A classic Ferrari raced by arguably the greatest driver in history was today (Fri) sold by its British owner for a staggering £18.5 MILLION.
The ultra-rare Ferrari 290 MM was raced by Juan Manuel Fangio, the legendary five-time Formula One World Champion.
Fangio raced it at the 1956 Mille Miglia, battling appalling weather to finish fourth in the gruelling 1,000-mile road race.
The road-legal race car was one of only four 290 MMs to be built with Marcel Massini, the foremost authority on classic Ferraris, describing it as “truly a spectacular and super-rare car”.
And with a 3.5-litre V12 engine developing 345bhp, the open-top race car could reach a top speed of around 180mph.
The Ferrari – known as chassis 0626 – was bought by a British businessman in 2004.
After 11-years of ownership he decided to cash in and sell it at this week’s high profile RM Sotheby’s sale in New York.
It was estimated to sell for between £17 and £21 million and ended up selling for £18.5 million to become the third most expensive car ever sold publicly.
The Ferrari dominated the sale, which saw collectors and investors fork out £50 million on desirable cars.
James Cottingham, from Ferrari specialist DK Engineering, in Hertfordshire, said: “The 290MM is one of the greatest 50s sports Ferraris in the world as it, as well as being a works car, has never been crashed and is as original as a car of its type can be.
“Some would say an auction is the only place for it to be sold and tonight proved that you need two to tango.
“But we had four bidders above $20m (£13m) and ultimately the winning bid proved its worth.”
The Ferrari was also raced by other motorsport icons including Phil Hill and Alfonso de Portago and was driven to victory in the 1957 Buenos Aires 1000 KM.
It has been called “undoubtedly one of the greatest, most original, and most valuable cars ever offered at public auction”.
Unlike many cars from its period, it has never been crashed and retains its original engine, gearbox, chassis and bodywork.
Only a Ferrari 250 GTO and Mercedes W196 – also raced by Fangio – have achieved higher prices at auction.
For the £18.5 million, the new buyer could have bought 1,850 Ford Fiestas.
Prior to the sale, Peter Wallman, car specialist at RM Sotheby’s, said: “It’s hard to know where to start when describing just how important this 290 MM is.
“Driven by the greatest drivers of the 1950s and built for possibly THE greatest driver in history, this is a car with which Enzo Ferrari was personally involved and is a fundamental part of Ferrari folklore.
“Its originality, coupled with its extraordinary provenance and history, which are truly second to none, can only lead you to conclude that it is one of the most desirable and valuable cars that will ever come to the open market.”