3 lessons from the Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction
For Porsche-philes, RM Sotheby’s 2018 Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction had it all. It was hosted at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, a $100M Porsche haven and headquarters to Porsche North America, with historic cars scattered throughout the building. Plus, a motorsport track and an off-road circuit in the backyard. And the auction featured mouth-watering rare memorabilia, from posters and original sales literature to steering wheels and children’s cars, along with 62 Porsche automobiles and a single diesel tractor.
Sales totaled $25.8M, with 92 percent of cars successfully selling and six cars changing hands for a million dollars or more.
Held in the open courtyard of the Porsche Experience Center on a brisk and cloudy day, the wind made it downright chilly at times, leading some to quip that the auction was “air-cooled.” Some of the prices, meanwhile, were red hot. Not every car was a home run, however, and results were more mixed than one might think, given the number of deep pockets and Porsche enthusiasm gathered in Atlanta.
The $1,407,500 paid for the 918 Spyder, for example, was the second-lowest result we’ve ever seen for a 918 at public auction, but at the same time half of the Porsches for which we track pricing data sold for above their current market values. (That’s compared to 36 percent of Porsches at Amelia Island and 55 percent in Monterey earlier this year.)
The factory-built 993 “Project Gold” and the 959 Paris-Dakar rally car also both far exceeded expectations. Looking a little closer, here are three lessons we took away from the 70th Anniversary Auction.
There is strong demand for transaxle Porsches
For a long time, the front-engine, water-cooled cars from the late ’70s to the mid-1990s weren’t even considered “real” Porsches by some of the purists. They were the cars bought by people who couldn’t afford a 911 but thought a 914 was too ugly.
Soaring 911 prices during 2014–15 helped to change those perceptions, and prices have crept up for everything from the properly fast and expensive 928 GTS at the top down to the little Audi-engined 924 at the very bottom. Neglect, high miles, deferred maintenance, and downright abuse have taken many off the road, so there aren’t as many nice examples out there as the production numbers and the pampering of the typical Porsche owner might lead you to believe. Solid, low-mile cars in particular have commanded surprisingly prices recently, and results from the Porsche Experience Center show no signs of demand letting up.
There were five transaxle Porsches at the Anniversary Auction, including two 944s (one ’84 model and one late ’90 S2 Cabriolet), two 928s (one 1979 five-speed and a ’94 GTS automatic), and a lone 924. We inspected all five of these low-mile original cars on site, and each one sold for above their market-specific values, in some cases way above.
The most shocking was the 11,272-mile 924, which despite being the fourth-to-last lot of the sale absolutely soared past its $40K high estimate and sold for more than three times our current Condition #1 (Concours) value at $53,760. Significant racing 924s have sold for more, but this kind of price is unheard of for a run-of-the-mill road car. Both 928s also sold for above their current Condition #1 values. The 1984 944, which showed just 10,716 miles and as a first-year example would be perfect for rounding out a Porsche collection, also sold for above its Condition #1 value at $29,120. The 1990 944, meanwhile, despite a little wear and a few scrapes, sold for just shy of its Condition #1 value at $29,120.
Color definitely matters
To the casual observer, 911s pretty much all look the same aside from a big wing, an extra bit of width here and there or, of course, the color of the body. Sure, that’s a massive oversimplification, but Porsche people nevertheless seem to place more emphasis on color than other marque enthusiasts. In August, the Canepa Motorsports Museum hosted a special event just for unusually painted Porsches, called “Rare Shades.” Collectors’ penchant for rare paint colors shows in sale prices as well, and certainly did so at this auction.
RM Sotheby’s consigned two green 914/6s for the sale, one 1971 car in ultra-rare one-of-two Willow Green and another 1970 example in a more common and darker shade of metallic green. The Willow Green car sold for $145,600, far above the Condition #1 (Concours) value for a 914/6, while the other car sold for $95,200. The Willow Green car did have some tasteful performance improvements, but the condition was roughly the same and there’s no other apparent reason for the $50K difference.
Among the half-dozen or so early 911s that sold, the most surprisingly strong sale was for a 1969 911 E Coupe, which wasn’t all that remarkable except for its Bahama Yellow paint with white “Porsche” script on the body sides. Despite a scuff on the nose, a little interior wear (which led us to rate it as being in #2- Condition), and a replacement gearbox, it sold for #1 money. By contrast, another 911 E in the auction sold for a #3- price and was one of the bigger bargains of the auction; the 1971 Targa isn’t a bad car, but it is finished in a more common shade of Ivory.
Late-model, limited-production 911s are collectible out of the box
Again, 911s may have an almost confusingly similar look to them, but all 911s are not created equal. While older cars with neat special-order features didn’t universally sell all that strongly at this auction, it was clear that later limited-production performance models were in high demand pretty much across the board. They don’t seem to depreciate, and tend to trade for higher than their original MSRP as soon as they hit the second-hand market.
All of the 997-generation or later limited-production 911s at the auction were bid to well above their original base price. A 2016 GT3 RS with an original price of less than $200K sold for $215,600, and a 2011 GT2 RS in rare for the model Guards Red (remember, color matters) sold for $538,500, which is over twice what it listed for when it was new. Another 2011 GT2 RS, this on a 4.0-liter car ordered new by Jerry Seinfeld, also sold for more than twice its original price at $566,000. A slightly older 2008 GT2 sold for $235,000, but prices started at about $92K when new. The only no-sale of the bunch was an Orange 2007 GT3 RS that failed to meet reserve at a $230,000 high bid—more than $80K more than its original base price.