Two years ago, the most expensive car in the world was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California, with a price tag of $10.9million, but earlier this year, a Bugatti 57SC sold for $30million - in the midst of a massive global downturn, don't forget. And although the not on the same scale, this story is being repeated across the sector.
So why is it happening? The financial landscape has changed over the past few years. Returns on more traditional forms of investment, be it property, shares or good old fashioned savings, have slumped - so the money men have taken a more creative view. There's no great secret to it: investors are always after a decent return on their money, of course… but failing that, some are happy to take a slice of enjoyment instead. Or should that be as well? So the well-heeled with cash to burn have been buying things that are interesting to own and use - with the added bonus that there's little chance of losing money in the long run.
Carefully selected alternative investments such as fine wine, art, vintage guns and watches and, of course, motor cars, have offered, on the whole, as good or better returns than the stock market, while at the same time giving pleasure to owners.
And as the world becomes a wealthier place there are simply more and more people willing to pay top dollar for the best and most exclusive of products.
Which is why, in a roundabout way at least, I am snuggling down into the leather bucket seat of a 2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica. A couple of years ago, these cars were swapping hands for less than £100,000. This super clean one owner machine is just about to hit the forecourt at H.R. Owen Sports Cars on the Old Brompton road in London for £134,950. Hands up who thinks that driving a gorgeous Italian exotic for 24 months sounds like a fabulous way to earn £35,000?
James Champion is Sales Manager at H.R. Owen, London. "The market is definitely hardening up with certain cars. Values for Ferrari models such as the 360 Challenge Stradale and the F430 Scuderia are strengthening and obviously models such as the Superamerica.
"There is little risk if you pick the right car - and of course we offer the Ferrari Approved programme. This entails a 190-point check and the car comes with a two-year factory warranty."Buying an appreciating classic machine with all the back-up of a new car? Sounds too good to be true?
Yet it isn't: yes you will pay top money for a car from the Approved programme, but the idea is that it won't cost you a penny for at least 12 months - apart from fuel, of course.
A quick glance down the latest H R Owen stock list makes for interesting reading. Only a couple of cars are more expensive than the 575 - one of them is of particular interest.
How do you fancy buying a new car, keeping it for six years, doing a few thousand miles in it and then offloading for a £500,000 profit? Impossible?
Not if you're the owner of the Enzo that is advertised for £895,000. No, that isn't a typo… we checked.
And it isn't just Maranello legends that are offering good returns. John Hawkins runs Specialist Cars of Malton, a leading Porsche independent. He admits he has reprofiled his approach to sales to target this rich seam.
"I simply can't get enough of certain models - buyers are queuing up for them. It's the rare stuff really, particularly in right-hand drive - but not just in the UK - I've just sold four 964 RSs to customers in Hong Kong for £100,000 a pop, while a 993 GT2 recently went to Singapore for £300,000.
"The secret is that scarcity value. Anything that was produced in extremely limited numbers and has a strong reputation is going up. Of course condition and provenance are very important as ever, but the rare stuff is outperforming the market.
In the Porsche world that's models like the 930 and 964 Speedster, the air-cooled RS models and even less well known 911s such as the 3.2 Carrera Club Sport - well over £50k now for a nice one."
It isn't the first time the classic car market has gone crazy. In the 1980s, prices went vertical and even shabby, patched up old bangers were fetching big bucks. But the crash that followed in the Nineties was just as spectacular, leaving many nursing big losses.
Today's investor must be a shrewder customer altogether. It's quite wrong to assume all classics are the same or that any old-timer will make a great investment. But monitoring the specialist press and following classic car auction results can help steer you towards the next big thing.
The consensus is that for special series cars like the Superamerica, the market will continue to rise. And the Ferrari is a beautiful machine - even in the affluent environs of Kensington and Chelsea it swivels heads. The creamy yowl of its V12 demanding attention, its svelte lines holding it.
Only 57 right-hand-drive examples made it to the UK out of a total production run of 599. Exclusivity is a given - one of the key drivers of this current growth. And somehow it's that bit classier than Ferrari's latest car, new 458 Italia: a bit less ostentatious, a bit more of a connoisseur's car.
But on today's evidence, if you get your choices right, there aren't many more exciting ways of looking after your money - and cruising in the Superamerica is a lot more fun than checking the financial pages. As somebody wiser and wealthier than me once said: you can't take a mutual fund for a spin.
Investing on a budget
We don't all have the resources to buy a Porsche or a Ferrari but that shouldn't deter the wannabe classic car investor. Some new markets are driven by nostalgia - think about what Ashes to Ashes did for Audi's 'ur Quattro'.
People might remember a car that their dad or uncle drove, or a particular model that left and indelible mark on their impressionable young mind. Era-defining cars such as the Ford Capri are surprisingly sought-after now, especially ones in unmolested original condition, because they are getting increasingly scarce. A low mileage 280 Brooklands is currently up for £17,995. BMW E30 M3s are also climbing steeply - again with the rarer Evo and Evo Sport models appreciating the most rapidly.
But it's not just sports cars. Pre-Series 3 Land Rovers are finding favour among collectors - and can earn their keep in the mean time. It might also be a good time to pick up an early hot-hatch favourite such as a Mk1 Golf GTI or a Peugeot 205 GTi while clean and unmodified examples still exist.