With obscene rarity, Hollywood film credits, and immense historical significance, the value of a 1969 Porsche racing car heading to auction could be a record-breaker.
Gooding & Co, the Santa Monica-based auction house, announced Monday that it will be bringing to its annual Pebble Beach sale a 1969 Porsche 917K. The car is one of only 25 such racers built, and it was also featured prominently in Steve McQueen’s 1971 film “LeMans.”
Though Gooding wouldn’t disclose the expected sale price, lesser 917s with nowhere near this model’s provenance have sold privately for between $10 million and $15 million. This means chassis 917-024 could pass the $20-million park when the final hammer falls in August, making it the most expensive Porsche ever sold at auction.
“The 917-024 is one of the most significant and recognizable racing cars ever to come to public auction, and we’re thrilled to present the legendary Gulf 917 Porsche,” David Gooding, president and founder of Gooding & Co. said in a statement.
The 917 was an all-new project for Porsche in 1969, built for various races, but focused on winning the king of them all: the 24 Hours of LeMans. The cars were built on a then-groundbreaking aluminum tubular chassis that was pressurized with gas to reveal if it ever cracked.
Initially the 917s featured a 4.5-liter, flat 12-cylinder engine, though halfway through the 1969 season, Porsche swapped to a more powerful 5.0-liter motor. Gooding’s 917 has the larger motor today, which pushes around 560 horsepower to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
25 copies of this particular variant of 917 were built and this particular car was the first of its kind raced in 1969 (24 are known to exist today, and the Porsche museum owns at least six, according to Gooding & Co.). After its initial competition, it was used as a test and development car. Subsequent 917s went on to win the 24 Hours of LeMans in both 1970 and 1971.
The car was then bought by Swiss Porsche driver Jo Siffert, who loaned the car to Steve McQueen for the production of “LeMans,” considered by many to be the best racing movie ever made.
The cult-classic film was notable for being shot on location during the 1970 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans using cameras mounted to several Porsche 917s that were actually competing in the race.
After Siffert’s death in 1971, the car stayed with his estate until 1978, when it was sold to a French collector and stored outside Paris until 2001, according to David Brynan, a specialist at Gooding & Co.
The current owner then found and bought the vehicle, putting it through a ground-up restoration to its current race-ready state. Gooding & Co. will offer it and dozens of other blue-chip cars on August 16 and 17.
“It’s not just another car, it's really a pop culture icon,” Brynan said. “We think it’s a car that could branch out beyond car fans, to collectors interested in film history or art. This Porsche has such a broad audience, we're excited to see what develops with that and who ultimately ends up with it.”