The stars are aligned. One of the world’s most-desirable vintage race cars is heading to auction at Pebble Beach with near-mythical provenance.
Gooding and Company announced Monday that a 1969 Porsche 917K in full Gulf livery will go on sale at its August 16-17 auction that coincides with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But this is not just any Porsche 917 — as if there was such a thing. This is the very 917 featured in the 1971 movie Le Mans starring Steve McQueen.
Chassis number 917-24 also has some racing history, but that pales in comparison with the Le Mans/McQueen boost to its value.
As an added bonus, this 917 has an evocative barn-find back story.
Given the well-documented McQueen effect on anything motor-related, a remarkable record-breaking sale is expected. Porsche 917s have traded in the lofty range of $10 million, and this one could bring double that amount at auction. Or more if the bidding heats up for this one-of-a-kind memento.
David Gooding, founder and president of the auction company said, “917-024 is one of the most significant and recognizable racing cars ever to come to public auction, and we are thrilled to present the legendary Gulf 917 Porsche.”
There were 25 Porsche 917 race cars built (24 are known to remain) with the goal of winning outright at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, which they succeeded in doing in 1970 and 1971. Chassis 917-24 has the distinction of being the first 917 to compete in a major race. It was entered by the Porsche works team at Spa Francorchamps in 1969.
Famed Porsche factory driver Jo Siffert acquired the 917 after its brief career as a competitor and test car. Siffert loaned the 917 to Solar Productions for the filming of Le Mans which he, McQueen and a number of other racing luminaries helped create. The Porsche remained in Siffert’s private ownership until his death – the 917 led his funeral procession.
Siffert’s estate sold the 917 to a French collector who kept it in storage, out of sight and essentially forgotten.
“This 917 remained hidden and unknown for roughly 25 years before re-emerging as perhaps the greatest ‘barn find’ ever,” the Gooding auction house said in a news release. “Since resurfacing in 2001, 917-024 has benefitted from an exceptional restoration.”
In the film Le Mans, best remembered for its exciting close-action racing sequences, the Porsche 917 is shown in pitched battle against the other leading endurance racer of the era, the Ferrari 512. The Porsche proves victorious in the heated 24-hour competition.
Several other pieces from that landmark film have sold over the years for absolutely stunning prices. The 1970 Porsche 911S that McQueen owned and drove in the opening sequences of Le Mans reached a startling $1.375 million at RM’s Monterey auction in August 2011. That was probably 10 times the value of any other pristine 911S at that time. It remains by far the most expensive 911 sold at auction.
A Ford GT40 that was modified as a camera car for the filming was sold for $11 million despite never appearing on screen. That was in August 2012 at the RM Monterey auction.
But perhaps the most extravagant, even outrageous price was the nearly $1 million paid for the “Michael Delaney” driving suit worn by McQueen in Le Mans, sold at a 2011 auction of Hollywood film items.
So the auction of the legendary Le Mans Porsche 917 should be pretty impressive.
The 917 is not the only McQueen-linked car coming up for auction in Monterey during Pebble Beach week in August. A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 originally owned and modified by McQueen will be offered by RM Auctions earlier in the week. Valued between $1 million and $2 million, the McQueen effect could double the high estimate.