$40 million Ferrari sets record

Careening financial markets don't seem to be throwing the collectible car market off track.

A 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa recently sold in the U.K. for $40 million, according to people close to the deal. The private sale is believed to be the most expensive of the year so far. While other Ferraris have sold for higher prices in private sales, this is the highest price ever for a Testa Rossa.

A 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa recently sold in the U.K. for $39.8 million, according to people close to the deal.
Source: Tom Harley

The sale set a strong tone for the collectible car market as the auto auctions in Paris get underway. RM Auctions on Wednesday sold a 1955 Jaguar D-Type for 3.69 million euros, or just over $5 million. Its total sales for the day were 17.7 million euros, with 80 percent of its cars sold.

(Read more: This rusted out Ferrari could fetch $2 million)

In the fourth quarter, collectible car sales and prices surged along with stock markets. The Blue Chip Index of collectible cars from Hagerty, a collectible car insurance company, surged 10 percent in the quarter.

The sale of the 1957 Testa Rossa, however, offers the latest proof that Ferraris have now entered a different stratosphere from the rest of the car market. Hagerty's Ferrari Index staged its biggest move of the past six years, with some Ferrari models surging 31 percent in price.

(Read more: $3.8 million Corvette boosts muscle car market)

The Testa Rossa was so prized for two reasons. It has a vaunted race history and it's unrestored, meaning it hasn't been rebuilt with new or fabricated parts. The car also has top provenance, having been stored in the Henry Ford Museum outside Detroit for 30 years before landing in Britain.

"It's the most original unrestored 250 TR in the world," said Marcel Massini, a Ferrari historian and top expert in vintage Ferraris. "It's also got perfect provenance. Fantastic car."

Where super rich go to keep super cars safe

The car was sold by Tom Hartley Jr., a British supercar dealer who confirmed the sale on Twitter. While Hartley declined to comment on the price or buyer, people familiar with the deal say the price was $39.8 million and the buyer was a little-known British collector.

(Read more: Where to go to keep your supercar safe)

The Testa Rossa was a top racer in its day, making its debut in the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans, then racing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sebring, Fla.

On Twitter, Hartley said that after the sale "my only disappointment is the fact I don't think it can ever be bettered as I truly think it is the greatest car in the world."

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

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