They call the Corvette “America’s Sports Car”. If you were to use that same type of phrasing for Germany or even all of Europe, the car to settle on would probably have to be the Porsche 911. In production for over half a century now, it’s been a reasonably practical daily driver, a status symbol, a performance benchmark and a racing champion, making it one of the most versatile and important performance automobiles ever made. This partly explains why, in the general craziness of the collector car market over the last several years and especially ever since the car’s widely celebrated 50th anniversary in 2013, values have skyrocketed for classic 911s. This includes even the basic early cars as well as some of the more recent special, limited production versions. By classic, we mean air-cooled, and that goes from the very first short-wheelbase cars to the very last 993 in 1998 (a blue one that sold to Jerry Seinfeld, to be exact).
Now, while the significance of the 911 certainly makes it a desirable car for enthusiasts and collectors, part of what gives a classic car value is rarity, and these cars just aren’t rare. Porsche built 410,348 air-cooled 911s, and thanks to high build quality and typically wealthy, caring owners, many of these are still around. Even so, the demand for air-cooled 911s, especially for the special and high-performance versions that actually are rare, has proven so strong that 911s of all ages have shot up steeply in value over the last several years, with some even doubling in value over the last five years. This onward and upward trend in value was highly visible in the aftermath of any collector car auction last year, and the take way line from more than a few of these auctions was how strong the 911 market is and it’s not slowing down. It’s mostly the same story in 2015 so far, with good examples from across the broad spectrum of 911 history selling for big prices that continue to surprise.
The first 911s were relatively basic in terms of their equipment and performance, but as the earliest examples they have significance and have generally driven the upswing in the 911 market. In Scottsdale earlier this year, RM sold a fully restored 1965 example for $297,000. Five years ago it wouldn’t have even been worth 100 grand, and ten years ago it wouldn’t have been worth fifty. RM also sold a 1971 911 T in Amelia Island back in March for $110,000. The T was just the 125-horsepower base model at the time, and aside from impressive condition the car wasn’t that remarkable, but at this point it doesn’t seem to matter and it still brought twice what it probably would have back in 2010. The trend is there on both ends of the spectrum for early 911s as well with cars like the Carrera RS 2.7, a racing-oriented model that is a top choice among road-going Porsches of this era. RM sold one, also at Amelia Island in March, for $891,000. Gooding & Company had a much rarer RS 2.7 Sport Lightweight at Amelia Island as well, and although this car failed to sell, it had a high bid of $900,000. Again, these prices had roughly doubled in the same amount of time.
What’s true of the early cars is true of the later ones in general, and most all of the air-cooled cars, even from the ‘90s, have moved out of used car territory and into the realm of collectability. This early 911 Turbo (930) was the first truly successful turbocharged road car and established the 911 as an exotic supercar, but only recently has that translated to value. Mecum sold a very clean 1987 930 in Kissimmee back in January for $84,000. It’s not unheard of for a 930 to break into six figure territory, but only a couple of years ago even the best ones were more like 60 to 70 grand.
Since even the regular series models have drastically increased in value, it’s no surprise that the rarer special models have as well. One example is the Carrera Speedster of the late 1980s. The car was a nod back to the spartan 356 Speedster of the 1950s, and a little more than 2,000 were made. Many saw them as “instant collectibles” at the time and hoarded them. They weren’t taken very seriously in the market for a long time, but now low-mileage Speedsters have been popping up at auctions all over, and they frequently bring strong prices. Bonhams sold one in Scottsdale this year for $214,500, which is typical today. Their value has effectively doubled in the past year.
993s especially, widely regarded as the best the 911 ever got, have been in such high demand that values have gone up noticeably not year over year, but month over month. Examples of the two most desirable 993 versions have come up for auction this year, with a 993 Turbo S selling at Amelia Island this year for $440,000 and a specimen of the race-oriented 43-horsepower GT2, one of 57 built, selling for $973,500. That’s several times what the GT2 cost when it was new ($200,000), and that wasn’t even 20 years ago.
Of course, these increases all come at a time of general growth in the collector car market. The 911, though, has been one of the standout cars leading the charge as well as being one of the most plentiful and identifiable models that qualifies as a high-end collector car. The reputation of the 911 for performance, build quality practicality have spread widely, and as more and more new collectors are getting into acquiring sports cars, a 911 is a popular choice. But as demand increases, the supply of air-cooled 911s is staying the same (unless you count the ratty older examples being restored) and there are limited places to look for one. Something is only worth as much as someone will pay for it, and for the time being as more people become aware of and covet these old Porsches and as speculation in buying and selling classic cars continues to pay off, that amount will likely to continue to climb upwards.
Photos: Gooding & Company, RM Auctions, Bonhams