At the March 9 Gooding & Company Auction on Amelia Island, FL, the Drendel Family Collection sold 16 Porsches — 12 of them historically significant cars.

Matt Drendel, who was only 35 years old when he died in November 2010, created the collection. The sole child of a prominent Hickory, NC, family, Drendel spent a substantial part of his life with cars, especially Porsches. Starting in 2001, it took him less than 10 years to build the finest collection of turbocharged racing Porsches in the United States — perhaps the world.

When his family dispersed the cars though David Gooding’s Amelia Island auction, all but one sold, and many of the cars achieved world record prices. The results proved Drendel’s collecting philosophy — and also highlighted the rising tide for prices of collectible Porsche race cars.

The start of a Porsche passion

Drendel’s initial interest was in racing. He started out in a Ferrari Challenge 355, competing for a couple of years with some success but also some frustration. Matt decided to go in a different direction, and that led him to the Scrogham family’s race team at G&W Motorsport. In 2001, G&Ws’ Porsche 911 GT3R won the Rolex GT Championship. Darren Law was the team’s primary driver, while Drendel joined the team for endurance races at Daytona, Sebring, and Watkins Glen.

Racing Porsches increased Drendel’s interest in the marque. He read a lot about Porsche’s history and came to especially appreciate the heritage of Porsche’s turbocharged race cars. Acquiring those cars became the focus of the Drendel Family Collection.

Matt founded Heritage Motorwerks, a Porsche shop that maintained the collection’s cars and worked for outside customers. The core of the collection, nine cars strong, was kept in storage at his father’s house, where cars were moved in and out with an elevator from a ground-level garage.

Selling a significant collection

Almost a year after Drendel’s death, his family chose 15 Porsches and put them on the market with a firm price of $15,500,000. The family’s advisers quietly let selected collectors know of the collection’s availability in October. Despite a desire to keep the sale quiet, the Drendel cars instantly became a popular topic on Porsche-related blogs and discussion boards.

The family let it be known that the proceeds would be put into a trust for Matt’s two young children. The Drendels received several offers, but they were short of the full asking price. At the end of January 2012, Matt’s father, Frank Drendel, made the decision to commit the cars to Gooding & Company.

With an Amelia Island auction date on March 9, Gooding had to research the cars, produce a catalog, and promote the collection in a very short time. Some wags doubted it could work; some doubted Amelia was the “right place,” compared with, say, Monterey in August; and many doubted that $15,500,000 was in the offing.

The doubters were wrong. Frank Drendel and Gooding pulled it off. The roster of cars at the auction differed slightly from the ones that initially had been offered for sale. The Drendels withdrew two less-significant cars and added four of Matt’s street and track cars. But the stars of the collection — the famous and desirable turbocharged Porsche race cars — were all there.

When the last car in the Drendel Collection was hammered sold, $16,109,000 had been realized for their family trust. The post-auction buzz was intense, and opinions were rampant that significant Porsche race cars were in ascendancy or, contrastingly, that fortuitous lightning struck Amelia Island that Friday afternoon.

Your reporter is in the former camp. Astute collectors and investors foresee inflation as the world’s economies work to inflate their way to reduced debt. At the same time, returns on many traditional investments are at low ebb. In such a world, acquiring prime race cars can be part of a diversified investment strategy, and you can enjoy the cars in so many additional ways. Some established collectors who bought Drendel cars must agree. Among the known buyers are Jerry Seinfeld — who bought two of the most significant cars — and Craig McCaw, Jim Edwards and Alan Benjamin.

Now, let’s take a look at three of the most important cars.

1973 Porsche 917/30

This car, chassis number 91730004, Lot 57, sold for $4,400,000.

The car is one of the most powerful Porsches of all time. This 917/30 is almost identical to the ones that Mark Donohue drove to a Can-Am series championship in 1973 and to a world-record land speed record for a closed course at Talladega in 1975. Depending on preparation and boost, these cars produced 1,000–1,500 horsepower.

Serial number 004 was never raced by the factory. It was a leftover car when the Can-Am series changed direction for the 1974 season. The car was sold to Australian Porsche importer and gentleman racer Alan Hamilton. When Porsche acquired Hamilton’s company in 1991, this car returned to the factory and was sold to David Morse of Saratoga, CA, in early 1994. Dave had his race shop, Morspeed in Campbell, CA, meticulously restore the car. He began to vintage race the car in 1998 at the Monterey Historics. When Morse’s collection was dispersed, Matt Drendel bought 91730004 in 2001.

Our subject car was assembled at the Porsche Factory. That gives it a leg up on the two other cars that still exist, 005 and 006, which were assembled “after the day” from parts.

Jerry Seinfeld, represented at the auction by Sam Cabiglio, bought the car. It was a public sale high-water mark for any 917, eclipsing the Mike Amalfitano 917 Inter-Serie Spyder sold at Bonhams’ Monterey auction in August 2010 (SCM November 2010, p. 40). However, it is reported on excellent authority that at least one private sale of a Gulf-Wyer 917K has surpassed $5 million.

1976 Porsche 935/76

This Porsche, Lot 47, sold for $2,530,000.

Throughout 2001, Matt Drendel continued to buy notable cars. A Porsche 959S, the rare performance iteration of Porsche’s super street car, was next, followed closely by Dave Morse’s 934, itself a gorgeously restored race car with a long history. Matt also bought the Budweiser 935 from a Californian, a car he would sell in 2005, initiating a hunt for another example.

Our subject car, serial number 9305700001, is also known as 935001 and also by the factory R&D designation R14. This prototype 935 was the Porsche factory’s backup and training car for the early portion of the 1976 World Championship. It was pressed into service for the Six Hours of Watkins Glen (where it placed 1st overall with Stommelen and Schurti) and then the 1000 Kilometers of Dijon (3rd place), helping Porsche win the Group 5 World Championship for Makes.

When the Factory moved to successor models, Porsche sold 935001 to Vasek Polak. Polak built a legendary collection of cars, kept in racks at the back of his race shop southwest of Los Angeles. Polak died in 1997 as the result of an autobahn accident. When his collection was sold off in 1999 to benefit the family cancer foundation, John Kott acquired this 935. Matt Drendel bought the car in 2009.

At Amelia Island, 935001 hammered sold at $2.3 million, or $2.53 million after buyer’s commission. Although in unrestored condition, it was fairly bought, again by Seinfeld.

1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Turbo 2.14

This Porsche, Lot 55, sold for $3,245,000

In 2003, Drendel bought one of the “Baby Turbos,” serial number 9114609016, also known by its internal designation R9, the second produced of four such cars. The Baby Turbos adapted the 917/10-917/30 turbo technology to the 911 racing tub. They were the test-bed transition cars between the RSR and the 934/935, and also claim some credit for the development of the road-going 930 Turbo introduced in 1975.

With Martini & Rossi sponsorship, Porsche decided to enter the Baby Turbos into the Group 5 World Championship. Under that 3-liter formula, a turbo factor of 1.4 dictated displacement of 2,141 cc, and this led to the car’s nickname, “Baby.”

To take full advantage of the increased power, Porsche extensively developed the former RSR body with more aerodynamic aids, including a huge rear wing that was painted black to reduce its prominence.

Porsche first tested R9 in January 1974, and then entered it in the Le Mans trials in March. In April and May, it was the test car for the 1,000-km races at Monza and Spa. It was entered in Nürburgring and finished 7th overall. It was a DNF at Imola and then finished 6th overall at Osterreichring. Another Baby Turbo finished second at Le Mans behind a Matra prototype.

At the end of the season, Porsche refurbished the car and sold it to Dr. Bill Jackson of Denver, an early but low-profile collector of significant Porsches. Typical for “Dr. Bill,” he kept the car for 25 years, until 1999. Matt Drendel acquired it in 2003.

Unusually, the car was never restored, and at Amelia it was sold in well-worn, as-raced condition. Gooding pulled a fulsome $2,950,000 for the car, representing $3,245,000 after buyer’s premium.

Given its pivotal status in Porsche’s transition to turbocharged racing cars, and its scarcity as one of four made and one of only two in private hands, this car would have been well bought at almost any price.

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