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Rare Air at Saratoga Springs

Rare Air at Saratoga Springs

The beautiful Porsche collection of Steven Harris is about to go on show at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York. Running through to autumn 2021, the exhibition includes many significant models in original factory condition, but also some cars that were modified to match the owner’s intentions. The list of air-cooled Porsches on show includes:

  • 1956 356A Carrera Coupe
  • 1957 356A Carrera Speedster
  • 1958 356A Carrera GT Coupe
  • 1959 Carrera GS Cabriolet
  • 1960 356B T5 Roadster
  • 1963 Carrera 2 GS Cabriolet
  • 1964 356C Couple – Peking to Paris Rally car
  • 1973 911T “SHTang”/RGruppe
  • 1973 911 Carrera RS
  • 1974 911 Carrera RS 3.0
  • 1984 911 SCRS
  • 1992 964 911 Carrera RS Lightweight
  • 1992 964 911 RS N-GT “Macau”
  • 1994 964 911 RS 3.8
  • 1995 993 911 Carrera RS
  • 1995 993 911 GT2

As part of the exhibition’s preparations, my long-time friend and creative partner, James Lipman, flew to NY and shot the collection in studio, for an accompanying book that will document the collection at this moment in time. The photos seen here are by James.

Steven was responsible for introducing James to the profound effects of immersion in the social scene that surrounds air-cooled Porsche life across North America, particularly in California, where the light hits just right. James’ enthusiasm for a trip to the Baja California taken with Steven sometime in early 2009, and the wonderful images that came out of that trip, led to his selling me on the idea of doing some work out there in May of that year. This was our first R Gruppe Treffen, where we shot the two SWB 911s of Bob Tilton and Chris Nielsen that inspired a raft of work over the next two years and forged lifelong friendships.

Steven’s formative influence does not end there. An esteemed career in architecture has included professorships at Harvard, Yale and Princeton and the work of Steven Harris Architects LLP may be seen all over the world. It is my privilege to have stayed in Steven’s own house in upstate NY and to have briefly experienced what it is to exist inside the vision of a professional whose work I greatly admire.

Combining an achitectural vision with a deep understanding of air-cooled Porsche culture and history (not to mention a keen awareness of market activity) has created to the collection that is partly shown at Saratoga, including several Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance winners. I urge anyone local to the museum to visit and experience Steven’s cognitive precision as expressed through his collection, and to enjoy what blending true passion for these cars and a genetic understanding of what great design looks like can accomplish over time.

About the Saratoga Automobile Museum

The Saratoga Automobile Museum is located within the 2,500-acre Saratoga Spa State Park, in the heart of historic Saratoga Springs, New York. Famous for its legendary one-mile thoroughbred track, the Museum’s facility is the fully restored and renovated New York State Bottling Plant, a beautiful neoclassical structure completed in 1935. 

The Saratoga Automobile Museum was chartered in 1999 and officially opened to the public in June 2002, with a mission to preserve, interpret and exhibit automobiles and automotive artifacts. The museum celebrates the automobile and educates the general public, students and enthusiasts to the role of the automobile in New York State and the wider world. In addition to technical and design aspects, the educational focus is on past, present and future social and economic impacts of the automobile.

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:

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:

Wolfgang Porsche and the Pregnant Cat

Wolfgang Porsche and the Pregnant Cat

The most irritating thing about watching Youtube on a smart TV with a slightly clunky UI is scrolling past endless suggestions from promoted channels. Five things new motorbike riders don’t know, top five disturbing church videos, top five lowest jet fighter flypasts and so on. Porsche also latched on to top fives a while back and, while this format is not my favourite, they have buried some nuggets in there.

The last Top Five feature on the Porsche Youtube channel was Wolfgang Porsche’s Top Five Porsches. Filmed in the bright, spacious garage at Zell am See, the programme follows Ferry’s youngest son (above, with Hans Klauser and his dad at Le Mans 1956) through five of his favourites. The garage is packed with special cars, but his choices seem very authentic, rather than a list from some corporate PR type. Forgive my ever-present inner cynic.

Porsche 993 Turbo S

Dr Porsche’s first choice is a 993 Turbo S. 345 Turbo S models were built from 1997 onwards, with just 26 examples made in RHD. The Turbo S had a 450bhp twin-turbo flat-six and shot from 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Distinguished by several features including air intakes in the rear quarters, yellow brake calipers and a unique rear wing, all Turbo S models were built by the Exclusive department. The cars feel pretty special inside and have become highly desirable.

Wolfgang Porsche 993 Turbo S

“The 911 was the successor to the 356,” says Wolfgang. “All the diehards who drove a 356 said “How awful, what kind of a new car do you call this? This can’t be right.” The 911 has now proven itself in fifty years and has forever been undergoing further development. The diehards quietened down and there are many who now drive a 911 instead of the 356.

“My brother Ferdinand Alexander created the aesthetic design and always insisted that it should be a puristic design. He was always the one who said that cars shouldn’t have many frills. The family green was my father’s favourite colour: he had almost all his cars in green.

“The 993 Turbo S is one of the last to have an air-cooled engine. And for this reason it also has a good sound. It’s a good car in any case.”

Wolfgang’s body language when he talks about the sound – a broad emerging smile and a quick glance to the top left – speaks volumes. Big smiles are hard to fake and looking up is a sign of thinking. Looking up and left is said to show information being processed and related to a past experience or emotion. Watch for this when someone talks about a car or a bike they are trying to sell you. If they never look up and left, they really didn’t like this machine. It’s one clue that you can do some damage with your bids!

As an opening choice, the 993 was a good one. I liked the dig at the 356 crowd: socially correct Porsche banter. Hang around 356 boys long enough and you’ll learn that they all love a bit of 356 vs 911 chat: Wolfgang has clearly spent plenty of time in both camps.

The next choice is a Carrera GT and the third is a Panamera Hybrid. “My father would surely have wanted this car because he always said “the newest car is always the best.” Whenever I added an old car to my collection, he always said “why are you driving such an old car? The newer one is always the better one.””

Cars four and five get to the real meat in the sandwich. Four is the America Roadster. Finished in Stone Grey (akin to the Chalk colour chosen for the Panamera Hybrid), the 1952 America Roadster has a 70 horsepower in just 600 kilograms of aluminium bodyshell. “It’s a proper sports car from the ’50s.”

1962 Porsche 356 Carrera 2000 GS

The final car chosen is a 1962 Porsche 356 Carrera GS: Stuttgart’s ultimate performance car of the time. Fitted with the 130 bhp 2-litre four-cam engine, the Carrera 2 cost a fortune when new and just over 400 were manufactured. The cars are now highly desirable: good examples can fetch $350-400k or more at auction.

The Carrera 2 had the Type 578 engine, which had a bigger bore and stroke compared to the earlier 1.5-litre Type 547 Fuhrmann four-cam. The new engine offered more torque but it was also much larger than the earlier motor and hung down lower in the chassis.

“Underneath the skin is a proper sports car,” says Wolfgang. “The ‘Carrera’ in the name means that it’s a very sporty car from this model range. It’s got 130 hp and, in my eyes, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing because you don’t realise how powerful it is at first sight.

“The only thing that gives it away is the low-slung exhaust and this tail piece: that’s why this car is also nicknamed ‘the pregnant cat’. This car has a fantastic sound – the exhaust is simply great and the power is great. The Irish Green is one of my favourite colours.”

The Porsche Top Five videos are a slightly off-kilter explosion of brash graphics, choppy edits and Hollywood voiceover, but there is no mistaking Wolfgang’s obvious delight in the cars and what it means to own and enjoy these things: it’s all right there in one cheeky grin when he drops the pregnant cat.

Wolfgang Porsche 356 Carrera GS – Enstall Classic 2017

To me, it seems like the 356 Carrera might be his actual favourite. He’s used it on at least one Enstall Classic (above) and it is right at the point where the 911 kicks in. Perhaps no 911 could ever be as special to one of Ferry’s sons as the ultimate road-going expression of one of their father’s original cars. I can sort of understand that, if it’s the case.

Watch the video below and check out what else is hiding in the garage: 904, 959 and a row of 356 Roadsters. A sports car guy, for sure.
Wolfgang Porsche: Top 5 Porsches


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