The mental wheels started turning when RM Sotheby’s announced on 9 March 2018 that a single marque Porsche auction would be held at the Porsche Cars North America facility in Atlanta on the weekend of 27 October. The auction was fashioned around a celebration of Porsche’s 70th anniversary. Although no lots were yet known, the promise of a stellar selection of Porsche machinery from around the world was tantalising enough.
For Porsche enthusiasts, a year with a Rennsport Reunion VI in September followed by an opportunity to acquire a special car in October certainly made for some buzz within the community. RM Sotheby’s steadily posted updates on their website with lots added for sale. Make no mistake – this was going to be a big event for the Porsche Experience Centre in Atlanta to celebrate Porsche’s 70th anniversary, but it was foremost an auction to sell cars.
May brought news of an interesting vintage 356 that would be up for sale. A 1956 Porsche speedster in the same ownership for the last 51 years and only a touch over 35,000 total miles on the clock would be finding a new home. No abandoned barn find, the car had a loving home and a specially built garage within a garage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The time capsule was mostly original and was maintained over the decades. The owner adored the car but his height made for a somewhat uncomfortable driving position resulting in only 3000 miles driven in the last half-century. Quite a story and a great indication of the calibre of lots to expect at the auction.
June followed with news of its own – a pair of very unique Porsche 959 lots. Not content with a regular 959 road car, RM Sotheby’s would offer one of the very few early pre-production prototypes to escape the factory. The announcement noted that the mule, one of the few to survive, was also likely the only one currently in running condition. If that wasn’t enough, prior ownership included Vasek Polak, who originally acquired the car from the factory in 1988.
A second 959 on offer was even potentially more interesting. Porsche built only seven race cars to contest the 1985 and 1986 Paris Dakar races. A trio of cars failed to finish in 1985. Two crashed and one broke an oil line causing the engine to fail. The 1986 campaign ended much more successfully with a one-two-six overall finish. Only six of the original seven cars remain, and only two are in private hands. RM Sotheby’s was offering the 1985 car driven by René Metge that suffered the broken oil line and engine failure. It would be the first time any Dakar 959 was available via public sale.
While other compelling lots continued to populate RM Sotheby’s auction website, August brought yet more news. This time, the mighty Group C era would be represented by the ex-John Fitzpatrick Porsche 956, chassis 110. This particular car won at Brands Hatch and Road America, ran at Le Mans and was the only 956 to compete and win in America. Preserved in very original specification, the car was one of the more notable privateer (as opposed to factory) Porsche 956 chassis of the period.
Ultimately, the auction catalogue was populated with 63 varied automobile lots. In addition, 61 lots of memorabilia, art, and ‘nostalgia’ would be joining the sale as well. RM Sotheby’s undoubtedly turned away other lots that were less compelling, duplicative or bore unreasonable reserve expectations from their owners.
A quick logic puzzle for the reader. What results from adding a time capsule 356 plus a rare prototype 959 plus the only Dakar 959 ever to be sold via public auction plus a notable Group C Porsche 956 plus a catalogue of many other wonders from Zuffenhausen? Naturally, the result is airplane tickets to Atlanta for Saturday, 28 October to be at the auction in person.
Arriving at the Porsche Experience Centre in Atlanta early on Saturday morning, one couldn’t help but brace against the brisk breeze and look to the darkened skies. RM Sotheby’s brought portable propane heaters to help take the edge off the chill for the bidders and must have called on divine assistance to prevent the dark clouds from dropping moisture on the outdoor auction proceedings.
On auction day, bidders and guests strolled around five columns of cars staged to roll across the auction block. The selection was impressive. The collection easily could have served as an unofficial Porsche museum analogue. Rare examples of road cars such as multiple RS and RSR variants, pristine 356 coupes and cabriolets, multiple 911 turbo flavours, GT2 and GT3 models, and even a 924, 944 and 928 vied for bidder eyeballs.
The memorabilia lots crossed the auction block first. The last lot before the automobiles crossed the line was a four-cam engine from an Abarth Carrara GTL. Making 140 hp, the engine was among the most powerful 356 engines available from the factory in 1960 or 1961. The engine was estimated to sell at $200,000 to $250,000, but the bidding went beyond and hammer came down at a sale price of $300,000 (all prices include buyer’s auction premium).
Getting things started for the automobiles was a 1956 356 training chassis that looked more like a moon buggy than a Porsche. It was originally used to allow mechanics at Hoffman Motors in New York, to tear down and rebuilt critical components to learn the car’s details. The winning bidder paid $112,000 to give the bare chassis a new home. Several hours later, the auction closed with the sale of a 1959 Porsche Diesel tractor which sold for $51,520. Bracketing the festivities with two very unique pieces of Porsche history was the perfect touch to highlight the novelty of the auction.
Others will opine on what the auction says about the current state of the Porsche market. From the perspective of the camera lens, the setting of the Porsche Experience Centre in Atlanta and the assortment of gems up for sale made for a wonderful celebration of 70 years of Porsche motorcars. Kudos to the Porsche team and RM Sotheby’s for hosting and curating a memorable event. Enjoy the photos!
Written by: Kevin Ehrlich
Images by: Kevin Ehrlich