Top 10 American classic cars and the staggering prices they fetch at auctions

Article by Andrew Christian, on December 1, 2015

You may have heard about specific car models that have sold a little above $100,000 or, at most, $200,000. Very impressive figures, but these figures are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how expensive cars can be when it comes to auctions where everyone tries to outbid each other by raising offers.

Yes, the Tesla Model S P85D and the new Ford GT are, without a doubt, excellent models of American cars. However, they are not the priciest, so to speak. If you’ve been avidly following auto news, you’ll find that prices for the most expensive cars in America have been skyrocketing beginning in 2004.

The bar is actually at $4 million and higher! These are not your ordinary cars either; these include historic examples that are decades older than the first car you’ve driven. Of course, European cars have always fetched an auspicious price when it comes to auctions, especially Ferraris, but it would be interesting to look at what prices American cars have been auctioned for.

Here is a list of 10 American-made cars that have fetched incredibly expensive prices during auctions. Take note that this list is not arranged according to price. Read on and be amazed at what prices and lengths avid car fanatics have gone to just to acquire these excellent specimens of American car manufacturing.

1. 1968 Ford GT40

Let’s start with the most expensive one of all, and that distinction goes to the 1968 Ford GT40! Also known as the Gulf/Mirage Lightweight racer, one particular specimen of the GT40 gained fame when it was used as the camera car for the 1971 movie Le Mans starring Steve McQueen.

This association ensured that the car will become valuable as time passed by. Did you know that a buyer during an RM Auctions event acquired the 1968 GT40 with Gulf decals for a whopping $11 million?

A little bit of history – Ford only produced three models of the racer, the first of which was the one decked out in Gulf decals for the Le Mans movie.

The model was introduced in 1967, the same year as when it won at Spa in May. Ford had to tweak the car a little bit the next year in order to conform to new rules that were published in 1968 describing new standards for car manufacturing.

2. 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe

CSX 2601’s $7,250,000 may be impressive, but it pales in comparison to the 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe’s auction price. The lucky owner had dished out $10,340,000 to acquire this stunning classic from 1931.

It must’ve been a tough fight, with several other car aficionados and collectors eager to get this Frank Hershey-designed treasure.

This Duesenberg was awarded to the winning bidder at a Pebble Beach auction in 2011. It comes only second to the 1968 Ford GT40’s $11 million auction price.

3. Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe CSX 2601

This one is worth mentioning, not only for its price but also for its chops. This Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe, with designation CSX 2601, won the top spot at the World Manufacturer’s Championship in 1965.

It edged out none other than the top Italian racing car manufacturer, Ferrari. This achievement made Mecum call it the “finest racing hour” featuring a racing car of American manufacture.

In 2009, CSX 2601 was sold for $7,250,000 during the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

4. 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype

Another car makes it to this list, this time a slightly older Ford GT40 prototype, which debuted in the model year 1964. This particular model was the result of Henry Ford II being aggressive in his attitude towards his competitors.

Carroll Shelby, who spearheaded the design team, created around four prototypes that hoped to conform to Henry Ford II’s goals for challenging the racing world.

The team ran into problems with weight management, and it would take four tries before it came out with a prototype that solved the dilemma.

This was the 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype, which would eventually fetch $7 million in April 2014 during the Mecum Auctions event of that year.

The feathers on this car’s figurative cap – 3rd place in Daytona 1965 -- established Ford Racing’s reputation as a force to reckon with. Under the car’s hood was a Cobra-spec 289 Cl engine.

5. 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake

There’s something special about this 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 “Super Snake.” It’s the only surviving example of the Super Snake version of the 1966 Shelby Cobra.

The line itself is very limited; this is one of only 23 production models of the ’66 Shelby Cobra. It’s not a surprise that, at a Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in 2007, model no. CSX 3015 was awarded to the winning bidder at $5.5 million.

What happened to the other Super Cobra? The other one, CSX 3033, sadly fell into the Pacific, taking Tony Maxey with it.

6. 1966 Batmobile 1

This one has a very interesting history, and it goes beyond it being the iconic Batmobile of the equally iconic Batman series in the 1960s. It has been said that the original 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car that will eventually become the Batmobile 1 was acquired by Richard Barris for only $1.

Barris, however, was eventually commissioned by producers of the Batman TV series to customize the Futura to be used for that show.

He gained $14,999 from that commission. That profit, however, would pale in comparison to the winning bid for the Batmobile 1 in 2013 – the 1966 Batmobile 1 was sold for an impressive $4,620,000 at an auction by Barret-Jackson Scottsdale.

7. 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coupe

Last but not the least is the 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coup. This stunning vehicle bears the distinction of being the only supercharged version of its two siblings, and was said to have been owned by General William Lyon at one point.

Automotive Restorations, owned by Steve Babinsky and based in Lebanon, New York, restored this supercharged version to its former glory. As a result, RM Auctions sold the car to its lucky new owner for $4,510,000 in March 2013.

8. 1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster

Last but not the least is the 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Coup. This stunning vehicle bears the distinction of being the only supercharged version of its two siblings, and was said to have been owned by General William Lyon at one point.

Automotive Restorations, owned by Steve Babinsky and based in Lebanon, New York, restored this supercharged version to its former glory. As a result, RM Auctions sold the car to its lucky new owner for $4,510,000 in March 2013.

9. 1950 GM Futurliner Parade of Progress Bus

This particular model is one of 12 units that were designed and produced under the legendary Harley Earl’s watch in General Motors.

This Futurliner bus bears model no. 11, and has been restored back to its original 1950’s glory. In 2006, a buyer bid successfully to acquire Futurliner Bus No. 11 for an impressive $4.4 million.

10. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88

This one is another gem amongst the rest of its product line. The only one in twenty models to have a red body finish, this individual 1967 Chevy Corvette L88 fetched a price of $3,850,000 during a Barrett-Jackson auction in January 2014.

Looking inside, one can see the purist influence in its design – Chevrolet installed no heater or a radio in this specific Corvette L88.

The L88 model is noted for being rated by Barrett-Jackson to be at 560 horsepower in dyno-tests, even though GM had publicly stated that the L88 only has 430 horsepower.

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