Can anyone beat the Mercedes?
That’s the big question hovering over this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the largest and most prestigious car sale and convention of the year.
The Concours, which runs through Sunday, is expected to set a sales record. Helped by rising stock markets and a surge in millionaires and billionaires around the world looking for tangible investments, collectible car sales and prices have soared in the past year.
More than 1,100 collectors cars are expected to be sold at the Concours, a series of auctions, award shows and elite cocktail parties and events. The sales total is expected to top $ 325 million, according Hagerty, the collectible-car insurance company. That would make this year’s sale the biggest ever, topping last year’s $ 265 million.
Hagerty expects that up to 110 cars could sell for more than $ 1 million—nearly twice the number of $ 1 million-plus cars sold last year and more than triple the number in 2011. The top five cars alone could fetch a combined $ 60 million or more.
Along with art, wine and other collectibles, top vintage cars have soared in value in recent years. A report from Knight Frank this spring found that collectible cars were the top performing collectible, racking up gains of 175 percent over the past 10 years and 395 percent over the past decade.
Hagerty’s “Blue Chip Index,” an index of 25 of the top cars, is up 40 percent since May 2011. Prices for top collectible Ferraris, as measured by Hagerty’s Ferrari index, are up an even stronger 50 percent over the same period.
Yet the big question at Pebble is whether any car will outprice “the Mercedes.”
That would be the 1954 Mercedes Formula One racer that just became the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The car, an open-topped racer, sold at auction last month in the U.K. for $ 29.6 million, including the buyer’s premium.
So far, none of the cars slated to be sold at auction at Pebble is expected to fetch more than $ 20 million. And nearly all of the cars expected to fetch top prices are Ferraris. The car in the current pole position for top seller is an ultra-rare Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider being sold by RM Auctions. The estimate is between $ 14 million to $ 17 million but given the boom in Ferraris lately, it could sell for even more.
Click ahead to see some other cars that could be top sellers this week:
—By CNBC’s Robert Frank
Posted 16 Aug. 2013