When you look at the list of most expensive cars ever sold, European models (mostly Ferrari) dominate. American cars have yet to fetch more than $15 million at auction. So far, a 1962 Shelby Cobra tops the list of American classics following its $13.75 million sale in 2016.
Indeed, cars with unparalleled racing heritage (e.g., Shelby and Ford GT) are traditionally the hottest tickets for domestic models. In 2017, collectors and museum curators will have a shot at more from this canon. Scottsdale (Ariz.) auctions kicking off the season feature some of the most desired sports cars to ever wear an American badge, not to mention rare muscle cars and pristine examples of this country’s greatest vehicles from the prewar period.
Here are 10 breathtaking American automobiles up for auction in 2017.
1. 1966 Shelby GT350 Paxton Convertible
In the late 1970s, racing legend Carroll Shelby took 12 ’66 Mustang convertibles and transformed them into ultra-limited edition GT350s. Shelby kept four and sold the other eight, one of which featured a Paxton supercharger. That model, still in excellent condition with its Wimbledon White paint job, is a featured model at the January Russo and Steele auctions. It actually has a plaque documenting Shelby’s personal involvement in the car’s production affixed to the interior.
2. 1930 Cadillac V16 Roadster
Stately Duesenberg convertibles claim three of the top 10 places on the most expensive American car list, but that brand was not the only one producing rides fit for the Great Gatsby in the 1930s. Take this 1930 Cadillac V16 Roadster that features the first 16-cylinder engine to be built from scratch. RM Sotheby’s has this car, expected to fetch more than $1 million at auction, going on the block January 20. The combination of looking like a duke and possessing a V16 engine should prove tough for collectors to resist.
3. 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible
Muscle car enthusiasts tend to freak over any Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, but a convertible takes it to another level. Only 14 ever saw the light of day, and this 1970 black-on-black model has a storied racing past to boot. According to Barrett-Jackson, where it will sell, it won 27 eliminators in the ’73 season. After spending a few decades out of sight in a Southwest storage shed, the ‘Cuda convertible returned to the world in excellent condition. We can’t project its price, but a yellow model is expected to top $3 million at Mecum.
4. 1964 Cheetah
Collectors have to spar over this 1964 Bill Thomas Cheetah: Only 15 exist as of 2017. According to Barrett-Jackson, which nabbed this model for the year’s Scottsdale auctions, it was the only one with a heavy Corvette L88 engine. A full restoration left this car ready for showcasing as a museum piece or making the rounds at concours. Chevy performance fans will keep an eye on the would-be Cobra competitor when it goes on the block.
5. Tucker 1044
A remarkable number of original Tucker 48s still exist, but they all command high values whenever seen on an auction block. Tucker 1044, available at RM Sotheby’s in 2017, is no different. This fully functioning 48 stayed off the road and out of sight for decades and re-entered the market with 7,900 miles. It could very well break $2 million when the final gavel falls. With a careful cosmetic restoration, it could eventually become one of the 10 most expensive American cars.
6. Plymouth Superbird
You may call the 1970 Plymouth Charger Daytona and Superbird more crazy than breathtaking, but these cars command attention. The absurd rear spoiler instantly makes it the talk of any lot, as does the nose cone that makes an already long car impossible to park. (You basically need your own block with a six-foot high clearance.) Bird and Daytona were originally commercial failures, but those days are long gone. Russo and Steele hosts this one the weekend of January 19.
7. 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Coupe
A cherry-red 1967 Corvette L88 currently holds 11th place for priciest American auction cars. This ’68 edition was one of 80 cars built for the following model year and comes with extensive paperwork detailing its provenance. Every L88 was a beast, offering well over 500 horsepower, and a lack of sound-damping made it an awkward ride for street use. Russo and Steele have this model on consignment for the January 2017 auction season.
8. 1931 Chrysler Imperial Dual Cowl Phaeton
If you were a Depression-era oil baron, a Chrysler Imperial Dual Cowl Phaeton had to be on your wish list, and collectors can relive that lost time with this extraordinary model from 1931. Every element of the car reeks high style, from the maroon exterior to intricate wheel covers and black luggage boot on the back. A similar model sold in 2016 for $160,000.
9. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO
It takes a special muscle car to elbow into the highlights of an auction season, and a Daytona Yellow 1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO fits the bill. From the unique color to rare COPO options and posi-traction rear, this bruiser is unlike any other on the block in 2017. Camaro collectors will appreciate the L72 427 engine and Muncie four-speed manual transmission as well as the sparkling interior details from a 2010 restoration.
10. Ford GT CP-1
Two Ford GT40s hold places in the priciest five American cars of all time, making the nameplate a winner on and off the track. In 2017, collectors get a shot at a 2004 model that was the prototype for the generation that marked GT’s comeback. CP-1 stands for Confirmation Prototype 1, as this car was the concept that became the first operational model of the new series. It is not for street use and the winning bidder must comply with Ford’s mandate, Russo and Steele said in the lot description.
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