A 1968 Ford GT40 racer sold last weekend for US$11 million ($13.6 million) - a record for any American auto at auction - at the start of a series of car sales in California with an unprecedented lineup of high-value classics.
The Gulf/Mirage racer, finished in trademark powder blue with a marigold stripe, was estimated to fetch more than US$8 million on the first day of a 120-lot sale of "investment-quality automobiles" by RM Auctions at Monterey.
"This GT40 was a great demonstration of how the history of a car determines its price," said Historic Automobile Group International founder, Dietrich Hatlapa.
"The early life drives the value. This Ford had been part of the original Gulf team and had a good record."
Two bidders in the salesroom took the GT40 price from US$9 million up to the record US$11 million, which includes auction house fees.
The GT40 was created by Ford in the early 1960s to beat Ferrari at long-distance sports car races, after the US auto giant failed to buy the Italian company in 1963.
The car won the Le Mans 24-hour race for four consecutive years from 1966-69.
The version at RM (chassis P/1074) had been raced by Jacky Ickx at Daytona and Le Mans trials in 1968. It was later used as the camera car in Steve McQueen's 1971 film Le Mans.
The first day of the RM sale raised about US$46 million with 55 of the 60 offered cars successful, said the auction house.
Other highlights included a cream-coloured 1955 Ferrari 410 S Berlinetta that sold for US$8.25 million. Made with a competition-power engine for Michel Paul-Cavallier - a director on the board of Sefac, Ferrari's corporate racing entity during the 1960s - the car raised a record price for this particular model, RM said.
"The prices of the rarest Ferrari road cars have now pushed on," Hatlapa said. "Two years ago, this 410 S would probably have sold for less than US$5 million."
Earlier, a restored Ford GT40, formerly owned by the Bolivian tin magnate Jaime Ortiz-Patino, sold for US$2.2 million on the second day of a Bonhams auction of classic motorcycles and cars at Quail Lodge, Carmel.