A SPECIAL Porsche 917 racecar has found its way back into the spotlight by becoming the most expensive Porsche sold to date, 46 years since it starred alongside Steve McQueen in the seminal 1971 racing movie, Le Mans.
The beautiful 1970 Porsche 917K was a highlight of this year’s Gooding & Company classic car auction at Pebble Beach during Monterey Car Week even before it achieved a final sale price of $14.08 million (A$17.72 million) and rewrote the record books.
Chassis number 917-024 is a ‘Kurz’ or short tail version which was first driven by Brian Redman and Mike Hailwood for Porsche during actual Le Mans testing in 1970.
Redman topped the timesheets in this car and showed that the 917 with its 4.5-litre naturally aspirated, air-cooled, flat-12 cylinder engine was capable of winning. Porsche did so two months later – its first overall victory at the 24 Hour endurance race.
The 917’s quad-cam engine was designed by legendary chief engineer Hans Mezger, and is essentially based upon two 2.25-litre flat-six cylinder Porsche engines sandwiched together into one sonorous brute.
Following its racing career, which included further testing at Nurburgring and Ehra Lessien, this 917K was sold to Porsche factory driver Jo Siffert, who leased the car to Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions for use in the making of the Le Mans film.
Research conducted by Porsche engineer, 917 historian and writer Walter Naher, indicates that 917-024 was used extensively as a camera car both on and off the screen. It remained in Siffert’s possession until his death, when it led his funeral procession.
Chassis 917-024 then disappeared during the mid-1970s after a private collector in Paris took ownership. It resurfaced in 2001, roughly 25 years later, as part of a significant ‘barn find’ discovery; dust covered but almost completely untouched and still in iconic Gulf livery from Siffert’s custody.
Its Firestone fuel cell, Firestone Super Sports GP tyres and original space-saver spare were all accounted for, as well as “a handwritten tag hanging from the key with instructions to run lean given the Le Mans set up, believed to be notated by Porsche driver Herbert Linge,” according to Gooding & Company.
A restoration of 917-024 was completed earlier this year by a Swiss specialist. Gooding & Company estimated it would sell for between A$17 million and A$21 million, which was on the money. To date, that makes it the most expensive Porsche ever sold and raises the high watermark for a brand whose vehicles are experiencing unprecedented popularity and value the world over. The wealthy new steward of this 917 chose to bid anonymously.
Though it did reset the Porsche record, this 917K was outshone by three more expensive vehicles sold at Monterey Car Week auctions. A 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Coupe sold for A$18.3 million, a 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe achieved A$19.7 million and topping all others was a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 Roadster that hit a whopping A$28.4 million to become not only the most expensive Aston sold, but the priciest British car full stop.