A Costly Mistake
The First Porsche Failed To Sell Amid Epic Auction Snafu
Sotheby’s auctioned the 1939 Porsche Type 64 on Saturday in Monterey. The Type 64, a commissioned race car designed, built and used by Ferdinand Porsche that many consider the first Porsche ever made, was one of the auction’s headliners for the evening sale. The car did make international headlines, though not how Sotheby’s intended.
The British auctioneer did not enunciate. His unclear speech resulted in the board showing the Porsche Type 64 bidding starting at $30 million (instead of $13 million) and the bidding rising to $70 million ($17 million) before eventually being corrected. Bidding never topped $17 million after that snafu, and the Type 64 remains for sale after failing to meet its reserve.
And yet, it’s not too surprising the Type 64 did not shatter auction records. The car is an essential part of Porsche’s history. Its design provides a clear antecedent for the Porsche 356 and its descendants. But the Type 64’s role in history is uncomfortable, enough to make many Porsche fans, who tend to drive even mundane auctioned Porsches to outrageous prices, curb their enthusiasm.
Ferdinand Porsche built the Type 64 for a planned Nazi propaganda race from Berlin to Rome. That race, scheduled for September 1939, was canceled after Germany invaded Poland. While the Type 64 was owned by the Porsche family, they used the car to spirit Ferdinand Porsche, an avid Nazi industrialist and SS member, around Germany for his wartime duties.
However influential and pioneering the Type 64 was, its past makes discussing it awkward. Awkward is not ideal when you pay tens of millions for a centerpiece for your car collection.