Modern supercars helped redefine high-end collector car market

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exotic sports cars
A 2015 McLaren P1 was sold by RM Sotheby's at its Petersen Museum auction | RM Sotheby's

Editor’s note: As each year draws to a close, the ClassicCars.com Journal polls its editors and correspondents to determine what we consider to be the top-10 stories from the collector car world during the past 12 months. Check out the other top stories here.


Modern exotics have become featured regularly at collector car auctions across the board, with 21st Century supercar models from such automakers as Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz, as well as ultra-low-mileage 2005-06 Ford GTs, topping many auctions that not long ago had been confined to classics of an older vintage.

You could chalk it up to the generational changes we’ve been seeing in the market as Gen X and Millennial buyers move the needle ahead to later-year vehicles, although plenty of well-heeled older collectors have been adding the latest and greatest performance machines to their garages.

The most emblematic moment defining this trend happened in April during Barrett-Jackson’s annual Palm Beach, Florida, auction when for the first time at any major collector car auction, a car from Japan was the top seller.

exotic sports car
The 2012 Lexus LFA on the block at Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach | Barrett-Jackson

That car was a rare modern exotic, a limited-production 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition, that sold for $770,000, including auction fee.

The very-special high-performance coupe from Toyota’s luxury division was most-likely worth the money, but the greater message was the symbolism of a late-model Japanese exotic leading a Barrett-Jackson sale, which long has been associated with Detroit muscle, pre-war classics, sports cars, street rods and other mainstay collector cars from past eras.

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In fifth place at Palm Beach was another modern classic that shows up regularly at auctions, a 2006 Ford GT, the Dearborn automaker’s homage to its Le Mans-winning GT40 and a car that virtually defines the term “instant collectable.”  Ford GTs with ultra-low mileage are frequent fliers at collector car sales, selling in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, with a presence that helped legitimize other recently minted supercars at auction.

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2006 Ford GT

All during 2018, high-value supercars built since 2000, as well as some other late-model exotics from the 1990s, took their places at auction as bona fide collector cars, despite their newness.

While collector car traditionalists might bristle over recent-vintage vehicles being sold at auction among the older cars, trucks and motorcycles that define the hobby, high-end exotics at lofty prices are undoubtedly here to stay, with the market growing as younger collectors come on board.

At the benchmark collector car sales on the Monterey Peninsula in August, when six companies hold auctions in the run up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 21st Century supercars were strong contenders among the top-drawer offerings, and nearly every auction had a few among its top sellers.

exotic sports cars
2014 Ferrari Laferrari

RM Sotheby’s had a 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari go for $3.3 million in a charity sale. Mecum had another 2014 LaFerrari sell for $3.1 million, followed by a 2003 Ferrari Enzo at $2.86 million (all except charity sales include auction fees).

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Mecum also had an essentially new 2017 Ferrari F12tdf coupe sell for more than $1 million.

Gooding had yet another 2014 LaFerrari, which went for $3 million, a 2011 Ferrari 599 SA Aperta at more than $1 million and a 2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica at $913,000.

Other Ferraris from this century at RM Sotheby’s included a 2005 575 Superamerica, sold for $340,000, and a 2011 599 GTO for $550,000.

exotic sports cars
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach Roadster

At Bonhams, a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach Roadster sold for $1.4 million.   Gooding also had a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach Roadster, which sold for $1.65 million, and a 2004 Porsche Carrera GT that got $726,000.  A 2004 Porsche Carrera GT sold at RM Sotheby’s for $940,000.

Russo and Steele sold a controversial 2017 Ford GT for $1.54 million, and a 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series convertible for $203,500.

More recently, the RM Sotheby’s sale on December 8 at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles had a gaggle of top modern exotics for sale, including a 2015 McLaren P1 that went for $1.43 million, a 2015 Porsche 918 Weissach Spyder for $1.54 million, a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT for $775,000 and a 2006 Ford GT for $318,500.

A number of 21st Century supercars are listed on the dockets for the six major collector car auctions taking place during Arizona Auction Week in January 2019, which most likely will draw some serious bidding and continue a trend that seems to be here to stay.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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