A collector has recently paid $11m for a Ford GT40, setting a record for an American car sold at auction. Admittedly, it is close to perfection: iconic blue and orange Gulf colours and previously raced by Jacky Ickx.

Oh, and it was used as a camera car in Steve McQueen’s film, Le Mans. That’s quite some provenance, which of course, is all-important in the world of collectable metal.

Hours earlier, a restored GT40 previously owned by a Bolivian tin magnate, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, sold for $2.2m. The car had been driven at Monza and Hockenheim by Ortiz-Patino’s godson, Dominique Martin in 1969 before being damaged by fire.

By comparison with hammer price of the McQueen car, $2.2m is a bargain. But still; two million dollars is a huge amount of money. 

But you don’t have to peer into the upper echelons of classic car ownership to encounter eye-watering prices. A decent Mk1 Escort Mexico will cost £10k-15k. Recently an Austin Maxi rally car, which competed in (even if it didn’t complete) the London to Mexico Rally, which gave the hot Escort its name, failed to make its reserve price. The bidding peaked at £11,000.

That’s what you’d spend on an RS2000, an early matching numbers Capri or a restored Zephyr. All lovely cars, but lacking the provenance of the Maxi.

It’s the same story with the Sierra Cosworth. Ten years ago you could pick up a halfway decent three-door Cossie, complete with whale tail wing, for about four grand. That same car will cost £12k now. A minter will be £20k. Fancy upgrading to a Sierra RS500? You’ll do well to find one for £20k anywhere. A concours example will cost twice that.

What I can’t get my head around is why Fords command such values. Find a Vauxhall, or something from British Leyland or the Rootes Group, of a similar vintage and condition and the price will be significantly lower. 

And let’s not kid ourselves that old Fords were vastly better than their rivals. They might have a sexier image, thanks to clever product placement and a motorsport heritage, but broke down and rusted with similar gusto as most other cars of the era.

Any ideas?