RM Sotheby’s turned the event into a bit of theater—and for good reason. Rolling onto the auction block was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO expected to bring close to $50 million. So on that Saturday night in 2018 at the Monterey Conference Center, organizers dimmed the lights as racing legend Phil Hill drove the sleek red machine on stage before a standing room crowd, few of whom were interested in bidding. In fact, no paddles were raised in the room, only cell phones to record the moment. At the time, the record for a car sold at auction was $38.1 million, including premiums—another 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that crossed the Bonhams Quail Lodge auction in Carmel Valley four years earlier. After an inauspicious opening bid of $35 million, the figure climbed into record territory as two remote bidders—soon joined by a third—dueled. There were lulls in the action. Clearly there was some deliberation on the other end of the phone lines. Remote bidders were quiet, waiting until the hammer was raised then calling out small increments: $43.25 million, $43.5 million, $43.75 million. The announcements resonated in the room—although it was elbow to elbow, the audience was hushed as anticipation loomed. That rapt silence was shattered moments later, when the hammer clapped at $44 million. A cheer erupted. With premiums, the $48.4 million became the highest sum paid for a car at auction. Since then the mark has been beaten, and rather decisively. In May of 2022 in Stuttgart, Germany, a unique 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe reaped a whopping $142 million during a Sotheby’s auction—an amount that seems likely to stand for some time. Yet when it comes to high-dollar cars, Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula is where records are set. Last year auctions tallied a record $469 million in sales during Car Week, with 790 cars changing hands. The figure cleared the previous mark of $395 million set in 2015. Also in 2022, a record 110 cars topped $1 million. Anecdotal evidence pointed to a number of highdollar impulse buys. While the shows, the vintage races and other events of Car Week are attractions unto themselves (there were claims of record attendance at the rollicking Concours d’Lemons last year), the auctions are about numbers—and action. According to data from Hagerty, 18 of the 30 highest priced cars at auction have been sold during Car Week. Ten of these crossed the Sotheby’s block in Monterey, six at the Gooding 26 The Best of Monterey Bay ® Haven 2023-2024 Big Money At Car Week auctions, record-Setting numbers— often in the eight digits—are the norm. By Dave Faries The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold in 2018 for $48.4 million—at the time a record—during the RM Sotheby’s auction. Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s car-auctions_23.indd 1 8/3/23 11:43 AM