The tale of Bring a Trailer’s two Porsche 959s
At 1:10 p.m. on September 28, 2016, bidding closed on a silver 1988 Porsche 959 Komfort on Bring a Trailer. The idea of a 959 crossing the digital block of the super-popular auction site is a prosaic one in 2022, but this was unexplored territory for a platform accustomed to a daily docket brimming with BMW 2002s, Porsche 911 SC Targas, and a selection of Toyota Land Cruisers. The 959 generated a super-storm of comments, shares, and articles all speculating the same thing—would this become the most expensive car ever sold on Bring a Trailer?
Nope! Bidding stalled out at $810,000 with the reserve not met; buying a car of this caliber via the internet was still a weird idea seven years ago, and the bidding pool was shallower than it is today. Just for giggles, lets say this silver 959 held no reserve and completed the sale at $810,000. It might have held the record for highest sale at the time, but not the highest bid. That bygone record was held contemporaneously by a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster that attracted a similarly stalled high-bid of $897,000 in the summer of 2015.
Back to 2022. This hypothetical $810,000 sale would barely crack the top 50 on the Bring a Trailer leaderboard of completed sales. At number 44, it would be sandwiched between an $826,000 Ford GT and a $808,000 Lexus LFA. This is all a thought experiment, of course. If the right bidders were in the comments section back in 2016, you can expect the end result would have been similar to RM Sotheby’s 1988 959 Komfort (also silver) sold at that year’s Santa Monica sale for $1.25M.
Since a squadron of big-money Carrera GTs, 918 Spyders, GT2 RS’, and 911 Rs have all successfully screeched across the front page of BaT, you’d think there would be enough sold 959s on BaT to keep Canepa’s workshop busy for a decade. Nope. Until this week’s red 1987 Porsche 959 Komfort claimed $2,125,000 in a completed sale, BaT’s archive was conspicuously devoid of Porsche’s first true supercar. Now, a 959 sits at the runner-up spot on the BaT hi-score as the second-most expensive car sold on the website, a short financial distance behind a $2.5 million pre-war Mercedes-Benz that sold the week prior.
We’ve come full circle since 2016 almost saw a record-setting Porsche, and we’re a bit flabbergasted. Well, not really—it’s hard to remain perpetually stunned when this whack-o collector car market continues to evaporate longstanding expectations. This sale surpasses the Hagerty Price Guide estimate for a #1 condition 959 Komfort by an eye-watering $575,000. Unsurprisingly, this is the highest price paid for a 959 Komfort sold at auction.
However, it is not the record price paid for a Porsche 959, as that crown is still held by RM Sotheby’s 1985 Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar rally car that hammered for $5.9 million in 2018. That doesn’t make this recent sale any remarkable: Consider RM Sotheby’s $1.6 million sale of an aesthetically identical 1987 959 Komfort at this year’s Scottsdale auction. Sure, Sotheby’s 959 carried 8700 miles against BaT’s almost 800, but is that odo difference enough to warrant an additional $600,000?
Evidently. But, ignoring the low-mileage, this might be the new reference sale for 959 Komforts going forward. “Certainly we’re in a heated market, and the high watermark is set by the last one to sell,” says Tim Quocksister, president at Silver Arrow Cars and the seller of this 959. “The Carrera GT is a prime example; we’ve had 17 Carrera GTs since last March, and every one we sell, we buy the next one for more.”
Maybe the Carrera GT plays a larger part in this sticker-shock 959 result than we first believed. Collectors look at the incredible overnight spike in Carrera GT prices, and perhaps in turn search elsewhere in the Porsche market for ostensibly undervalued cars—even something as well-established as a collector car like the 959. But, as always, the relative unpredictability of Bring a Trailer could be one of the key factors here; the well-documented “Bring a Trailer Effect” might have turbocharged this sale.
A $2.125 million Komfort raises another question. This is the price usually associated with the rarified, ultra-desirable 959 Sport, but seeing as the last Sport came up for public sale in 2017—when it claimed roughly $2 million at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale—who knows what a Sport might bring home if one were to make it to the block. Quocksister’s guess, on the other hand, is as good as gold. “I know I’d pay $2.5 million for a Sport in similar condition and mileage to the one we just sold, and it’d probably sell for more.”
We’ll have to wait and see whether this is the new norm. But, since we had him on the phone, we asked what drives Silver Arrow Cars’ BaT success and got Quocksister’s outlook on the present and future state of the collector market.
Quocksister cites a few familiar reasons that BaT continues to be popular for both buyer and seller. “Like us, there are a number of sellers I notice that do a great job presenting the cars with honest descriptions, and not trying to oversell the car,” he says. “We try to service everything before we list it, perform a complete inspection, present an extensive portfolio of photos, driving videos—you know, do our best to make sure interested parties have a good idea of what they are buying before they bid.”
Community still plays a huge part in Silver Arrow’s success, even with such a high-stakes sale as this 959. “There was a gentleman who owns Pelican Parts [Wayne Dempsey] who came into the 959 sale and repeatedly offered insight in the comments,” Quocksister recalls. “I don’t know if any of the bidders ended up reading any of those comments, but there was certainly a lot of comments replying to him.”
“It’s just a great community, and it’s a great place to sell because of that reason—unless the car you’re selling has a lot of problems,” he continues. “We had a Toyota 2000GT that sold for $850,000. There was a [2000GT] expert that came forward [in the comments] and offered info and insight on the car we didn’t have. He had written the book on these cars.”
Finally, on the subject of what’s rumbling on the horizon, Quocksister advises you stock your larders with every Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series you can get your mitts on. “My prediction is that the SLS Black Series is the next million-dollar car,” he says. “We just sold one for $840,000. That might be a high watermark, as it was a low-mile, yellow car, but they only made 132 of these for the American market, and it’s one of the most undervalued cars in the modern collector car space.”
We’ll pick up five or so, just in case.