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12 Porsches we'll be watching at the Monterey Car Week auctions

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Article by Rob Sass

The World Cup of car events, Monterey Car Week, is nearly upon us. In addition to the Porsche Club of America’s Werks Reunion, the Carmel Concours on the Avenue, Concorso Italiano, the Quail Motorsports Gathering, Concours d’ LeMons, a ton of other stuff I can’t remember, and a little thing called the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance, the six major auction houses are bringing their A-game. It’s anyone’s call as to how things will go, but a late 2017 change in the tax code that no longer allows collectors to defer gains on the sale of collector cars by exchanging them for another may have put a slight damper on high-end sales in Scottsdale. Now, the threat of a 25% tariff on imported cars possibly looming might have the opposite effect, motivating certain buyers and sellers. Pebble Beach has brought some predictably heavy-duty cars out of the woodwork including a Ferrari 250 GTO that will likely be the most expensive car ever sold at auction. While Ferrari might dominate the headlines for the absolute high sale, judging by the sheer number of cars consigned, Porsche is firmly in the drivers’ seat in the collector car market. Here are 10  Porsches in every price range that we’ll be paying attention to:

1989 Porsche 944 Turbo (Gooding Lot #172)

Courtesy Gooding & Co.

Low-mileage transaxle cars have been showing up at big-time catalog auctions recently, and they’ve been doing quite well. Coming on the heels of some big results for a superb (but ordinary spec) 944 in Scottsdale is this ’89 Turbo. Arguably, this is the 951 that you want the most: It’s the final year (with the 250 horsepower of the 1988 Turbo S) in the iconic Guards Red over black livery with just 8,400 miles. The pre-sale estimate is an ambitious $80,000 to $120,000. But it’s being sold without reserve, so anything can happen. Anything but perhaps someone stealing this thing for forty grand. Look for it to do at least the low estimate, but it’s certainly possible that two determined bidders could push this museum-quality 944 Turbo well above $120,000. Either way, it’s likely going to set a record for a production 944. As an aside, RM/Sotheby’s has a 15,000 mile ’87 944S with a pre-sale estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.

1955 550 Spyder (Gooding Lot # 51) and 1958 550A Spyder (Mecum Lot #S91)

Above: 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder. Photo courtesy Gooding & Co.

550 Spyders are among the blue-chippiest of blue-chip Porsche collectibles. Bonhams in Scottsdale sold a 550A last January for almost $5.2 million, making it the high Porsche sale of the Scottsdale auction week, so not surprisingly, we’re seeing more 550s head to market. Both the Mecum and the Gooding cars have fine if not stellar competition and ownership histories. The opportunity to put anything into your garage with a Fuhrmann four-cam engine doesn’t happen every day, particularly when it’s attached to Porsche’s first real bespoke competition car. Assuming neither car has a story that makes the close-knit 550 community wig out, it’s tough to imagine the market not being able to absorb two of these Porsche crown jewels in the same weekend.

Above: 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder. Courtesy Mecum

1988 Porsche 924S Special Edition (Mecum Lot #T159)

Courtesy Mecum

If there’s a 924 for the cognoscenti, this one is it. It’s a 1988 model with 160 hp and the M756 Limited Edition package (one of 500), which essentially made it a 924 Club Sport, complete with the M030 suspension package of Koni dampers and stiffer springs. With cloth seats, manual mirrors, and wind-up windows, it was a minimalist version of what was an already entry-level Porsche, (although the original buyer did add back A/C and power steering). I even kind of like the ’80s gray/mauve hell that is the interior. With just over 53,000 miles, the 924 looks extremely well-preserved. Only the murdered-out look imparted by the black phone dial wheels is off-putting. Easy fix. When you buy this thing, get your powder coater on the phone before you hit Del Monte Avenue. The significance of this car is probably lost on most Porschephiles, let alone most of the folks hanging out at Mecum on a Thursday afternoon. If I’m not around with a bidder’s paddle, and this car gets picked up cheap by a dealer, you can catch me later in the week drowning my sorrows at the Crown and Anchor pub.

1968 Porsche 908 Short-Tail Coupe (RM/Sotheby’s Lot #139)

Courtesy RM/Sotheby's

RM/Sotheby’s has a big Porsche-only sale at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta coming up in October, but they can’t afford to ignore Monterey, and so this weapons-grade Porsche racer crosses the block in California in a few weeks. Contrary to popular belief, the 908 wasn’t replaced by the 917, the car actually outlived the 917 in competition and was eminently more suitable for shorter/twistier tracks and hill climbs than the larger and heavier 917. This car was a former factory racer campaigned by Jochen Neerpasch and Vic Elford. It’s extraordinarily pretty and with a pre-sale estimate of $2.3 to $2.8 million, it’s about 1/10 the price of a 917K. 

2009 RUF CTR3 (Bonhams Lot #56)

Courtesy Bonhams

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a Porsche, it’s a Porsche-powered hypercar built on a totally bespoke platform developed by Multimatic Motorsports, the Canadian company that developed the latest Ford GT. Powered by a twin-turbo, 3.8 liter flat-six, it develops over 700 horsepower at 7000 rpm. It’s a testament to RUF’s reputation and the execution on this amazing car that it’s expected to bring money that is essentially the equivalent of three-quarters of a 918 Spyder: The pre-sale estimate is $700,000 to $900,000.

1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E (Bonhams Lot #80)

Courtesy Bonhams

Another Porsche that isn’t a Porsche, the 500E was what you bought before there was a Panamera if you wanted a Porsche V8-powered four-door sedan. Hand built in Zuffenhausen, the 500E was probably one of the best cars of the 1990s, mating the superb W124 E-Class platform with Porsche’s 5.0 liter 4-valve 326hp V8. With only subtle wheel-arch flares and badging to give it away, it’s one of the ultimate sleepers. This one seems like the one to own — it’s anthracite and not the more common black and it shows a paltry 14,000 miles. Pre-sale estimates in Pebble Beach tend to be on the high side, yet this one, however, strikes us as very conservative at just $40,000 to $50,000 — and it’s being sold without reserve. 

1991 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 (Bonhams Lot #81)

Courtesy Bonhams

As the 964 celebrates its 30th anniversary, prices and interest seem to have exploded, particularly for coupes in rare and unusual colors. This car checks all the boxes. Freakishly low miles? Check, (the car shows just 4,830 miles from new). Unusual color? Check, it’s Violet Blue Metallic, a color that oddly enough suits the car well. And who doesn’t dig a purple Porsche? Like the 500E, the pre-sale estimate seems downright cheap at $50,000 to $75,000.

1983 Porsche 944 (Lot #31 Worldwide Group)

Courtesy Worldwide Group

As we mentioned, super-clean, low-mileage 944s have been popping up at hoity-toity catalog auctions for the last year or so. Gooding has the best one in Pebble Beach with the frozen-in-Carbonite 944 Turbo profiled at the top of the page. Worldwide has a humbler car, with a big challenge that, in its own way, might give a better indicator of the strength of the 944 market. This car is a first year 944 (the only year with manual steering) with just 29,000 miles. The big catch? It’s an automatic, not the box of choice for the 147-hp 2.5-liter four. Truth be told, the aftermarket giant reflector panel between the tail lamps is a bit of a buzzkill too, but if this car sells in the middle of it’s $20,000 to $30,000 pre-sale estimate, then it’s an indicator of how strong the 944 market may be getting. Those clean $7,500 Craigslist 944s? Going, going, and soon to be gone.

1959 Porsche 718 RSK (Lot #128 Gooding)

Courtesy Gooding & Co.

The 718 RSK marked a further step along the competition car continuum after the 550A Spyder. Things seemed to move faster in those days, and the 718 was itself a big leap from the 550, but it’s hard to believe that just ten years separate this rather dainty four-cylinder racer from the monstrous 12-cylinder 917 of 1969. Nevertheless, the 718 RSK was an important car for Porsche Rennsport, and with just 35 built, a rare one to boot. This car was a privateer entry in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans and has never been offered for sale publicly before. The pre-sale estimate is  $3.6 to $4.1 million.

2003 996 GT2 (Lot #47 Gooding) and 2005 996 GT3 (Lot #109 Gooding)

Above: 2003 Porsche 911 GT2. Courtesy Gooding & Co.

Lately, a good deal of the action in the Porsche market has been in the water-cooled cars. Gooding has two with possibly the biggest near-term upside, the current GT car loss leaders in the 996 GT2 and GT3. These are immensely appealing cars. The GT3 is a beautifully balanced, lightweight, naturally aspirated car that does nearly everything right, much in the spirit of the classic air-cooled 2.7-liter Carrera RS. The GT2 is a rear-wheel drive, twin-turbo monster. Along with the Carrera GT, it was one of the last of the great Porsche widowmakers. Both cars feature the work of legendary engine-designer Hans Mezger and therefore do not suffer from the intermediate shaft bearing issues that other 996s do.

Above: 2005 Porsche 911 GT3. Courtesy Gooding & Co.

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