stratospheric and legitimate “automobile as art” transactions? Time will tell, but my best guess is that David MacNeil is playing the long game—we could see prices for truly iconic and rare cars (like the 250 GTO) follow the high-end art market and increase significantly over the coming decades. The odds favor that in the distant future GTO #4153 may prove to be “well bought.” In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the MacNeil GTO is hung on the wall or driven on the streets. David MacNeil is a passionate car guy. Hopefully, he will not just store the GTO in bubble wrap, but instead occasionally drive it and enjoy it.
A recent CNN article on the 250 GTO sale can be accessed here.