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The World’s Rarest Classic Cars

The rarest classic cars in the world are not only revered by collectors but they are also worth a fortune in many cases.

We’ve all seen ordinary cars driving by every day and sometimes we don’t give them a second glance, as there’s nothing special about them. However, rare classic cars are like treasure: unusual, stunning and real head-turners.

Rolls Royce 15 HP

© Malcolma / / CC BY 3.0

True classic cars are elusive, incredibly hard to find – and have the high price tag that you would expect! We’re taking a look at five of the world’s rarest classic cars to find out why they are so special.

1. Porsche 916

The 1972 Porsche 916 is one of the rarest Porches in existence. A real beast, it’s a sleek, light car with a top speed of 145 mph and a 2.9-litre engine. However, it was deemed too fast for general use and only 11 prototypes were made.

The first concept car was originally due to be unveiled in 1971 at the Paris Auto Salon. However, only two weeks before the exhibition, the Porsche 916 project was cancelled due to rocketing costs.

Surviving cars, including the first prototype and ten further models nearing completion, were sold. After completion, five went to company management and friends and five were sold privately in 1972.

The original prototype went to Porsche executive Ferdinand Piëch, co-founder of the project, who gave it to his wife. One of these rare classic Porsche 916 cars surfaced recently, after being owned privately by one collector since 2008. It sold for £749,000 at an auction in Florida in 2020.

2. Rolls-Royce 15 HP

The elegant Rolls-Royce 15 HP made its debut in 1904. As the first motor car made by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, who founded the luxury car marque, its name was derived from the amount of horsepower it had. This was incredibly impressive at the time.

Just six of these unusual old-time wagons were produced and only one is known to be still in existence today. Car enthusiasts can view this remnant of the past in all its glory when it visits car shows and auto museums all over the world.

When first sold by the Rolls-Royce dealership, it cost £500. While this sounds remarkably cheap by today’s standards, this was the equivalent of around £77,000 in 1904. Today, it is almost impossible to value the Rolls-Royce 15 HP, as it’s so rare that it’s virtually priceless.

3. Helica De Leyat

The innovative French automobile manufacturer, Marcel Leyat, wished a car could look more like a plane. He succeeded in this desire in 1921, when he unveiled his weird and wonderful creation, the Helica De Leyat.

The media at the time dubbed it a “plane without wings”, as it was shaped like an aircraft and powered by a huge propeller! It had taken him several years to produce his car-plane hybrid model.

However, he made only 30 in the end, as the car’s odd appearance made it unpopular. Also, its top speed of 106 mph was considered incredibly dangerous in an era when the average car speed was 28 mph.

He was incorrect when he thought nobody would ever want to buy a Helica De Leyat, however. Today, all 30 cars have survived and are part of private collections. Car insurance companies can’t put a value on the model, but experts estimate it is worth up to £15 million.

4. Bugatti Type 41 Royale

Another of the rarest classic cars in the world, the Bugatti Type 41 Royale, is a huge motor car with a 4.3-metre wheel-base and a 12.8 litre engine. It also has a massive price tag to match, being valued at £4.6 million. Created in 1926, it has been described as the world’s most luxurious car. Only seven were ever made, with just six surviving today.

A 1927 Bugatti Royale Type 41 cost £33,000 when new (the equivalent of £500,000 in 2023), making it unaffordable for most of the population. Today, it is valued at £5.5 million, based on the price reached at auction for the model at London’s Royal Albert Hall

In 2001, a 1930 Bugatti Type 41 Royale was valued at £7.8 million by Bonhams and Brooks auctioneers, while a 1931 Type 41 Bugatti Royale sold for £7.5 million at Christie’s in London in 1987.

When first produced, the Royale was made only for kings and princes, as nobody else could afford it. In the 1920s, its powertrain and bare rolling chassis alone cost almost twice as much as the next most expensive luxury car on the market!

Its radiator has a huge elephant mascot that stands shoulder-high to an average man.

5. Talbot Lago Grand Sport

Auto manufacturer Talbot Lago (a British-French company) has a chequered history, as it changed leadership many times and endured several periods of zero production. Despite the upheaval, it managed to produce the Talbot Lago Grand Sport, which is one of today’s most sought after and rare classic cars.

There were two versions of this model: a racing car and a luxury one. Only 12 of the luxury models have survived today.

Powered by a 4.5-litre, high performance, six-cylinder engine with three carburettors and a four-speed manual gearbox, the famous 1947 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport features a two-seat coupe coachwork built on a short chassis.

In 1988, one of the few surviving cars was found languishing in Tennessee, USA, in a state of disrepair. It was fully restored over a period of 16 years. In 2013, the car was sold at auction at Barrett-Jackson for a massive £1.58 million.

If you’re the proud owner of a classic car, you might be sitting on a lot of money without even realising it.

You might even come across a rare gem if you’re currently scanning the auction sites – but you’d be very lucky indeed to find one of the world’s top five rarest cars!