Eye Candy: Air-Cooled Arizona unites VW, Porsche adherents

A nicely decked-out Volkswagen Karman-Ghia nestled alongside a Porsche 911 ‘outlaw’ | Bob Golfen photos
A nicely decked-out Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia nestled alongside a Porsche 911 ‘outlaw’ | Bob Golfen photos

Air-cooled cars are mostly things of the past, but there are some vintage ones from Germany that are among the most popular of all collector cars: Volkswagens and Porsches.

Phoenix collector Erik Black tinkers with both rear-engine VWs and older Porsches. He belongs to clubs and goes to events that generally break down into either VW people or Porsche people, but rarely both. Continue reading

Historic Porsche racers at Gooding sale in Monterey

The Porsche RS60 was raced by many famous drivers | Mathieu Heurtault/Gooding photos
The Porsche RS60 was raced by many famous drivers | Mathieu Heurtault/Gooding photos

Three significant Porsche works race cars, including a spectacular 1960 RS60 four-cam Spyder, have been added to Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction in August.

The historic Spyder, raced by the factory team in grueling endurance competition at Le Mans, Sebring, the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio, is the star of a nine-car private collection of European sports and racing cars that will be included in the sale, which is held August 15 and 16 adjacent to the site of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Continue reading

Stirling Moss selling vintage Porsche race car at auction

The 1961 Porsche RS-61 race car comes from Stirling Moss’s personal collection | Bonhams photos
The 1961 Porsche RS-61 race car comes from Stirling Moss’s personal collection | Bonhams photos

Famed racing driver Stirling Moss, much in the news lately because of his many appearances at concours and other events, has consigned a vintage competition Porsche from his own collection to the Bonhams Auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK.

The 1961 Porsche RS-61, like the agile RennSport race cars that Moss drove in competition during his career, will be offered June 26 at the Goodwood House sale in Chichester, UK. Continue reading

Contest to choose nastiest Porsche 356 resto project

This backyard rust bucket Porsche 356 could be restored, Stoddard says | Courtesy of Stoddard
This backyard rust bucket Porsche 356 could be restored, Stoddard says | Photos courtesy of Stoddard

There was a time when the rusted hulk of an old car dragged out of the woods was worth nothing more than what the recycling yard would pay for scrap. No more. As values for desirable classic cars continue to climb, and demand strengthens, what once were considered hopeless wrecks have become solid candidates for restoration. Continue reading

Modern classics top sellers at Silverstone auction

A rare 2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS was Silverstone's top seller at $350,000 | Silverstone Auctions photos
A rare 2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS was Silverstone’s highest sale at $350,000 | Silverstone Auctions photos

Late-model sports cars led the bidding at Silverstone Auction’s sale Saturday at the Practical Classics Restoration & Classic Car Show in Birmingham, UK, where the auction achieved a sales rate of 84 percent and a total of around £2 million, or nearly $3 million at today’s exchange rate. Continue reading

1955 ‘Kelley Blue Book’ shows how things have changed

The rare and valuable 1953 Porsche 356 America roadster was just another used car in 1955 | Bob Golfen
The rare and valuable 1953 Porsche 356 America Roadster was just another used car in 1955 | Bob Golfen

Did you know that in 1955, you could have purchased a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette for between $1,700 and $2,150? Or a 1952 Porsche 356 America Roadster for the same amount? These are six-figure collector cars today, but back then, they were just used sports cars that had depreciated after leaving the showroom.

I came upon these numbers while digging through the rubble of my desk, where I unearthed an interesting relic. It’s a Kelley Blue Book that’s nearly 60 years old.

The May-June 1955 used-car value guide for the dusty Arizona-Nevada region comes from an era when “The Blue Book” had a real mystique. Only dealers could get them, it seems, and the average person would kowtow to the concept of “book value” handed down by the car salesman, who usually had one stashed in his back pocket.

My 1955 Kelley Blue Book is well preserved | Bob Golfen
My 1955 ‘Kelley Blue Book’ is well preserved | Bob Golfen

Oh how things have changed, especially now that the Internet provides the average car shopper with an endless supply of value guides. But back in the dark ages of the mid-20th Century, this was pretty much it, and the information was essentially unobtainable for anyone who didn’t know the secret handshake.

After six decades, my little Blue Book has remained in remarkably good condition, obviously thumbed through loads of times but still intact. I’ll bet the survival rate for these things is miniscule. When the new books came out, the old ones were trashed.

The slim 1955 KBB guide lists cars sold after World War II from domestic automakers and a scant number of “foreign” brands. The foreign jobs are essentially a number of British makes – most of which have gone by the wayside – plus Porsche and Volkswagen.

No Italians at all. No Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia or even Ferrari. Perhaps their post-war numbers in the U.S. through 1955 were too scant to make the grade.

And among the domestic brands, there is the sobering rendition of those that have gone away: Studebaker, Hudson, Packard, Nash, Rambler, Willys, Crosley, De Soto, Kaiser, Plymouth, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

Even sadder are the prices from 1955, particularly for those merely used cars back then that are valuable collector items today. I have the latest Kelly Blue Book guide for post-war collector cars, so I compared values between then and now. I also checked the current Hagerty Price Guide, which generally lists higher values than KBB.

A 1953 Chevrolet Corvette sells for six figures today | ClassicCars.com
A 1953 Chevrolet Corvette sells for six figures today | ClassicCars.com

So let’s see, that inaugural year ’53 Corvette is calculated by KBB as having a value today ranging from $43,900 for one in fair condition to $263,600 for an excellent car. Hagerty’s valuation is higher, from $123,000 to $323,000.

And that 1952-53 Porsche America Roadster, a rarity that is one of today’s most highly desired Porsche production cars, would set you back around $311,000 to $853,000, according to KBB. Hagerty doesn’t have a separate entry for the America Roadster, but any early Porsche model from that time goes into six figures.

Inflation only accounts for a fraction of today’s values. According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1953 would be equivalent to about $8.87 today. So if you only consider inflation, the high value of $2,150 for that 1953 Corvette or Porsche would be about $19,000 today. Try buying one of them for that.

Some other comparisons for cool ragtops from then and now:

You could have purchased a wood-bodied 1947 Chrysler Town and Country convertible coupe in 1955 for the meager price of $120 to $220. Today, that car would fetch $56,500 to $154,900, according to the latest Kelley Blue Book, noting that you would add 10 percent for Highlander trim. Hagerty says today’s value is $84,800 to $236,000.

A 1947 Chrysler Town and Country was once a cheap ride | Barrett-Jackson
A 1947 Chrysler Town and Country was once a cheap ride | Barrett-Jackson

In 1955, the groundbreaking 1950 Jaguar XK120 roadster would have been valued at only $950 to $1,275, with no differentiation noted in the old Blue Book between the steel-bodied Jag and the lighter, more-desirable alloy model. KBB says that today, a steel XK120 would sell for $50,000 to $137,100 and an aluminum one would get $141,300 to $387,500. Hagerty has the XK at $80,800 to $153,000 for steel and $284,000 to $490,000 for alloy.

A 1953 Buick Skylark convertible was valued in 1955 for between $1,750 and $2,210. The latest KBB rates it at $65,500 to $179,700. Hagerty has it at $74,500 to $192,000.

A 1948 Lincoln Continental cabriolet powered by a V12 engine would have sold for just $650 to $900 in 1955. Today, KBB values that car at $39,200 to $107,500. Hagerty does not have a separate listing for this model.

It’s too bad there are no listings for Ferraris in the 1955 Blue Book because the difference in those values between then and now would be truly eye popping.

The 1955 value guide also has some new-car prices, and if you do the inflation math of multiplying by 8.87 for today’s money, they still seem like a bargain. Some examples of what you could have bought brand new in 1955:

A Chevy Bel Air sport coupe for $2,605.

A De Soto Firedome Sportsman two-door hardtop, $2,986.

The first-year Ford Thunderbird, $3,192.

A Rambler Custom station wagon, $2,233.

An Oldsmobile Holiday coupe, $3,115.

A Plymouth Belvedere Club Sedan, $2,302.

A Pontiac Star Chief Catalina coupe, $3,163.

Back to Porsche, it’s interesting to note that the 1955 356 Speedster was something of a stripped-down model marketed as the cheapest way to get into one of those relatively pricey German sports cars. According to KBB, the Speedster was priced at $2,995 for the 1500 and $3,495 for the more-powerful 1500 S. The other Porsches were more expensive: a 1500 S coupe would have cost $4,395 while the top model, the 1500 S cabriolet, was $4,695.

But look at what that budget 356 Speedster is worth now. These lightweight and much-loved roadsters go for $117,100 to $321,000, according to the latest KBB, while Hagerty has them listed at a more-aggressive $208,000 to $508,000. Note that a 1958 Speedster in “preserved” but needy condition sold for $484,000 at Gooding’s recent Scottsdale auction.

For now, I’ll put away my 1955 Kelley Blue Book in a safe place to rediscover sometime in the future, when I’ll marvel yet again at how much things have changed.



Eye Candy: First Porsche Werks Reunion brings them all together

Photos by Bob Golfen

An enthusiastic crowd of Porsche faithful swarmed the Rancho Cañada Golf Club in Carmel for the Porsche Club of America Werks Reunion, a new event added to the calendar during Monterey Classic Car Week.

More than 500 Porsches of just about every kind, ranging from early 356 models to the latest performance cars, were spread over the grassy hills, with a separate class for competition and special performance versions.

The Werks Reunion was filled-up with entrants weeks before the event, so many rare and well-prepared cars could be spotted in the parking lots and on the streets around the golf club. During the week leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on the Monterey Peninsula, Porsche 911s were by far the most prevalent vintage cars seen on area roads.

Before this year, Porsches were part of the Legends of the Autobahn show for German cars, but Porsche Club members decided to break away and create their own concours specifically for their favorite rear-engine (mostly) sports cars. Plus, admission to the Werks Reunion was free in a week when high-priced events can cost hundreds of dollars.

Among the most interesting Porsches on display (aside from every 356 and 911) was an exotic all-wheel-drive 959 supercar from 1987, a rare and beautiful 356 American Roadster and a showing of Porsche’s latest supercar, the 887-horsepower 918 Spider for 2015. Price tag: $854,000 for the base model.

Porsche 917K from film ‘Le Mans’ in Gooding auction

The 1969 Porsche 917K played a leading role in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans | Mathieu Heurtault / Gooding
The 1969 Porsche 917K played a leading role in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans | Mathieu Heurtault / Gooding

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.”

Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney in Le Mans | National General Pictures
McQueen as Michael Delaney in Le Mans | National General Pictures

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.

Porsche launches its own special motor-oil brand for classic air-cooled engines

Porsche Classic Motor Oil comes in two blends for earlier cars and later 911s | Porsche Classic
Porsche Classic Motor Oil comes in two blends for earlier cars and later 911s | Porsche Classic

Right from the beginning, Porsche’s air-cooled engines gained a reputation for sturdiness and reliability. But a crucial part of the formula was always the quality of the motor oil, which helped keep the engines cool as well as lubricating them.

Modern lightweight, high-detergent motor oils are designed for the needs of today’s engines, but fall short in protecting and preserving the classic horizontally opposed Porsche engines.

To help owners of vintage 356s, 914s and 911s keep their cars on the road, Porsche Cars North America has launched its own blend of motor oil specially blended for the needs of the air-cooled engines. Porsche switched to liquid cooling starting in 1998.

The 356 engines require specially formulated oil | Porsche
The 356 engines require specially formulated oil | Porsche

Porsche Classic Motor Oil is a high-viscosity hydrocracked mineral oil formulated for compatibility with the old alloy engines, with such additives as zinc and phosphorous to protect against wear and corrosion. The oil has been laboratory tested, Porsche says, to ensure that it will stand up to high temperatures as well as helping to preserve engines in collector cars that are only occasionally driven.

“The older flat engines in particular can’t just use any old oil,” Porsche Classic says in a news release. “The development of an engine oil for classic air-cooled flat engines has therefore been something akin to a balancing act between tradition and innovation: as advanced as possible and as traditional as necessary.”

There are two varieties of the Porsche Classic oil, a 20W-50 blend for flat-four engines in the 356 and 914, and six-cylinder engines in 911 models up to 2.7 liters; and 10W-60 for air-cooled flat-six 911 engines from 3.0 liters and up.

Those high viscosities might seem pretty thick by today’s standards, but according the Porsche, the multi-blend ratings are more compatible with the engines designs of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

Pricing is around $12 per liter at Porsche dealerships, and it also should be available from vintage Porsche parts outlets.

As a bonus for Porsche fans, the containers are attractive enough to put on display.