Rarity can matter, but a rare Porsche is not automatically collectible, just as some high-volume models are valuable (Part II: Defining the Collectible Porsche)
Last month in Part I, we examined why some Porsche values accelerate like an early 911S, while others lag behind like a 924 with a bad head gasket. Except for a few celebrity connections-such as Speedsters driven in the movies by the likes of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen-probable values can be established by answers to some basic questions.
There are two value patterns of interest to car collectors. One, the "strong value" pattern, shows a price that rises but not very fast and not very far. Another pattern shows a more rapid rise and to a far higher level. "Collectible cars" exhibit a price performance that usually guarantees their value will remain high, even in severe market downturns. So, how to tell if you have a collectible Porsche?
Is it a race car?
Start by asking if your car is a built-by-the-factory race car. If so, you have a collectible Porsche. Since the collector car boom of the 1980s, factory race cars have been in high demand. This trend is likely to continue as collectors of all backgrounds pay homage with their wallets to Porsche's racing success.
If a street car, is it rare?
Many people feel that a collectible Porsche must be rare. That isn't true. It takes more than rarity to make a valuable Porsche, and to make matters worse, some fairly common Porsches are collectible.
For example, 356 Notchbacks (1,747 built) are one of the rarer pushrod street Porsches, yet their value is not increased by their rarity at all. And 911 Sportomatics are also rare yet not valuable, as are 1968 911L models. The 356A Convertible D is the rarest of the chrome-framed-windshield open cars (along with the Speedster and the Roadster), with just 1,330 Convertible Ds built, although these are the least valuable of this trio. Speedsters are true collectibles yet were built in large numbers, with 4,243 copies. Yes, by now many of those have been crashed, bashed and rusted off the road, but it is still a very large production run. So rarity can matter, but a rare Porsche is not automatically a collectible Porsche, and some models built in high volumes are collectible.
Fastest or most expensive?
There are a host of other predictors. If your Porsche was the fastest or most expensive variant when new, that always helps. The 356 4-cam Carreras, for example, are both quite rare and were at the top of the production car line. This makes them a good bet to be collectible, which means we can expect a price above the price of a new 911 Turbo. As noted in our first installment, we can tell if a Porsche is collectible when its price is above the current price of the most similar new Porsche. The 911 Turbo is the closest current model to the 356 4-cam, as both had a special engine in a street chassis and were the most powerful Porsches of their era.
Was it a period icon?
Period race history or use of the car as a popular icon in movies, books, posters and other media, along with ownership by celebrities, are other indicators that a Porsche may be collectible. Collecting cars for most of us is a hobby that depends on significant capital. There is often a long waiting period, perhaps decades, when all we can do in pursuit of the hobby is watch, wait and plan. Collectors are influenced by the images seen during this long delay when dreaming is about all we can do.
Beginning or end of an era?
Finally, Porsches at the beginning of an era or end of an era are also likely to be collectible. The 904, in addition to being rare (with about 120 built), was the last race car also able to be certified for street use as well as the last time the 4-cam Carrera engine was called into service. It was the end of a wonderful era and at the same time the beginning of the 6-cylinder epoch, as some 904s were equipped with the new 911 motor. It was the first car designed by Ferry's son, Butzi, who would go on to pen the timeless 911 design.
Can it be high volume and collectible?
Now let's look at some additional examples and see what we can say about how they fit into our model. The 1954-1958 356/356A Speedsters are a high volume street car that nonetheless are verified collectibles. Although not rare, expensive or especially fast, Speedsters were the beginning of an era of race-winning 356 production cars, and a popular icon in movies, books, posters and race tracks. Speedsters provide guidance as to why some Porsches are collectible while others are not.
The 1973 Carrera RS is one of the most recent cars to enter the collectible stable. We compare a Touring model RS to the Turbo, as both are the highest horsepower street cars of their day; we compare a Lightweight RS to a GT3.
Is the RS a race car? The Touring cars aren't, but some lightweights are. Is it rare? With about 1,500 Touring models made, they aren't really rare. We judge rarity for Porsches at less than about 200 units. Yes, it was the fastest and most expensive in its day, and yes, it was the end of the original 911 bumper body. It was also the beginning of serious production-class 911 racing by the factory and the subject of many posters and scale models.
Many items must be reviewed to understand why certain cars may be collectible. Some hard rules apply, such as if your car is a factory race car, but in other cases, like the issue of rarity for street cars, the rules become less clear. But in all cases, understanding the potential of your car to become collectible lies in seeing how the market has moved in the past, and applying those well-established patterns to the future.
So what's my car worth?
Once you've decided if you have a collectible, there are three additional issues you must wrestle with to determine the value of your particular car-the condition of the car, the general market trends, and how you plan to market it. We'll address those issues in the third and final installment of this series on collectible Porsches.