Classic Cars: 2017 auction review

Classic cars from the 1930s and earlier were unusually well represented at auction in 2017, while new classics (from the 1980s onwards) were also very much in demand.

This could well be a result of buyers seeking out more affordable models as the big ticket cars of the 1950s and 1960s become increasingly unaffordable for non-billionaires.

Top classic car sale of 2017

McLaren F1
The McLaren F1 remains in huge demand 20 years on from its release


The first McLaren F1 to be declared road legal in the US was the top earner this year, realising $15.6m.

It’s quite astonishing that this car (first released in 1996) remains one of the dominant supercars on the secondary market.

Even now, over 20 years on, there’s very little that can touch it.

2017’s most important classic car sales

The Type 35 can hit 118mph without breaking a sweat

Just because it’s from 1925 doesn’t mean it can’t give you a run for your money. The Bugatti Type 35 was the fastest car of its time and totally dominated the racing scene of the 20s. This one made $3.3m at RM Sotheby’s in January.   

2017 was a superb year for Bugatti collectors. A 1937 Type 57s Cabriolet achieved a massive $7.7m in a March auction at RM Sotheby’s.  

The 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 could have made the marque’s name. Unfortunately, Mussolini’s Blackshirts took control of the company soon after. The car was passed to Ferrari and released with the brand’s famous red livery. One good specimen realised $3.7m in February.

The Ferrari F1 Michael Schumacher used to race to victory in the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix sold for $7.5m in a contemporary art sale. This is the first time we’ve seen a car expressly marketed as an art object, a tactic that worked out very well.

The most unusual classic car sale of 2017

Patrick Swayze DeLorean

Swayze bought the DeLorean a couple of days before the company went bust

It turns out we’re not alone in still carrying a flame for the DeLorean. The late great Patrick Swayze was another fan. The car made $81,250 in an auction of his estate this year.

It was a breakout year for…

Porsche 917

The 917 was a wildly successful racer of the 70s 

This year a Porsche 917 set a new record for the marque with a result of $14m. The German maker has long been at the head of the market with its newer models, but this result indicates rising demand for classics.

We predict further big things for classic Porsches in 2018.

It was a year to forget for…

Trump Limo Bonhams

It's just a bit silly 

The buyer of the Donald Trump designed Cadillac El Dorado - who paid several thousand dollars for what is, let’s be honest, quite a silly car.  It even has a fax machine.

One you may have missed

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi - where they're not short of a bob or two

A personalised number plate with one single digit or character is one of the surest ways of indicating to the world you have more money than you know what to do with. A Saudi Arabian buyer became the latest to join this club when he paid $2.7m for the number “2”.

As you might have guessed, that’s not the biggest result for a number plate. The record (again set in Saudi Arabia) is $9.7m, for number “1”.

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