"This is the second-most important series of classic-car auctions in the U.S. after Pebble Beach in August," Dietrich Hatlapa, founder and managing director of Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), a London-based independent research company, said in an interview.
The HAGI index of exceptional classic-car prices advanced 16.1 percent in 2012, said www.historicautogroup.com.
Rising values for the most desirable Ferraris of the 1950s and 1960s was one of the key trends of the market last year, along with a surge in demand for collectable Porsches following the 40th anniversary of the 911 RS model, Hatlapa said.
The Ferrari sold at Gooding was an early production model with Scaglietti coachwork. It was one of only 23 examples with covered headlights and had been estimated to sell for between $5.5 million and $7 million, based on hammer prices.
In August, at the bellwether series of auctions in California, Gooding sold a 1960 "competition" 250 GT California Spyder, formerly owned by the late New England collector Sherman M. Wolf, for $11.3 million against a presale valuation of $7 million to $9 million.
"Ferrari 250-series cars from the 1950s and 1960s are the absolute sweet-spot of the market at the moment," Kidston said.
Gooding's Scottsdale sale raised more than $52.5 million, a record for the company at that venue, with 12 cars breaking the million-dollar barrier. The total was 31 percent up on last year from a slightly smaller 104-lot auction, with 97 percent sold.
Prices continue to strengthen for the rarest cars by the most desirable marques, said dealers.
At Gooding's, a silver 1959 Porsche 718 RSK racer sold for $3.1 million and 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet A for $2.75 million. Both results were auction records for those models.
"The macro-economic environment still favors tangible assets," Hatlapa said. "Though the market dipped a little at the end of last year, demand for classic cars was strong in 2012." The indexes for both Ferrari and Porsche were up.