|Vehicle:||1957 Porsche 356A Speedster|
|Original List Price:||$2,764|
|SCM Valuation:||Median to date, $360,300; high sale, $682,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,500|
|Chassis Number Location:||In front of gas tank, stamped on trunk floor and on chassis tag on the passenger’s side next to gas tank. Also on driver’s side door jamb|
|Engine Number Location:||On third piece of engine case below pulley|
|Club Info:||356 Registry|
|Alternatives:||1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 S Spider, 1954–63 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, 1955–59 MGA roadster|
This car, Lot 140, sold for $341,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Hershey, PA, auction on October 6, 2016.
Porsche Speedster (please note, NOT all classic cars) barn finds, garage finds and farm finds are having quite a moment in the market.
This is not an opinion. It is a fact — one that has strengthened over the past 24 months through robust auction results. Stating this with conviction is as polarizing as choosing sides in a Trump/Clinton debate.
The only way to stand firm is with positive facts and true data. Why or how a dusty, worn-in Speedster can be as valuable — or, in some cases, more valuable — than a perfectly restored example makes the heads of some contrarian experts explode. I enjoy a good old-fashioned explosion. I love the hand wringing that goes with the head shaking from these guys, too. Oh, the humanity.
Frankly, you either get this market within a market or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s okay, but we are at a moment where the collectors who do understand what exists beyond the filth that these amazing jewels hide under can no longer be ignored.
The market hasn’t just spoken — it has stood atop that tiny wooden shack in Gmund and yelled, “HAU AB!” I’m led to believe that is “piss off!” in German.
Trying to convince the non-believers (in my case, my fellow SCM writers — let me refer to them as The Four Horseman who Monitor the Concours Trophy Cabinet) is like having Usain Bolt try to set a world record in the 100-meter dash while holding a cup of water in his hand.
In short, it’s an impossible task.
Yet I will try again to convince Miles Collier, Prescott Kelly, Donald Osborne and Publisher Martin that all this is really happening. Biff, hand me that cup.
That “Aha!” moment
The barn-find phenomenon is akin to a favorite memory rushing back — when you relive an “aha” moment in your life. You get the same feeling when you encounter the barn-find Speedster for the very first time. That split second disrupts your train of thought — and you’re suddenly, vividly reliving a moment from your past.
These dirty, greasy, splendid Speedsters provide that memory jolt — that “VOILA,” when your gray matter transports you to some wonderful place in your past. All this is not easily quantifiable, but you know it makes you happy. This is my version of “Barn Finds for Idiots 101.” If you don’t feel the “voila,” you don’t belong to the club.
Another example of this non-quantifiable experience can be found in music. I sense it when the first few chords of a song, in my case, “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones or “Introduction” by Chicago, sweep me up and send me to a place I wasn’t before the tune came on Pandora and charged my ears. Suddenly, my mood improves.
The heart and gut don’t lie
Can we blame Pavlov? He might be responsible for these Speedsters if I were a believer in conspiracy theories. Pavlov goes another step further when you actually drive a well-sorted, crusty-looking Speedster. There’s no denying the ride. Watch and feel the heart rate go up.
Vision also acts as a trigger when I look at an old photograph and think, “Now, there’s a moment in time that cannot be replicated under any circumstance.” I understand — into my bones — that this single image captured an era, and it just feels perfect.
While studying photography in college, I reacted to the pinup image of Rita Hayworth from World War II in just that way. I equate viewing these Speedsters with that single image. There’s something visual going on here that just hits all the marks. That smile, that look, cannot be duplicated, and that’s the point.
Dr. Fred Simeone once referenced an article I wrote that spoke of my own “aha” moment while inspecting an Aston Martin DB4 at auction in Paris. I couldn’t figure out the appeal of this Artcurial lot until it hit me on a different level. I was staring at an original, unrestored warts-and-all DB4.
The car shattered the top end of the catalog estimate when hammered that evening. I really understood the appeal of that wart-wagon after I inspected an over-the-top restoration on another DB4 that was, in my view, emotionally soulless.
Jerry Seinfeld, my co-author of the February 2016 Speedster article (February 2016, p. 46), equates all this with “why we love rescue pets. These animals have a unique personality and have lived a life.”
There’s that unmeasurable quality again. That feeling of experience and of something that has a warm soul, plenty of guts — and a lot of heart.
And neither do the numbers….
Okay, enough with the emotional triggers. Now let’s look at the facts of recent barn-find Speedster sales:
- Gooding & Co., Arizona 2015, Lot 160, 1958 Speedster: Estimate, $275k–$375k; sold for $484,000
- Gooding & Co., Monterey 2015, Lot 158, 1958 Speedster: Estimate $325k–$375k; sold for $583,000
- RM Sotheby’s, Hershey 2016, Lot 140, 1957 Speedster: Estimate, $200k–$250k; sold for $341,000 (our subject car)
- Auctions America, Hilton Head 2016, Lot 184, 1957 Speedster: Estimate, $200k–$250k; sold for $665,500
Now let’s look at recent best-of-the-best restored Speedster sales:
- Gooding & Co., Amelia Island 2016, Lot 35, 1957 Speedster: Estimate, $500k–$600k; sold for $682,000
- Bonhams Zoute 2016, Lot 28, 1955 Speedster: Estimate, $395k–$615k; sold for $659,048
Our subject car is the 1957 Porsche Speedster, Lot 140, from the RM Sotheby’s 2016 Hershey sale. Now, given the result of the Hilton Head Auctions America Lot 184 car, I’d have to say our subject Speedster was very well bought at $341k.
Gord Duff from RM Sotheby’s gave me a detailed set of photographs before our subject car crossed the block.
Of all the cars listed above, our car by far needed the most help, but it still retained that certain “find” quality. Although it needs more than just a mechanical refresh, it certainly sold above its estimate. I’d say the car was still well bought. The story and presentation certainly helped.
The beat goes on
Fast-forward to Lot 184 at Auctions America’s November 5 Hilton Head Island sale.
During our SCM Insider’s Panel that same morning at Hilton Head, I announced that I would bid up to $410k hammer to get this car. I followed that up with, “And that’s not going to be enough.”
For the record, my friend and fellow panelist Miles Collier said that he would feel good bidding on the car up to $200k. Now, this isn’t just two different opinions. It’s really all about a believer versus a non-believer.
According to Auctions America, there were 12 phone bidders on Lot 184 in Hilton Head. That’s impressive. Again, this car sold for $665,500.
I can’t explain why this is happening with such strength in Speedster World, but it is.
It really doesn’t have an impact on the rest of the Speedster market, either. You can’t use the “find” comp and add 20% to your own lovely 356 — it doesn’t work that way. I wish it did, as I own two of these fine Porsches.
There was an article written in the February 2016 SCM (“Collecting Thoughts,” p. 46) about the Seinfeld “beater.” There is now a lot of evidence that many bidders/owners/buyers believe what Jerry Seinfeld and I wrote in that story. Maybe there are a few more now than there were then.
Would it be polite to say “hau ab?” Maybe not. After all, we’re all friends here. Maybe a simple “We told you so” will suffice. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)