Auction backfire halts rare Porsche sale after $53 million mistake

James Raia

What’s a $53 million error among friends, collectors and vintage Porsche fanciers?

It likely what was the biggest blunder in car auction history, an auctioneer with a hard-to-decipher Dutch accent at RM Sotheby’s on Aug. 17 during Monterey Auto Week began bidding on a 1939 Porsche Type 64 at was heard at $30 million.

Auction backfire halts rare Porsche sale after $53 million mistake 1
A blunder at RM Sotheby’s auction during Monterey Auto Week began with a $30 million opening bid for a 1939 Porsche Type 64.

The starting bid for the one-of-kind vehicle was actually $13 million. It’s what was expected for the spacecraft lookalike. Only three of the cars were built and the prototypeup for auction is the only survivor.

But monitors in the room showed the bid at $30 million. It quickly escalated to $40 million, $50 million, $60 million and then $70 million.

While a stunned and quickly confused crowed was unsure what was happening, the auction monitor suddenly went from $70 million to $17 million.

If the Porsche had sold for $70 million, it would have been $20 million more than record price ever paid for a car at auction.

The auctioneer tried to amend the error, telling the crowd: “that’s $17 million, folks, not $70 million.”

“What a joke,” collector Johnny Shaughnessy who witnessed the mishap told Bloomberg News. “They (Sotheby’s) just lost so much credibility. My father could have bought that car for $5 million years ago. It has been passed around for years, and no one wants it.”

David Lee, a car collector and businessman from Los Angeles, told The New York Times: “When they mentioned 30 million to start, I thought that’s quite a strong starting price.”

The Porsche was predicted to sell for around $30 million, but after the mistake was discovered, no one bid higher than $17 million.

The sale was finalized at $17 million, but the Porsche did change owners because the selling price didn’t meet the $20 million reserve.

The Type 64 was constructed with many used VW Beetle parts. It has an air-cooled flat-four engine and built to compete in the Berlin to Rome road race. The event was a celebration of Nazi Germany’s alliance with Fascist Italy.


Article Last Updated: August 20, 2019.

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