1961 Porsche RS 61 Spyder

One of the last 4-cam Spyders built, this tidy RS 61, chassis 718070, possesses a proud racing pedigree, an impressive list of owners, and a degree of authenticity found in few others.

Constructed in the winter of 1960, 718070 first appeared in the hands of one Bob Holbert of Pennsylvania. Holbert’s Garage, one of the first American authorized Porsche dealerships, sponsored his racing efforts, which included four SCCA National Championships and a podium at Le Mans. With the financial support of Bernie Weil, Holbert helped establish the Porsche mystique.

The car’s first recorded race was the February Daytona SCCA National, where it took 1st overall. Next was the Governor’s Cup that April with 1st in class, and in the President’s Cup Three-Hour another 1st in class and 4th overall.

By May 1961, Holbert was driving 718044, the factory-prepared Stirling Moss/Targa Florio RS 61, causing him to sell 718070 to East Coaster “Gentleman Tom” Payne. Payne, a legend for his inclusion in the Shelby-American team and for racing in a suit and tie, continued to produce results. Holbert generally provided race support.

Payne’s first outing was at Bridgehampton; the result was 2nd in class. At the Cumberland Nationals, it is thought that Holbert returned to this RS 61 for the last time, taking 1st in class and 4th overall. Payne took yet another 1st in class at the June sprints, repeating at Lime Rock, and at the Wisconsin GP, before returning to Bridgehampton in August. There, he finished 2nd in class, to repeat at Indianapolis. Payne’s last two races in this car were the Thompson Nationals and the 500 Sprints in Atlanta, where he achieved 2nd and 1st (each) in class, respectively.

At season end, 718070 was sold to Millard Ripley, a gentleman driver who owned a VW-Porsche dealership in Ithaca, New York. It appears his first race in this RS 61 was at Lake Erie, in Dunlop Race #2: 3rd place. In June, against stiff competition, Ripley won the Watkins Glen main event outright. He returned in September for 1st in class and 3rd overall.

Later that month, Ripley and Charles Kurtz drove in the Bridgehampton endurance, finishing 4th overall and 1st in class. The season’s last race resulted in a 2nd overall in Lime Rock’s main event and 1st in class.

Two more victories for the RS 61 came in 1963. At Giant’s Despair, one of the oldest U.S. racing venues, Kurtz came 1st in class, defeating the feared Bob Bucher in a similar RS. At the Formula Libre races at Lime Rock, Ripley made 2nd overall in “Sports Racing under 5,000-cc.” as well as a 1st overall in “.under 1,600-cc.”

070 made occasional races thereafter, but was no longer an outright win contender. In the mid-1960s, it was retired and subsequently sold to a Mr. Steadman in 1969. It remained in sympathetic hands for nearly a decade.

In 1978, it was sold to a Mr. Aase, from whom a Mr. Hayes acquired it in 1988 and returned it to the track for at least a half dozen vintage races. Sold again in 1993, it settled in the collection of Terry Jones, a well-known SoCal vintage racer. The car was thoroughly prepared for competition by Porsche guru Al Cadrobbi and competed in several vintage races before being sold to Warren Eads of Rancho Palos Verdes in 1995.

Eads’s Spyder Sports is regarded as one of the foremost “expert shops” of early racing Porsches. In the late 1990s, while still in his ownership, the car was cosmetically refreshed, with focus on the interior. Many interior components were cadmium-plated, the frame tubing was painted black, the cockpit was painted in the appropriate dull urethane silver; period-correct decals were sourced, and the seats and trim were re-upholstered in the correct material.

Miles Collier

Miles Collier - SCM Contributor

Miles is a retired business executive, practicing artist, investor, philanthropist and noted authority on vintage automobiles. He nurtured his interest in art at Yale University, where he received a B.A. in Painting. When family business intervened, he received an MBA from Columbia University. He retired as Managing Partner of Collier Enterprises in 1995 and returned to painting, which he does professionally. Collier maintains a significant automobile collection in Naples, FL. He recently hosted one of his prestigious symposiums on automobile connoisseurship.

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