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Book review: The Essential Porsche 356 Buyer’s Guide

Book review: The Essential Porsche 356 Buyer’s Guide

It’s telling that item two of Dr Brett Johnson’s list of “eleven essential items to bring along when heading out to view a Porsche 356 for sale” – part of Veloce Publishing’s latest Porsche 356 Essential Buyer’s Guide – is reading glasses. “Take your reading glasses if you need them to read documents and make close up inspections” advises the good Doctor. He is not wrong. Most people I know with the resources to buy a classic Porsche 356 have definitely advanced to the reading glasses stage.

“There was a time when Porsche 356s were reasonably priced transportation for people without children. Regrettably, that was fifty years ago. Now they are high-priced toys for the same demographic,” says Brett. I enjoy this sort of writing. The latest edition of “The Essential Buyer’s Guide: Porsche 356” has the same tone throughout, asserting what to steer clear of in a clear and light-hearted way, without being overly onerous.

The book opens with a short introduction before working its way through seventeen chapters. The early chapters explore considerations when the purchase is still at the dream stage, but as the first viewing looms closer, the content firms up, with two chapters on what to look for in both a 15-minute inspection and a 60-minute inspection.

Four pages cover the model evolution: you’ll probably have experienced a few cars by the time you decide to get serious. I’ve driven quite a few 356s and they are all fun to be in, so it’s hard to pick one that I would buy if in the market. While the early cars have that proximity to the origin story, the later ones get things like disc brakes. Early cars are perhaps a bit prettier: I think a pre-A is a beautiful thing. They are all fairly tough. Whichever model you drive, it will turn heads, especially with ladies. Good 356s are also very solid residually.

The author’s track record is worth noting. The former veterinarian and Porsche part expert’s 1997 book: “The 356 Porsche: A Restorer’s Guide to Authenticity” has a 4.5 rating from 32 Amazon reviews. With circa 45,000 copies sold to date, the original version gets a few thumbs down for the lack of engine details and darker black-and-white photographs typical of a budget production, but good feedback on the rest. Later editions are available.

This compact 64-page Buyer’s Guide from the same author features many colour photos, but all are quite small, contributing colour and diversity rather than much information. The text has many interesting details, however: certainly enough to educate any 356 novice. I like how Brett engages the reader. I found nothing disagreeable. As a 356 fan but no sort of expert, I learned quite a bit by reading the book.

Reaching the end left me hungry for more, so I looked at used prices for the bigger restoration guide and dug out some of my own 356 books. While there is more than enough information in the Essential Buyer’s Guide to justify a purchase, I can see some people getting through it quite quickly and reading a second time to review what they missed.

While a buyer’s guide book should not be expected to replace the trained eye of a seasoned expert – and my advice is to always have a car inspected by an expert before any money changes hands – the low cost of this work versus the substantial time one would have to invest elsewhere to learn all that it covers means that this book should be considered essential reading for anyone setting out to buy a Porsche 356. With 356s now costing upwards of $56k for a barn find with interesting one-owner provenance at auction and no real upper limit for the very best cars, educating oneself on what to watch out for and thus save a lot of wasted time and effort is a total no-brainer. This little book is definitely worth having.

The publisher’s price is £13.99 in the UK, although Amazon is showing some cheaper prices. Veloce is currently doing a 35% off stay at home sale, so that’s worth a look too. Visit the webshop at


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Coronavirus hits Classic Car Auction Sales

Coronavirus hits Classic Car Auction Sales

RM Sotheby’s has announced that its second auction at the annual Techno Classica Essen car show (which was to be held at the end of March) will be postponed to June 2020 due to the coronavirus scare.

“RM Sotheby’s today announces that its forthcoming Essen auction (scheduled 26-27 March) is postponed until the second half of June. RM Sotheby’s, along with all participants of The Techno-Classica Essen show, are working in consultation with the organisers of the event in order to establish a fixed new date. The decision to not proceed with original dates comes in light of the global COVID-19 outbreak and the need to secure the safety of the exhibitors, staff, auction and event visitors, and all decisions are being made in consultation with the health department of the German government.

“It is both our and the Techno-Classica organisation’s primary goal to ensure the good health of our customers, auction visitors and staff, while all parties are committed to reorganizing this incredible annual event as quickly as possible in 2020. RM Sotheby’s will do all it can to ensure the transition to a new date is as smooth as possible for all involved. We will be in touch with news of the new date as soon as it is settled.”

Techno Classica is a yearly ritual for me, so, assuming the fair goes ahead, I am heading for Essen. Having an auction on site is a handy addition and I will miss the opportunity to sit amongst bidders.

Last year’s auction – the first at Techno Classica – was held in a basement close to one of the furthest entrances from the centre. In previous years, this space had been filled by a mixed bag of enthusiast stands and trade sellers, none of whom one would place in the top tier of cars being shown. One had to leave the main arena to access this hall and, for those coming in from the main entrance, it was possible to miss it entirely.

Footfall consequently felt fairly low, with many people skipping the hall through no fault of their own. One UK trade seller I spoke to at length who had consigned a Porsche 911 Turbo to the sale was disappointed with the bidding, but that might have been caused by a high asking price and a general lethargy around the model he was offering.

Sotheby’s press release after the event painted an upbeat picture. “RM Sotheby’s wrapped up the company’s first-ever German auction, reaching total sales of €18.7 million with 86 percent of all 229 lots on offer finding new homes. The two-day sale represents one of the most successful and significant collector car auctions ever held in Germany in terms of both total value and number of cars sold. The auction took place in a packed room on both days and drew bidders from 46 countries, with more than 40 percent of participants being first-time RM Sotheby’s clientele.”

This certainly sounds like an exciting result, but auctions rely on generating some fever and it felt a bit like the fever was going on elsewhere. A better spot for the auction might have been in one of the spaces between halls, where the buzz is constant and the sound of an auction in progress would build on that excitement. Sotheby’s always put on a characterful show and it felt wasted downstairs in the basement.

Porsche Auction Sales Mix

The catalogue for this year’s Techno Classica sale included several Porsches. The online catalogue shows 217 lots in total, with 203 being vehicles and sixteen being Porsches: two water cooled 911s in the shape of a 2005 996 Turbo S Coupe and a 2014 991 Turbo S Coupe, a 1992 928 GTS manual, no less than eight 356 models of various types and five air-cooled 911s, including a 1977 Carrera 3.0 Coupe with little early history but offered without reserve (below).

The 2020 Essen Porsche auction mix is quite different to last year’s sale, which comprised 229 lots, 212 of which were vehicles. Seventeen of these were Porsche vehicles, including two tractors, one water-cooled 911 – a 2011 997 GT3 RS – three 928s and several air-cooled 911s. Everything sold except for two cars: both of which were air-cooled Turbos, which have been sinking from their overinflated prices in recent years.

While there is still decent demand for quality air-cooled cars sold by private owners and my Porsche valuation service including Porsche pre-purchase price checks has been busy all year, supply of the best examples through the used trade and auction market does seem a bit squeezed and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I recently contributed to a piece in Classic Cars magazine on the 993 RS being offered at Sotheby’s Retromobile Paris sale on February 5th: a nice street optioned car with decent history, which failed to sell despite an apparently sensible estimate.

Auction Results for Sotheby’s Paris Porsche sale

The Paris sale was quite a low volume event. Just 97 lots were shown on the catalogue and only 78 of those were vehicles, with five of those offerings carrying Porsche badges. Two of the five failed to sell: one being the 993 RS and the other a black and gold Carrera GT modified from new by Gemballa for a footballer. The sellers were a 904 Carrera GTS at €1.9 million, a super low mileage 996 GT3 RS Club Sport that found a home at €250,000 and an ex-Porsche 924 Carrera GTS, which sold for over €200,000. Clearly there was money in the room for the right car, so it seems that the RS was not that example.

Postponing the TechnoClassica sale seems like a sensible option, both for sellers who don’t want their car to fail to sell in public due to low footfall and the auctioneers who don’t want a flop on their hands so early in the life of an annual event. Of course coronavirus is also a concern, but timing is everything in Porsche sales and June may give these eight 356s a much better chance.

One has to wonder what will come of the TechnoClassica if Germany follows the lead of other countries and prohibits events gathering of more than 5,000 people at a time. My hotel is non-refundable, so there’s a good lesson to start with!

Photos by Dirk de Jager ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Damp week for Dario’s Porsche 964 Speedster sale

Damp week for Dario’s Porsche 964 Speedster sale

The wettest November on record came in 1852. After heavy rain through summer and autumn, records show that things reached disastrous levels in November, when large parts of the country ended up underwater. Even Queen Victoria noted in her diary that half of Windsor was submerged.

The rainfall in November 2019 is so far shaping up to beat the record set 167 years ago, so no wonder that Dario Franchitti’s Porsche 964 Speedster has popped up for sale through Bonhams in their RAF Museum sale in London on November 21st.

Dario picked up this Speedster in 2010 while driving for Ganassi and shipped it back to the UK when he moved home to Scotland in 2014. The four-time IndyCar champ was the third owner of the Guards Red Speedster after its delivery to the original buyer in February 1994.

I’m by no means an expert on the Franchitti collection, but he and I did discuss his Porsche fleet in a chat at Tuthills a few months ago. The main topic of conversation was the surprise restoration of his dad’s original 930, presented as a surprise after the return to Scotland. That was a very cool story.

While Dario has a thing for red cars, and the Speedster is certainly red with a capital R, a Speedster may not instantly strike you as an obvious Franchitti choice, but a manual 964 Speedster is good fun to drive. Dario previously shipped the car from his US base in Tennessee to California, for a 2k-mile road trip up and down PCH1.

“The fact that it was a convertible was good in California,” Dario told Motor Trend. “I did about 2,000 miles in a couple of weeks, so that was quite good fun. I drove it down to L.A. and up to San Francisco a couple of times while based at the Monterey Historics.”

I drove those roads through the redwoods in my Pacific Blue 911 SC and for sure they’d be fun in a Speedster. My 964 Speedster drives have all been ace and the 17″ Cup wheels, factory limited slip differential and the RS buckets fitted to this one just up the attraction. MOT history shows the 964 has only done a few hundred miles a year since coming back to the UK. A quick look online also shows that the car has previously been offered for sale, with no takers.

Chassis number WP0CB2965RS465353 appeared in the catalogue for the September Silverstone Auctions sale at our local polo club. Low estimate was a sensible £125k but the car failed to find a buyer. At least Silverstone’s pictures (seen here) showed more of an effort than Bonhams. It has also apparently been offered at supercar dealer, Joe Macari in London with no joy. So now it is heading off to another auction.

Some friends of mine once lived in a very posh squat around the corner from the RAF Museum. Hendon in a soaking wet November doesn’t strike me as the sort of place one would predict a Speedster to sell well. Personally I would book it for the auction they hold at Monaco Historic GP every May and watch it romp off amongst fellow race drivers and – HELLO – some good old-fashioned SUNSHINE. Easy sales are all about timing.

PS: note the good reg plate on this car: 111 XRF. I would take that off before the auction. It will not add a cent to the price for an overseas buyer (good odds) and is too cool to give away. Sell the car to a Euro buyer in Monaco and keep the plate for something else. Always, always, always take plates off unless they are of historic significance to the chassis.


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Porsche 2-Litre v 3-Litre at auction

Porsche 2-Litre v 3-Litre at auction

Two red Porsche 911s caught my eye in the catalogue for the upcoming Aguttes sale in Lyon, France on November 9th. Values for both models soared when the Porsche market exploded but, as Orwell said, some pigs are more equal than others. Their potential selling prices are poles apart.

1966 Porsche 911 2-litre

Estimated at €180-200,000, this Polo Red SWB Porsche 911 – chassis number 304392 – was supplied through Sweden in May 1966 to a racer from Trollhättan. Built with triple Weber carburettors instead of the usual Solex, it lived in Sweden right up to the turn of the century, until it turned up in Germany.

Porsche 911 2.0 auction – photo by Aguttes

The car then sold to a museum in Austria and, when that closed, it passed through keepers in Switzerland and on to Normandy in France. By this stage it needed some money spent: the 2L market was buoyant in 2014 so it was fully repainted in the factory colour and restored to period spec.

Prettied up, it sold to another French collector and was sent to the racing mechanic, Pierre Modas, for an engine and transmission rebuild. Porsche dealers changed a few other bits and in total over €30,000 was spent on the mechanical restoration. The same work in the UK would probably cost a bit more, which perhaps suggests there was not much to do at the start or there may be a bit more to do now. Webers take less restoration than Solex, for sure.

1966 Porsche 911 2.0 interior – photo by Aguttes

The auctioneers claim this is an authentic example, but who can know without inspecting. A lot of 2-litres passed through various specialists while the market was freaking out and some work is better than others. The history is certainly interesting: particularly the Swedish angle.

1976 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 at auction

The other car in the catalogue that caught my eye was a 1976 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 Coupe. Estimated at €45-65,000, chassis number 9116600485 is a matching numbers example, first supplied by Dieteren in Belgium, that has been refinished in Guards Red/Indian Red from its original grey.

1976 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 – photo by Aguttes

Restoration or replacement of bits including half-floors, front crossmember (likely front pan) and the bumper mounts suggest the car was used well from new, or perhaps even caught a bit of damage somewhere, so the speedo reading of fairly low kms for the year may not be verifiable.

It has also had a new fuel tank (pretty standard for impact bumper cars of this era) and the suspension, brakes and steering have apparently been refurbished. The gearbox is also said to have been overhauled, though there is no mention of the engine or K-Jet being stripped. The car comes with bills for over €40k and plenty of photos for bidders to check.

1976 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 interior – photo by Aguttes

Owned by the current owner since 2010, this car was entered in the Hotel de Ventes sale at Monaco in July 2017 with an estimate of €60-80k at the time. It failed to sell for whatever reason and so returns to the sale rooms with a lower price tag attached. The drop of €15k on low estimate is where I see the market for a nice C3 right now: if I owned a car like this (assuming it is all as described) and if it didn’t fetch €45k, I would probably keep it. In a market as tough as this one has been through 2019, they could have done better pics to get interest going.

Porsche Colour Change vs Market Price

The factory colour is always what people get hooked on, but it is hard to say whether this 1976 Carrera 3.0 Coupe would offer a better sales prospect in original ‘grey’. Red is rare and looks good on early impact bumpers. The car also retains its original 5-bladed fan and has the 15″ Fuchs, which are more correct than 16s on a ’76. It’s starting pretty cheap for a C3 at €45k, so we’ll see how it goes on the day.

1976 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 engine – photo by Aguttes

My interest in this one is obvious – the effect of colour change on a Carrera 3.0 Coupe. My ’76 C3 was repainted in Continental Orange from the original Copper Bronze Metallic and, while I like the colour a lot, it will have to be redone at some stage. The option to refinish in the original or something completely different will therefore be mine somewhere down the road and more information may help make a ‘better’ decision.

Prices only matter when you sell and that is not something on my radar right now. Never say never, though. The clock is ticking and my kids won’t want it.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Trial by Fire for a 3.2 Carrera

Trial by Fire for a 3.2 Carrera


It’s been a steady year for insurance claims: I’ve helped in several claims via agreed insurance valuations I supplied on various classic Porsche models. Some of these claims are still ongoing, so I won’t go into specifics, but a write-off claim for one client with a 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 G50 Coupe recently settled and he’s given me the OK to share details.

The car was a high mileage example that had been fully restored over time, with bodywork refinished in original Baltic Blue, rebuilt engine with a LSD in the G50 transmission, full suspension rebuild with Centre Gravity setup and front seats re-trimmed in correct linen leather. The car had certainly lived a life and the owner had toured extensively in it, clocking up 75k miles over ten years together, including a long road trip with mum as the navigator.

In a Danish ferry queue en route to Iceland this summer, the Carrera’s engine was started to move through check-in, then the engine cut out and smoke began to waft from the engine compartment. This was quickly followed by the stomach-churning woof of flame, as petrol from what is thought to have been a failed fuel hose ignited. Small flames became big flames and there was suddenly lots of activity, with fire extinguishers rushing in from cars all around. Here’s a video that no one wants to live through:

Engine fires catch quickly and can be difficult to extinguish. The owner disconnected the battery sharpish when the starter began to engage of its own accord, but fuel pressure kept the fire going. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the damage was done.

The car was insured with Classicline in the UK, with European breakdown cover by ADAC. Part of my insurance valuation service is to make myself available in an advisory capacity if something goes wrong while the valuation is valid, so the owner got in touch immediately after the incident.

A quick look at the pics told me the car would end up as a write-off (an uneconomic repair). ADAC inspectors decided the same and declined to repatriate the car to the UK, in line with their terms and conditions. The owner was then left to sort things out via his insurers.

Classicline was very sympathetic following the traumatic event and the loss of a treasured 911: the firm gets a huge thumbs up from the owner in every respect. The car was brought back to the UK and inspected by an experienced assessor. The cost to repair using all new Porsche parts was put at £34k including VAT and the additional costs of repatriation and moving the car around the UK – including to the owner’s preferred specialist for a detailed inspection on site – put the total claim value into the write-off zone.

Insurers usually hold agreed valuation certificates as valid for two years at a time, but given the up-and-down nature of the market in recent years, the owner had been careful to update his agreed valuation annually. My most recent insurance valuation was at similar money to a car with half the mileage, but this car had been cherished and kept in superb condition.

History has taught me to prepare for the worst case scenario, so my policy is to set agreed valuations in line with recent data and independent market observations at as high a level as I would feel comfortable later justifying in court. This honours my professional responsibility and is fair to both sides. Classicline did not dispute the agreed valuation I had supplied, so it all came down to the final settlement offer.

The offer to retain the salvage came in at around the level expected. The final decision to repair or to take the full payout was not made lightly: there were some lengthy late-night phone calls discussing other options, especially considering current market conditions. After ten years and many miles, the owner decided to let the car go and move on to the next chapter. I’m not sure what might arrive in the garage next: a very nice Saab 900 Turbo is currently filling the hole.

Total Loss: nightmare vs opportunity

I have regular conversations with valuation clients who are thinking of selling their cars, or whose cars are subject to a total loss or write-off claim, so thoughts of what I would do with an insurance payout or sale proceeds are never far from my mind. I don’t drive my classics all that often, but losing any one of them would be a heartbreak and the last thing I want in the middle of that is to be battling with an insurer, so I use agreed valuations on all of my cars and motorcycles for maximum peace of mind.

As someone who has been working with owners and insurers and valuing cars professionally for almost twenty years, it never ceases to amaze me just how many classic cars are insured on market valuation rather than agreed valuation policies and how many owners recommend market valuation. This is madness.

If this car had been agreed on a market valuation, the owner would now be in the middle of a battle to get the best settlement and the final number would likely fall well short of what was achieved. Market valuation may save a few pounds at policy start, but these pictures of the damage, the repair estimate and the swift, no-hassle resolution put the one advantage of going with a market valuation (saving a small sum of money) into perspective.

I cannot stress strongly enough that people should agree their insurance valuations from the start. Get an agreed valuation from a trusted, independent source and don’t add to the misery of total loss. Contact me via or use the links below if you need any help or advice.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support my work or engage with me in other ways, you can:



Porsche cars to watch at Sothebys London

Porsche cars to watch at Sothebys London

RM Sotheby’s end-of-year London sale takes place this Thursday at Olympia in Kensington. Fifteen Porsche cars are amongst the lots on offer and half of those cars are being sold without reserve. Here’s a look at three of the no-reserve Porsches that caught my eye.

1965 Porsche 356C LHD Coupe – estimate £50-60k

Chassis number 221132 is a Porsche 356 C 1600 Coupe. Finished in Light Ivory, Sotheby’s website doesn’t offer too many clues, but the car had previously sold at Goodwood Revival in 2008, so I dug out those details.

This ‘65 C Coupe began its life in California, where it was sold to a policeman from El Cerrito. In 1971, it passed from one policeman to another and stayed with him until it sold to the third owner in 1996. The third owner brought the car to the UK and kept it until 2008. It is offered for sale by the fourth owner.

The history includes an engine rebuild with 1700cc barrel and piston set at 112k miles, a transmission overhaul at 114k miles and a bare metal respray in its original colour, which was carried out in the UK. MOT history shows that the car has not been MOT’d since 2008, when it passed with a list of advisories including oil leaks and split CV boots. Interested parties should therefore proceed with caution, but a potentially solid 356C with sensible ownership since new and sold no reserve is worth a second look.

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet – estimate £80-130k

Chassis number WP0ZZZ93ZJS020221 is a 1988 Porsche 930 Cabriolet with two owners from new. Presented in Diamond Blue Metallic with Cashmere Beige leather trim, the odometer shows 26k miles but, as Sotheby’s description doesn’t mention the mileage, assume it’s unwarranted.

I put this four-speed Turbo Cab on my watch list, not because it is a great example of the breed, but because 930 prices are an important benchmark for air-cooled 911s and the market has been a bit shaky.

The 930 had the highest cost new in period and open sale prices for these cars highlight real-time premiums for turbocharged vs normally aspirated 911s. The 930 market has been under pressure since the high water line of 2015, so this unrestored car in an elegant colour mix offered with no reserve will lay down a useful data point.

1992 LHD Porsche 968 Club Sport ex-factory press car – estimate £35-50k

The car I am most keen to follow is chassis number WP0ZZZ96ZPS815075: a left-hand drive 1992 Porsche 986 Club Sport in Speed Yellow. This 968 has a super interesting history that was recently shared in 911 & Porsche World magazine. The auction entry may have been encouraged by enthusiasm around the piece and that enthusiasm could be rewarded on Thursday.

Detective work by the current owner with assistance from the Porsche archive revealed that this 968 Club Sport was the factory press car used in several notable articles on the model. Walter Röhrl drove the car in a four-way road test printed in Auto Zeitung and called it ‘the best handling car that Porsche makes’. The history is very well documented and includes several Porsche factory service stamps, a top-end rebuild, clutch and flywheel at Parr and a huge list of work carried out by its current custodian over almost two decades.

I have a side interest in cars like this one that passed through the hands of well known racer and dealer, Nick Faure, as my early 944 Lux is one of those cars. Faure is a true devotee of the transaxle Porsches and those who love these cars tend to love them for life. I adore the 924, 944 and 968 models and there can’t be too many 968 Club Sports with such enjoyable provenance.

The light blue 930 has a fairly bullish estimate at £80-130k given the condition seen in the photos, while this apparently perfect 968 Club Sport at £35-50k feels relatively conservative in comparison. I suspect it may do slightly better: everything depends on who’s in the room when the cars come over the block in Kensington and whether there’s any hangover from the Type 64 debacle in Monterey. I would love to be there in person, but the dentist is calling…

Pics by Tom Gidden, Dirk de Jager and Adam Warner for RM Sotheby’s

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support this blog or to engage with me in other ways, you can: