Impressed by the cars in our top-cars-at-auction gallery? Well, these cars are literally priceless: while we assume they're worth tens of millions, we don't know, 'cause they've never been sold.
1962 Ford Mustang I prototype
1979 BMW M1 art car by Warhol
Vic Edelbrock Sr.'s 1932 Ford hot rod
1939 Mercedes-Benz T80 high-speed record car
1989 Dodge Viper Concept Car
1966 Prince R380-I
1964 Meyers Manx "Old Red"
1966 Jaguar XJ13
1948 Porsche Type 356 No. 1
1967 Ford GT40 MK IV J5
1963 "Spirit of America" land speed record car
1995 McLaren F1 GTR #01R
1938 Buick Y-Job concept
No legend looms as large as Mustang in American automotive history, so the very very first car to wear that name would return a fat chunk of change when sold, if we had to guess. The four-cylinder mid-engined Mustang I, the car with that aforementioned distinction, was donated to the Henry Ford Museum some decades back; the follow-up Mustang II concept belongs to the Detroit Historical Museum. And the first production Mustang off the line? That one actually was sold, accidentally, to a Canadian airline pilot. Ford traded him a new ’66 in order to get it back.
When in 1979 artist Andy Warhol threw a bunch of paint on a race-spec M1, BMW’s “art car” program had already turned out three radical machines. Three decades and a dozen art cars later, Warhol’s car still sticks out, perhaps just because of the name. If BMW ever put the 17-car collection up for sale, it’d be the one that’d fetch the most, we’d figure.
Discounting the purchase that delivered this ’32 into Vic Edelbrock Sr.‘s hands, this car has never been sold. So what makes it so special? Aftermarket part manufacturer Edelbrock is essentially the name when it comes to hot rodding, and this is the deuce that started it all. It was Vic Sr.‘s test mule for his first custom intakes – the company’s known for them – as well as a dry lakes racer and, during the week, the family hauler. Vic Jr. owns it now; he had it restored by Roy Brizio in 2003.
The Benz T80 was a Ferdinand Porsche-designed 3,000-horsepower V12 streamliner that Hitler was hoping to use to demonstrate the superiority of German technology via sheer speed—its projected top end was close to 500 mph. Unfortunately, it never got to make its record run on the country’s then-new autobahn, what with the start of the Second World War getting in the way and all. Benz has kept the “Blackbird” in their museum ever since, despite our constant calls to them requesting they please tune it up and finally let it fly.
Though Chrysler’s moved just a few thousand Vipers in the model’s lifetime, the thing is still an American icon, so you can imagine the 1989 concept car on which it was based would fetch a hefty sum at auction. We’ll probably never know for sure, though, since Chrysler’s still holding on to it and probably won’t ever let it go. It resides in the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, along with the equally valuable 1924 Chrysler Six prototype—the first-ever car to wear a Chrysler badge.
Japan’s first real race car was built by Prince, which was later taken over by Nissan. The R380-I was a custom-built racing machine designed to take on Porsche in Japanese grand prix events—but the races were cancelled before it got the chance. Nissan sold a small handful of R380-II successors to private individuals, but the original remains in their collection.
Bruce Meyers is the guy you can thank (or blame?) for the ’60s dune buggy craze—he invented the whole segment in ’64 when he assembled his first-ever VW-powered fibreglass-bodied Manx, which he dubbed “Old Red.” Meyers has let the thing sit in several museums over the years, but still holds the title for this industry-birthing vehicle. We’d expect it’d go for more than a couple of hundred thousand dollars. (image from the Historic Vehicle Association)
The Jaguar XJ13 was a racing prototype with a mid-mounted 5.0-litre V12 that unfortunately became obsolete by the time it was ready to hit the track. The company stored it until, in 1971, they wanted to shoot it in a V12 E-Type promo film and, driving it at high speed on a bad tire, crashed and nearly destroyed the thing. It was rebuilt to the best of Jaguar’s abilities, but even the automaker admits it’s sort of a recreation, now. They’ve held on it to ever since, and in ’96 turned down an offer of either £7 million or $7 million for it (you see both numbers online).
People are starting to complain about the skyrocketing prices of early Porsches, but the numbers those ol’ 911s and 356s are commanding would be easily eclipsed by the hypothetical for-sale price of 356 no. 1—Porsche’s first-ever real sports car, which now lives in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Porsche also still owns both of the flat-eight-powered 914/8s it built, either of which would probably also approach the million-dollar-mark.
Of the half-dozen original MK IV GT40s still around, Ford’s retained ownership of one, chassis J5, the Foyt/Gurney-piloted Shelby-campaigned Le Mans winner, which currently sits proudly in the Henry Ford Museum. How much would it go for if they ever put it up for sale? Let’s just say whatever the first number on the cheque’d be, there’d be at least seven figures after it.
You know you’ve made it when the Beach Boys write a song about you. Craig Breedlove made it into both the history books and that band’s discography when in 1963 he piloted the first-ever modern jet-powered car to a 400-plus-mile-an-hour land speed record. Breedlove wrecked the car in a subsequent record run, but it was recovered, restored, and donated to the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry in 1965, where it remains.
Regular McLaren F1s – if that’s even a phrase that makes sense – today trade well above their original $1-million retail price, so imagine how much the never-sold only-raced-once test mule for a model with a motorsports pedigree like the F1 GTR would go for. McLaren has also held on to several other F1 prototypes, including the top-speed-run XP5 and the XP1 LM, allegedly promised to driver Lewis Hamilton in exchange for two Formula One World Championship title wins. (He defected to Mercedes after the first win.) (image via Peloton25 on Flickr)
You’ll notice there are a lot of concept cars on this list—automakers tend to hold on to them, and if the model takes off, the value of those concepts does too. There’s just something about things that come first, we guess, which explains why the most expensive concept never sold is the one considered the first concept car ever, the Buick Y-Job. We got to see this car in the flesh at the GM Heritage Center in 2014, and were told its estimated value was $10 million at the time.