There’s an undeniable charm about rare cars that captivates everyone, not just car enthusiasts. Perhaps it’s their stunning looks, timeless and unique designs, staggering price tags, or the intriguing stories they carry that make them alluring.
Car collecting is incredibly rewarding and has proven to be equally lucrative. Most collectors pursue this passion not for financial gain but for their love and fascination with unique vehicles. For them, the cost is secondary. To start with collecting, you may want to check out classic car auctions to get a feel of what’s out there.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the world’s rarest cars. While many of us may never get the chance to drive them, fortunately, some are displayed in museums where we can admire and fantasize about them.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
Revered as the ultimate prize among classic car collectors, the 250 GTO is one of Ferrari’s most acclaimed race cars. Its rarity is notable, with just 39 ever made, quickly turning it into a collector’s dream.
In 2014, Forbes revealed that one of these cars was auctioned for a record-breaking $38 million, claiming the title of the world’s most valuable car at that time. CNN reported that 2018 a 1963 model of the 250 GTO broke records by selling for $70 million at auction, becoming the most expensive car ever sold.
The Ferrari 250 GTO Registry lists all its elite owners, including famous names like fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who snagged his GTO for $650,000 in 1985, and Nick Mason, the drummer of Pink Floyd.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
The ’69 Camaro ZL1 stands as one of the most desirable muscle cars ever. It’s unique due to its all-aluminum engine and limited production. What’s the secret to its allure? Simply put, only 69 were ever made.
A ZL1 could command much more than the nearly $500,000 one fetched at auction in 2012. In fact, experts believe a top-condition ZL1 might sell for over a million. While some of these Camaros have been lost over time, the surviving ones are cherished by collectors and car enthusiasts across the United States.
1960 Porsche Abarth 356B Carrera GTL
The 1960 Porsche Abarth 356B Carrera GTL is a rare gem that might be unfamiliar even to seasoned Porsche fans, unless they’re deep into the 356’s backstory. Porsche joined forces with Italian manufacturer Abarth in a unique collaboration, typically known for souping up Fiats.
This car is shrouded in a bit of mystery, with estimates suggesting that only about 20 were made, initially priced around $6,500. Today, its value is hard to pin down. One of these rare Abarth 356s is part of the Collier Collection and is publicly displayed for admiration.
1928 Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sports Tourer
Ferdinand Porsche, the legendary auto engineer, played a huge role in creating the 1928 Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sports Tourer. With only 150 ever made, it’s a true rarity; just a few have survived to the 21st century.
In 2017, one of these cars sold for a staggering $4.81 million at auction. These cars are now prized possessions in private collections, and it might be a long time before one hits the market again.
1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
The 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato is a true masterpiece of automotive art crafted by the renowned coachbuilder Zagato. With a legacy dating back to 1919, Zagato has been responsible for some of the most stunning and memorable cars in history, and the DB4 GT Zagato is a prime example of its craftsmanship.
This model stands out for its exclusivity, with only 19 cars ever produced. One of these rare beauties was sold for a jaw-dropping $14.3 million.
The design of the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato was so admired that the High Museum of Art in Atlanta showcased it in an exhibition. This exhibit celebrated what many consider the golden age of automotive design, spanning from the early 1930s to the early 1960s.
1951 Pegaso Z-102
In 1951, the Pegaso Z-102 made a striking entry into the automotive world, earning the title of the world’s fastest production car at that time with a top speed of 120 miles per hour.
Pegaso, a Spanish car manufacturer primarily known for trucks and buses, might not ring many bells, but back then, it rivaled even Ferrari in terms of performance and elegance. The Pegaso Z-102 still stands as one of the most exquisite cars ever created – car enthusiasts and historians often hail it as one of the most beautifully crafted cars ever made. One of these rare vehicles is on display at the “Collecio D’automobils Salvador Claret” in Barcelona, Spain.
Labeled as Porsche’s rarest model and one of the world’s rarest vehicles, the Porsche 916’s scarcity is notable. This model stood out for its speed and agility, being the fastest and lightest Porsche model of its time, with a top speed of 233 km per hour.
In 1972, only 11 prototypes of this model were built, making it a true rarity in the automotive world. Among these, just a single car made its way to the United States and is now showcased at the Automobile Atlanta Museum in Marietta, Georgia.
With an estimated value of $495,000, the Porsche 916 almost made its debut at the 1971 Paris Auto Salon before Porsche halted production. The reasons were clear: high manufacturing and labor costs and a steep price tag of $14,000, considerably more than the priciest Porsche 911 at the time. Built on the 914’s body, the Porsche 916 nearly remained a dream.
Aston Martin DBR1
In 1956, the Aston Martin DBR1 not only emerged as a pivotal model in Aston Martin’s history but also one of the rarest racing cars in history. With only five of these striking green vehicles ever built, their impressive track record matches their rarity, boasting victories at prestigious races like Le Mans and the Nürburgring. The DBR1 catapulted Aston Martin into a formidable position against other racing giants of the era, including Ferrari and Jaguar.
Not only is the DBR1 a symbol of racing excellence, but it also holds the record as the most expensive British car sold at auction, with a price tag estimated at around $22.5 million. For those who can’t afford such a price, a visit to the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in England offers an up-close view of this legendary car.
1957 Jaguar XKSS
The 1957 Jaguar XKSS is a rare jewel in the automotive world. Initially, Jaguar planned to convert 25 unsold D-Types into XKSSs, but a factory fire destroyed several of them, resulting in only 16 being completed. Today, it’s believed that just twelve of these cars remain.
The XKSS combines the performance of a race car with some minimal comforts for road use, making it highly coveted among collectors. The XKSS was initially based on the Jaguar D-Type race car. When Jaguar withdrew from competitive motorsports, they converted the remaining D-Types into street-legal versions, resulting in the birth of the XKSS.
This model gained extra fame as Steve McQueen, the “King of Cool,” once owned a ‘British Racing Green’ XKSS, purchased for $5,000. In 2014, the value of this particular car was estimated at a staggering $30 million, and it is currently displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.
In an extraordinary find, another XKSS was discovered as part of the James Hull collection, which comprised 450 British cars and sold for an estimated £100 million. One of these, the XKSS 722, is now housed at the Louwman Museum in The Hague.
1971 Plymouth Hemi’ Cuda Convertible
The 1971 Hemi’ Cuda Convertible might not initially seem like a standout, but it’s incredibly coveted among collectors, with fewer than a dozen built that year. Why did it become rare?
In 1970, the Plymouth Barracuda was a hot item, with over 50,000 units sold. However, sales dropped significantly in 1971 to just over 16,000, including only 108 Hemi Cuda coupes and a mere 11 Hemi Cuda convertibles. Among these, only two had a four-speed transmission, and just one is believed to have matching numbers.
In 2013, one of these rare convertibles sold for $1.32 million at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, and by the following year, it fetched a staggering $3.5 million at a Mecum auction, making it the priciest Mopar ever sold at an auction.
1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
The 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing isn’t just an iconic car; it’s a milestone in automotive history and was an instant sensation upon its release. In the 1950s, the 300SL was at the forefront of technological innovation. It was instantly recognizable because of its unique doors that swung upwards, resembling the wings of a bird. Its sleek, curvaceous body not only gives it a striking appearance but also enhances its aerodynamic efficiency.
Underneath its stunning exterior lies a tubular space frame, a design that reduces weight while adding strength, a concept still employed in modern high-performance vehicles. Adding to its legendary status is the fact that the 300SL could reach a top speed of 161 mph, a remarkable feat for a car from 70 years ago.
For those looking for something exceptionally rare, the aluminum alloy version of the Gullwing is a treasure. In 2014, Sotheby’s estimated the value of such a model between $5.5 million and $6.5 million.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider
This Ferrari is a highly sought-after collector’s item, known for its stunning design and powerful performance. The Short Wheelbase (SWB) California Spider features a V12 engine and sleek, sporty bodywork. And it is a gem – one unit of this car was sold for $17.16 million at a 2016 auction.
For many, this car looks familiar because it’s the same as the car in the hit 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Only about 55 of these cars were built, making them extremely rare and valuable.
1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe
The Bugatti Royale, also known as the Type 41, is one of the largest cars ever built and known for its luxury and style. The Kellner Coupe version is particularly notable. Ettore Bugatti planned to build 25 of these cars and sell them to royalty for $30,000 each.
However, only six were ever made, and none were sold to royals due to the economic conditions of the time, as it was produced during the Great Depression. The Royale featured a huge 12.7-liter engine, which is still one of the biggest ever put on a car. Many of the remaining examples are displayed in museums or private collections around the world.
1948-1951 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport
The Talbot Lago Grand Sport produced post-World War II from 1948 to 1951, is celebrated not only for its speed and luxury but also for its rarity. Only 12 units of this model were ever made.
It was equipped with a powerful 4.5-liter 6-cylinder engine, producing 190 horsepower, making it one of the most potent cars of its time. Adding to its fame, the Talbot Lago Grand Sport won the 1950 Le Mans 24-hour race with Louis Rosier as the driver.
One of these exclusive cars is showcased at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, while the rest are prized possessions of collectors. Of the 29 Talbot Lago Grand Sports built on the short-wheelbase chassis, 26 are still in existence today. This model, available as a coupe or a cabriolet, was an ultra-luxurious evolution of the prewar T150C SS. Designed by Anthony Lago with the aristocracy in mind, the car combined sleek, luxurious, and sharp features with impressive horsepower.
2013 Lamborghini Veneno
The Lamborghini Veneno is an extraordinary hypercar created to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary. Originally priced at $4.5 million, the Veneno is among the world’s most exclusive cars. One of these cars is proudly displayed in the Lamborghini Museum in Europe, while private collectors treasure the rest.
In 2017, a Veneno was put up for sale with a staggering price tag of $9.5 million, proving that a special edition Lamborghini is not just a purchase but a significant investment.
Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is as fast as it is rare, boasting a top speed of 160 mph and a 0 to 60 mph sprint in just 5.5 seconds. This Italian marvel seldom appears on the market, making it hard to gauge its value.
Only 18 were made, indicating its price would be in the multimillions. In fact, a 2017 report from Motor Authority values at least one of these at $10 million. Originally priced at 10 million Italian lira, it was one of the costliest cars at the time.
While most of us won’t get the chance to drive one, the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese offers a chance to marvel at this beauty.
2005 Maybach Exelero
The 2005 Maybach Exelero is a marvel with a price tag of $8 million and the distinction of being a one-off creation. Designed for Fulda, a German tire manufacturer, this unique car combines luxury with performance. Despite its considerable weight of 5863 lbs, it’s impressively fast, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, thanks to its 700 hp V12 twin-turbo engine. The Exelero’s top speed is a breathtaking 218 mph.
Each of these rare cars is not just a set of wheels. They’re like pieces of history. Some of them are hidden away in private collections, but luckily, others are out there in museums for all of us to see and admire. They’re real treasures that keep fascinating car lovers and collectors everywhere.