The “First Porsche” Was on Track to Sell for $20M, But the Auctioneers Bungled It

Watch as the 1939 Porsche Type 64 climbs to $70M … then tanks

1939 Porsche Type 64 RM Sotheby's
At Monterey Car Week, this Porsche Type 64 — the marque's oldest existing car — was supposed to auction off for at least $20 million.
Jack Schroeder ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
By Alex Lauer / August 20, 2019 1:18 pm

Back in May, we told the story of the oldest existing Porsche, a 1939 Type 64 built under Ferdinand Porsche (then under the direction of the Nazis) that was heading to RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction. The sale was set for this past Saturday. It was written up in every major preview piece. The car was supposed to sell for at least $20 million. Then, something went wrong.

On Saturday night at the Monterey Conference Center in California, RM Sotheby’s bungled the auction. The Porsche didn’t just sell for less than expected — it didn’t sell at all.

The saga is recounted moment-by-moment in The New York Times, but here’s the gist of it: The bidding was supposed to start at $13 million, but the auction screen showed $30 million, and then instead of going up by increments of $1 million or less, it went up by $10 million with each new bid. But when it reached $70 million — an unprecedented price for a car auction — the auctioneer clarified the price was in fact $17, not $70, million.

You can watch video of the gaffe below, where it seems that the auctioneer’s accent is what’s causing the confusion:

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For one of the first Porsche Cars built….

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As the Times reports, some in the automotive world are passing around more insidious conspiracy theories that this was a publicity stunt. But the auction house responded, saying, “This was in no way intentional on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”

Whatever the true cause, there is one good thing to come out of it all: the car is still for sale. The final bid of $17 million didn’t meet the reserve, so the auction house told the Times that they “will continue making every effort to sell the car.”

You’ll need to cough up more than $20 million, but hey, you’ll probably get it for less than $70M.

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