European car manufacturers have always produced some cars that end up having seriously high prices. Whether it’s through them being incredibly expensive new, or becoming very desirable as collectors’ cars, these cars often end up selling for values that could give even the wealthiest buyers a bit of a heart attack! These cars can easily cost tens of millions of dollars, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that a few could be worth as much as $100 million or more in the future.
The cars on this list have become valuable for various reasons. Some are iconic sports cars or supercars that have become historically important. Many of them have a strong connection to racing, too, either as homologation specials or cars that actually raced in period. They all share a common theme, though. They’re some of the most expensive things money can buy, let alone cars!
10 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe – $148 Million
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ is one of the most iconic and desirable sports cars as it is. That only magnifies when you get into the specials and one-offs based on its platform. One of those is the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe. Named after the 300 SLR’s designer and chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, this was a barely road-legal racing car that Uhlenhaut himself used as his personal car.
The Uhlenhaut Coupe currently holds the record for the most expensive car ever to be sold at auction. It sold for 135,000,000 Euros (around $148,425,750) in 2022! The money from the sale went into a new fund, intended to give scholarships to students who are involved with environmental studies. It’s fairly unlikely that any other car will top that record anytime soon!
9 Ferrari 250 GTO – $38 Million
In the world of Ferrari, there’s possibly no car that’s more desirable than the 250 GTO. This V12-powered GT car is one of the holy grails of Ferrari ownership. It was designed as a racing car first and foremost, with the road-going versions only existing because of the rules for homologation into the FIA’s Group 3 Grand Touring Car category. Only 36 of them were ever made, and buyers of these cars brand new had to be personally approved by Enzo Ferrari himself and his North American dealer Luigi Chinetti.
The Ferrari 250 GTO has long been infamous for being one of the most expensive cars that anyone can buy in the world. That’s a reputation that still holds up now, as whenever one goes up for auction they fetch astronomical prices. To give just one example, one sold for $38,115,000 in 2014! With a price like that, the 250 GTO really is only for the wealthiest and most serious Ferrari collectors.
8 Ferrari 335 S – $34.8 Million
Another Ferrari that only the wealthiest need apply for is the 335 S. This racing car was built as a direct response to the Maserati 450S, which was beating Ferrari’s earlier 315 S and 290 MM models. Ferrari took the 315 S and enlarged its V12 to 4 liters, giving it a maximum power output of 390 hp. When that larger V12 was put into that light racing car body, it allowed the 335 S to reach top speeds of 190 mph!
A 1957 example of a 335 S sold for 32.1 million Euros (around $34.8 million) in 2016. This particular model started life as a 315 S and was upgraded to 335 S spec later. Among its various achievements, it once held the lap record at Le Mans and took Stirling Moss to his victory in the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix! This, then, is a very special Ferrari, and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most expensive European cars to ever be sold.
7 Ferrari 290 MM – $28 Million
The Ferrari 290 MM is another one of those incredibly famous Ferrari racing cars that only the wealthiest and most serious Ferrari collectors can get their hands on. One of the predecessors to the 335 S mentioned earlier, the 290 MM was powered by a 3.5 liter V12 and could produce up to 320 hp. This gave this racing car a top speed of 170 mph! That was clearly enough for it to take Eugenio Castellotti to his win of the 1956 Millie Miglia, while Juan Manuel Fangio finished 4th in another one. The 290 MM also took Phil Hill and Maurice Trintignant to a win at the 1956 Swedish Grand Prix, granting Ferrari an overall victory in the World Sportscar Championship that year.
The car that Fangio drove in that 1956 Millie Miglia went up for auction in 2015, selling for $28 million. This made it the third most expensive car ever sold at the time, and the most expensive to be sold that year!
6 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spyder – $27.5 Million
The 275 GTB/4*S NART Spyder is more of a road-going Ferrari than the racers and homologation specials that have come previously in this list. But, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly desirable! Only 10 of these cars were ever built, and it only happened because Luigi Chinetti (the North American Ferrari dealer mentioned regarding the 250 GTO) insisted on it being made for the American market. One of these cars appeared in the original version of The Thomas Crown Affair, along with some other very expensive cars of the day.
Because these cars are so rare, they very rarely come up for sale and always go for high prices when they do. One example of the NART Spyder sold for $27.5 million in 2013. This makes it a proposition for only the most serious of car collectors, and easily one of the most expensive European cars in the world.
5 Mercedes-Benz W196 – $25.8 Million
In the world of Grand Prix racing cars, there aren’t many that are more famous than the Mercedes-Benz W196. This car was used in the 1954 and 1955 seasons of the Formula One World Championship, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. It was one of the most successful cars of its era, winning 9 out of the 12 races it entered and winning back-to-back championships!
The W196 that was driven by Fangio during those years was put up for sale in 2013, selling for £20,896,800 including UK VAT (around $25.8 Million). While this makes it less valuable than those incredibly expensive Ferrari racers, it’s still one of the most expensive cars ever sold!
4 Aston Martin DBR1 – $22.5 Million
The Aston Martin DBR1 was a car that you couldn’t get from a regular dealer, or for road use. That’s because it was developed for one thing, and one thing only; to be a world-class sports car racer. That’s something it certainly was, as it’s still the only Aston Martin to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans! That happened in the 1959 edition of the legendary endurance race, with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori driving.
Thanks to its legendary exploits in sports car racing, Aston Martin DBR1s fetch very high prices whenever they go up for sale. The sister car to the Le Mans-winning example that won the 1000 km of The Nürburgring sold for $22,550,000 in 2017. For a classic racing car that’s a huge amount of money, and it certainly makes the DBR1 one of the most expensive European cars in the world!
3 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider – $22 Million
The last of the Ferrari racing cars on this list is the 410 Sport Spider. Powered by a 5.0-liter V12, it could produce up to 375 hp and reach a top speed of up to 188 mph. The 410 was a huge success in racing, taking Juan Manuel Fangio to a victory at the 1956 1000 km of Bueno Aires. It also won Carroll Shelby more races than any other car he ever competed in!
One example of the 410 Sport Spider sold for $22 million in 2022. While this doesn’t make it the most valuable of the classic Ferrari racing cars, it does mean that it’s one of the most expensive European cars that’s ever been sold at auction!
2 Jaguar D-Type – $21.7 Million
The Jaguar D-Type is one of the most famous cars ever built for sports car racing. It was designed specifically to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it managed to do in 1955, 1956, and 1957! It also has a very distinctive look with its rear stabilizing fin, something which has become iconic in the decades since. 71 D-Types are believed to have been built, along with 16 XKSS models (D-Types converted for road use).
There was once a time when these cars weren’t that valuable. But, that’s all changed now. One D-Type sold for $21,780,000 in 2016. This made it the most expensive Jaguar to ever sell at auction!
1 McLaren F1 – $20 Million
When it comes to ’90s supercars, there aren’t many that are more iconic and historically important than the McLaren F1. The F1 was designed by the legendary automotive designer Gordon Murray and was intended to be the ultimate road car experience. A consequence of this was it becoming the fastest production car that had ever been made. It held that record for over a decade until the Bugatti Veyron beat it.
As you’d expect from such an important and iconic supercar that was very expensive even brand new, McLaren F1s go for massive prices at auction. One F1 sold for $20,465,000 in 2022, well over its estimate of $15,000,000. This is a value that’s likely to only go up over the years, too.