Oldest Surviving Porsche Fails to Find New Owner After Auction Blunder

A 1939 Porsche Type 64 was set to be the most expensive Porsche ever sold at auction and expected to fetch US$20m. In spite of the hype surrounding the oldest surviving example before the auction, it failed to sell at RM Sotheby’s Monterey on Saturday.

During the auction, the auctioneer caused confusion to both the screen operator and audience when his ‘-teen’ sounded like ‘-ty’. The screen showed US$30m when the starting bid should be US$13m, and continued all the way up to US$70m, which would be a record-shattering price for any vehicle sold at auctions.

The auctioneer stopped the bid at US$17m and pointed out that the US$70m on the screen was a mistake. “That’s 17 million,” said the auctioneer. The crowd booed as the price was corrected. With no further bids, the auctioneer put the hammer down at US$17m, failing to meet the undisclosed reserve price. The car remained unsold. The car is listed as “Still for Sale” on RM Sotheby’s online catalogue.

While the 356 is widely known as the first Porsche, this 1939 Porsche Type 64 even predated the first Porsche 356 by nearly a decade. This car tells the story of Porsche’s origin and the birth of the company’s legend. “Without the Type 64, there would be no Porsche 356, no 550, no 911,” RM Sotheby’s Car Specialist Marcus Görig says.

Type 64 was designed for a 1,500km Berlin-to-Rome road rally which was planned to take place in September 1939. It featured a narrow two-seat cockpit, wheel spats front and rear, and a dual spare-wheel compartment under the front trunk lid. The Type 64 was fitted with streamlined aluminium body panels and a 32-hp flat-four.

The first example, chassis no. 38/41, completed in August 1939 but it was damaged in an accident in the same year. As World War II broke out, the September 1939 race was cancelled, and government interest turned to producing military vehicles. Despite the race’s cancellation, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry Porsche, proposed that the company continue building the second and third cars for testing and experimentation purposes.

The second of the proposed three examples was completed three months later. However, it was later commandeered by members of the U.S. Seventh Army’s “Rainbow” division and had its roof cut. The car’s remains were used as a basis for a re-creation in 2011.

The body of the third model was completed in June 1940 but not mounted on any chassis until after the accident in the first car. This 38/41 is believed to be the sole surviving example of the three planned cars.

1939 Porsche Type 64

Auction house: RM Sotheby's
Sale: Monterey 2019
Sale date: 17 August 2019

Lot no.: 362
Estimate: expected to fetch in excess of US$20,000,000