Italian masterpiece? Ferrari 250 GTO is up for auction in an art sale

If you thought £37.5m was steep for a 250 GTO, wait until you see what this world-leading example goes for... in a modern art auction

Ferrari 250 GTO

They don’t come up often, so 250 GTO sales are an ‘event’. But when the gavel falls, what price for chassis 3765?

Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Employees at Sotheby’s in London back in the early 1990s may remember the then head of the international car department, Malcolm Barber, occasionally railing at the disconnect between the values of blue-chip artworks and the values of blue-chip cars: “Surely some of these cars are just as rare… and they are works of art,” he opined. “So why shouldn’t they be as valuable?”

Well, the soaring amounts paid for the ‘right’ cars during the past two or three decades have well and truly proved Barber’s point to be correct.

Ferrari 250 GTO Interior

Art in point: Michelangelo himself would be proud of that stamping work

Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

And that point could be rammed home when this 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO crosses the block at Sotheby’s, not in a regular car auction but as one of the star lots in the autumn season’s flagship Modern and Contemporary Art sale.

There isn’t a specialist car auctioneer on the planet who would not love to swing the gavel and knock a 250 GTO down for a predictably astronomical sum.

But if the sale of this one is anything to go by, the 250 GTO, which many believe to be the most desirable of all collector’s cars, has transcended the oily realms of motoring and landed firmly in the rarefied world of Picassos, Monets and Cézannes.

Chassis 3765 will be offered during the evening session of the Modern and Contemporary Art auction, a traditionally glittering event to which some of the world’s wealthiest collectors turn out in person.

It’s not unusual for that wealth to be displayed in the form of some extravagant public bidding, so we may even find out who eventually buys the car – although we already know who owns it.

That’s 75-year-old Ohio tycoon Jim Jaeger, co-founder of radar detector business Cincinnati Microwave and a well-known figure in both Ferrari circles and on the concours circuit. He paid ‘just’ £360,000 for the car in 1985, a sum that bought him the only factory-owned Series 1 GTO to have been raced by the Scuderia.

Ferrari 250 GTO exterior

A class winner at the 1962 Nürburgring 1000Kms and a Le Mans entrant the same year (drivers Mike Parkes and Lorenzo Bandini retired with a blown radiator after seven hours), it was subsequently owned by a former Ferrari Club of America chairman and, during Jaeger’s stewardship, has scooped awards at the Cavallino Classic, Pebble beach and Amelia Island.

Replete with its factory build sheets and reams of history, it’s almost certain to beat the £37.5m record auction price for a GTO set in 2018, and could even eclipse the £52.3m paid privately for another example in the same year. But is it art?

1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO. On sale at RM Sotheby’s, New York, US, November 13. Estimate: £48m