Keeping a classic 'concept' in good condition for over 50 years after its motor show debut paid off recently when a 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 achieved an all-time record at auction with a winning bid of $US3,240,000, including buyer's fees.

The General Motors concept car lasted through a fierce bidding war to become the highest selling car ever at a Barrett-Jackson auction, besting a 15-year record of $2 million given for a 1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 Binder.

Designed by famed GM stylist Harley Earl, the concept has a 324 cubic inch, 250hp V8 and four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. Roughly the same size as a Corvette and with a fibreglass body, the F-88 is considered by many to be the epitome of automotive forward-thinking of the 1950s, with its open top and lightweight structure.

"While most of its brethren were destroyed after their debuts at GM's Motorama shows, the gold-toned Olds survived this fate to become one of the most historically significant vehicles of its era," said a Barrett-Jackson spokesman.

"Many automobile historians consider the roadster to be one of the greatest expressions of automotive design to ever come from North America."