Motorcar magnate Colin Giltrap has made property history - paying a record $5.5 million for a luxury penthouse overlooking Mt Maunganui.

The 400sq m ninth-floor pad, complete with outdoor infinity pool and home cinema, is the most expensive apartment sold in the Bay of Plenty - easily beating the $3.2m paid by a New York-based Kiwi for a Marine Parade penthouse in 2004.

Giltrap's flashy new suite is among 65 apartments in the twin-tower Eleven development on Maunganui Rd designed by Auckland architect Dr Robert Donald.

Atop the southern tower, it boasts sweeping views of the main beach, two lounges, four bathrooms and parking for eight vehicles.

According to the Eleven website, each apartment features an imported Italian kitchen and residents have access to a gym and on-site managers.

It is understood Giltrap, who has an estimated personal fortune of about $150m, will use the apartment as a weekend retreat to share with friends and family.

He declined to comment, but his wife Jennifer said the reason for buying the penthouse was simple: "We like the Mount."

Giltrap's son has bought a slightly smaller apartment two floors below his father's.

Peter Clarke, the Bayleys consultant marketing the complex, said the penthouse sale was fantastic. "People are starting to recognise that now is a good time to buy."

Donald said 39 of the 65 apartments had sold and four possible sales were being negotiated. Unsold apartments in the $120m development range in price from $895,000 to $3.45m.

Giltrap owns the country's biggest car dealership, which wholesales and distributes luxury brands. His company has the wholesale New Zealand rights to Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda and Volkswagen.

It also has a joint venture with Motorcorp to wholesale Jaguar and Land Rover.

Giltrap is a supporter of the A1GP and patron of the Bruce McLaren Trust, set up to honour one of New Zealand's few Formula 1 drivers.

The Giltraps also own a 495sq m, $5.3m apartment in Nigel McKenna's Lighter Quay complex overlooking Auckland's Viaduct Basin.

They own a holiday home in Pauanui and a spacious apartment in Belgravia, central London, an area home to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and celebrity cook Nigella Lawson.

- additional reporting BoP Times