​For $38 million, a 1962 Ferrari hits an auction record

The world's most expensive car sold at auction has been crowned with the Thursday sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta for $38.1 million.

The car comes with a deadly history, as one of its first owners, retired Olympic skier Henri Oreiller, died in a hospital soon after he crashed the car during a 1962 race, the Los Angeles Times notes. The $38.1 million pricetag includes the 10 percent commission of the auction house, Bonhams.

Still, the final price fell short of expectations that the GTO could achieve an auction price of as high as $70 million, which would have made it the most expensive car ever to be sold. The current owner of that title is another Ferrari GTO, which sold in a private sale last year for about $52 million.

GTOs have a certain mystique, with a dealer telling Bloomberg News last year that the model is "like the Mona Lisa."

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A 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta is displayed during a preview for the Bonhams Quail Lodge car auction in Carmel, California, August 14, 2014.
REUTERS/Michael Fiala

At the same time, classic cars have seen their values spike sharply in recent years, with the price of collectible Ferraris rising more than 60 percent last year alone, the Los Angeles Times notes, citing the London-based investment research company Historic Automobile Group International.

What's driving up the prices of high-end collectible cars? It could be the surging wealth of the top 1 percent of earners, or it could be investors seeking to flip the cars and make a quick profit. The current owner of the GTO that sold for $38.1 million is an investment group that bought the car only two months ago, according to the LA Times.

"They need a return on their investment," Bonhams co-chairman Robert Brooks told the publication. "There's no question there's a commercial element in this deal."

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