It was just four months ago that a rare 1967 Chevy Corvette L88, one of 20 ever built, set a new record auction price for a Vette, fetching $3.2 million. The record it broke had stood for five years; I said then the new one wouldn't take nearly so long — and sure enough, another L88 Vette sold for $3.85 million this past weekend at Barrett-Jackson's auction/car circus in Arizona. The Vette and other high-profile cars led a stampede of collectors who bought and sold $248.6 million worth of metal and motors in a week — yet another record in the booming world of antique car auctions.
While Barrett-Jackson has built its reputation as the beehive for American muscle car collectors every January — and made itself a TV staple along the way — other high-end auction houses moved into its turf this year and found plenty of buyers willing to split their attention. The highest bid of the weekend came for this 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder, sold by RM Auctions for $8.8 million. Gooding & Co. sold 13 cars for more than $1 million, including a McLaren F1 GTR and a passel of Ferraris, with a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS that had been stored in a garage for 44 years after an engine-bay fire garnering $2 million.
Every rising auction price of classic cars brings some calls of a bubble in the market, but according to data gathered by Hagerty's insurance, the average collector car sold in Arizona last week brought $115,248, a 6 percent increase from the year-ago average. Much like the boom in new luxury cars, the value of rare cars has risen mostly as the wealthy look for a place to store their excess money in a way that won't depreciate. There will always be more stocks and bonds, but General Motors will never make another '67 L88 Vette.