RM Sotheby’s to offer Gulf-Porsche 917K at Monterey
The Canadian auction house has revealed an early star lot of its August 2021 Monterey Week sale: the Porsche 917K raced once in Gulf colours at Le Mans in 1970 before enjoying a brief period as an open-bodied Interserie Spyder.
Chassis 026, renumbered by Porsche ‘031’ for its Spyder conversion in 1971, was the Hobbs/Hailwood entry at Le Mans in 1970. The car, instantly recognised by the broad orange panel covering tcockpit, roof and tail, slid off the road in the wet in only the third hour of the race with the bike racer at the wheel.
Despite urgent signals from the team at Mulsanne to change tyres for wets, Hailwood decided to go round ‘one more time’ and lost control on the downhill section after the Dunlop bridge, hitting a parked Alfa Romeo and badly damaging the 917’s nose.
As an open car in Europe’s answer to Can-Am, German driver Jürgen Neuhaus won many rounds in the yellow-and-red Shell-sponsored Spyder. It was raced on and off for the next two years before passing first to Count Chandon and then US collector Mike Amalfitano in 1978, who retained it until August 2010 when Bonhams sold it for $3,967,000 at Quail Lodge. An accompanying lot of 917K-type body panels achieved $182,000 at the same event. The current British owner bought the car and over a five-year period restored it to correct 1970 Le Mans spec. Since completion, it has only been displayed or demonstrated, not raced.
Known as ‘031/026’, the 917K carries a pre-sale estimate of $16,000,000 to $18,500,00. The world of 917 chassis numbering is Byzantine, however the history of this one – and sister car ‘026/031’, a chassis that finished 2nd at Le Mans in 1971 – is well documented. The guide price is probably correct, given that a Gulf or Martini 917K with the best provenance and life spent only as a coupé is probably around the $25m mark. Gooding sold chassis 024, a 1969 factory 917 later converted to a Gulf 917K for use in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans, for $14,080,000 in August 2017.
After 18 months of lockdown, though, and the absence of any big events and auctions in that time, who knows what will happen on the night.
Photo by RM Sotheby’s