3 things the Pebble Beach auctions taught us about the Porsche market

There's an old political adage, “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.” These days, you could almost say “as the Porsche market goes, so goes the collector car market.”  Porsches made up almost 12 percent of the total number of cars consigned at the Pebble Beach auctions. Out of the 166 Porsches for sale, a few stood out as particularly significant. These are some of the key takeaways:

1. Late-model, low-volume, high-performance Porsches are never going to be remotely affordable.

2016 Porsche 911R

2016 Porsche 911R
RM Sotheby's
2016 Porsche 911R

RM/Sotheby’s Lot 154

Sale Price: $379,000

Why this car matters: The 2016 911R harked back to the 1967 911R, it was a back-to-basics, lighter-weight, 500-hp, manual-transmission-only version of the 991-generation of 911. Built in limited numbers at the staggering price of $184,000 for a de-contented car. They sold out instantly.

Why this sale matters: Choose your late-model, low-production Porsche, whether it’s a Carrera GT, GT2 RS, 918 Spyder, or 911R. Porsche has proven remarkably adept at building exactly one less than the market will bear, creating immediate scarcity around the car. But more importantly, and somewhat surprisingly, the momentum in the marketplace around these cars has proven to be sustainable. The subsequent introduction of a new GT car, or any other new über Porsche, hasn’t killed the market for the earlier cars the way the introduction of the Ferrari F40 made the 288 GTO look like last year’s GI Joe without the Kung Fu grip.

The 911R sold by RM is our representative for this phenomenon. When the new Porsche GT3 Touring was announced, it was widely speculated that the market for 911Rs might soften considerably. Not a chance. This sale shows that they’ve reliably settled in at about double their original MSRP. The rules of collectability have clearly changed—great cars no longer have to depreciate significantly and spend time in the wilderness before being recognized as collectible. Porsches like this 911R are proof.

2. Great 944s are in demand with Gen-Xers and probably Millenials too. Get yours now.

1987 Porsche 944S front 3/4
RM Sotheby's
1987 Porsche 944S

1987 Porsche 944S

RM/Sotheby’s Lot 101

Sale price: $22,400

1989 Porsche 944 Turbo

Gooding Lot 172

Sale price: $72,600

Why these cars matter: The 944 was the first truly successful iteration of the four-cylinder transaxle platform, mating a Porsche-produced engine with a finely balanced chassis and a more macho, ripped physique than the narrow-body 924. The 944S was a more powerful but peakier 16-valve version of the 2.5-liter Porsche four (essentially, half a 928 V-8). The Turbo, built from 1986–89, gave the 911 a run for its money and 1989 was arguably the best model year, with all the goodies from the 1988 Turbo S standard.

Why these sales matter: Up until very recently, it was utterly unheard of to see a four-cylinder transaxle Porsche, (other than something like a 924 Carrera GT or a 968 Club Sport), at a bigtime catalog auction. With the 40th anniversary of the transaxle Porsches having taken place, ordinary production 944s are now showing up at auction. The ’87 944S was a concours-ready, lightly optioned car with about 15,000 miles showing, and at $22,400 it brought a decent (although not spectacular) price, considering it was the first lot of the sale in front of a half empty room. To put this into perspective, Worldwide got $20,000 for an ’83 944 with double the miles, an eight-valve head, and an automatic transmission. The 8500-mile Turbo at Gooding also sold for slightly under its ambitious low estimate of $80,000, but even so, it almost certainly set a world record for a normal production 944. The bidders in the room all appeared to be well under 45. These sales, and the presence of 944s at catalog sales, are indicative of something that both PCA and Hagerty have been predicting for some time—the 944 is on its way up. All of these cars will look really well-bought in the not-too-distant future.

3. Early 911s are hot again.

1966 Porsche 911 red side
RM Sotheby's
1966 Porsche 911

1965 Porsche 911

Gooding & Company Lot 104  

Sale price: $385,000

1966 Porsche 911

RM Sotheby’s Lot 112

Sale price: $246,400

Why this car matters: Early 911s can probably be divided into three categories—the holy grail cars built in calendar year 1964, the 1965–66 (or middle) cars, and 1967–68, the remaining two model years of the short-wheelbase cars. The ’65–66 cars are special because after the original 1964 901, they’re the purest and have a number of features unique to early cars. In short, they’re more like the ’64s than the ’67s and ’68s are. The interiors also tend to be warmer with wood dash trim and wood steering wheels more common.,

Why this sale matters: All early 911s took off from 2011 through 2014, but the 1965–68 cars settled down quite a bit post 2015, a combination perhaps of over-saturation and a lot of inferior cars coming to market. These sales both exceeded the Hagerty Price Guide numbers by a significant amount, a sign that perhaps there’s new life in the market for these jewel-like early 911s.

Rob Sass is the Editor-in-Chief of Porsche Panorama, the official magazine of the Porsche Club of America. This story first appeared on PCA’s website, www.pca.org.