The 911 debuted back in 1964 and more than 40 years later it remains one of world's most unique—and best-loved—sports cars
In the late 1950s, Porsche began working on what would be a new model to entirely replace the 356. The styling was based on a set of guidelines prepared by Ferry Porsche and developed by his son, "Butzi." The new Porsche was intended to be an evolutionary design and continue in the established Porsche tradition (Dean Batchelor from the Illustrated Porsche Buyer's Guide).
The new Porsche was designed in a remarkably short time. Its unveiling took place at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, and it was met with great enthusiasm. The new model initially carried the number 901; however, in 1965, it was renamed the 911 due to a conflict with copyrighted Peugeot production codes.
The new car featured an entirely new and larger engine than the 356. The chassis was designed with greater control and better handling in mind. The result was the creation of one of the longest running and most successful sports car models in history.
The car offered here is one of 235 original 911 short-wheelbase examples from 1965. While little history about the car is available, this 911 was sympathetically restored to driver standards approximately two years ago. Sprayed in the attractive color of Irish Green and trimmed in the desirable black and white houndstooth fabric, this 911 has a lovely varnished wood dash and steering wheel.
Complete with the correct steel wheels, hubcaps, and period-correct tires, this car is presented today from a passionate 911 collector who drives his cars. Not commonly seen on the auction market, this 911 represents a rare opportunity to acquire the first year of the legendary 911 production run.
The SCM Analysis
This car was sold at Christie's Greenwich Concours d'Elegance sale on June 3, 2007, for the staggering sum of $71,500, against an optimistic pre-sale estimate of $25,000-$35,000. This is not a clarion call for every #3 condition 1965 production 911 to be worth quadruple what it was last week. It is, rather, a highly unusual result.
Although the auction catalog description above notes this to be one of 235 cars produced in 1965, a look at the serial number shows this is an unfortunate error. The original 235 cars were built in 1964 and carry the first three digits of "300." The early 1965 cars have the prefix of "301" and the second batch of 1965 cars have "302," as does this example. In addition to these sets of early production cars, there were 13 prototypes built in 1963 and early 1964 with entirely different serial number sequences.
The first 235 1964 production 911s built have slowly acquired a cult-like following among Porsche cognoscenti, always anxious to stay one step ahead of the others in the crowd. If this were one of the original 235 cars, even given its humble condition and complete lack of history, it would have been fairly bought at the hammer price.
I applaud the catalog for correctly noting this example as a "driver," what with so many cars over-described these days. In this case, the car showed a few rust bubbles, old undercoat on the chassis, non-original seat coverings, improper painted steel wheels (all early 911s had chrome wheels), and a host of other small issues. To make this a special car, you'd have to take it apart and mostly start over, typical of a car rated in #3 condition.
The pace of the bidding cycle is interesting to note here, as it quickly made its high estimate and then continued in $5,000 increments between a bidder on site and a phone bidder. My understanding is that both bidders were aware this was a 911 from the 1965 model year, and both were in the U.S. The increments slowed down to $2,000 after awhile, but those were still large jumps. This result was the classic case of two people wanting the car almost no matter what the price, and my great concern is that neither of them was aware that this is not one of the original 235 produced, but rather a fairly ordinary early production 911.
So what is so special about the original 235 911s produced? Really, not much, and most of it is bad. It isn't that these cars are better, they are just different and that was enough to start the bidding wars.
How to spot one of the original 911s
Here's a rundown on how to spot one of the original 235 911s: If it is still as delivered, the car will have the troublesome Solex carburetors and self-destructing open-jointed half shafts. Both of these are fine for museum cars but difficult to live with for cars that are driven further than on and off the trailer at concours events. The bulkhead panel below the engine cover that carried the release mechanism will be of a slightly different pressing than those used on subsequent 1965 models. The knee pads under the dashboard will not turn up at the edges, as done on later models.
Note that most of these design features carried on, for various periods of time, through the 1965 and early 1966 models. So there isn't anything wildly distinctive about these first 235 cars that makes them instantly important, with one exception--the chassis number. But for some, apparently, that is more than enough.
Don't recalibrate your 911 price chart just yet. At every market top there are excesses, and this may be one of the best examples in the Porsche world we've seen recently. Let's watch a few more of these cars sell before we reach any new conclusions about the values of regular production 1965 911 Porsches in #3 condition.
Years Produced: 1964-68
Number Produced: 10,634
Original List Price: $6,000 approx.
SCM Valuation: $20,000-$35,000
Tune-up Cost: $300
Distributor Caps: $20
Chassis # Location: On horizontal bulkhead under front hood
Engine # Location: Stamped into alloy engine block near right side of cooling fan, on vertical support bar
Club Info: Porsche Club of America, 5530 Edgemont Dr., Alexandria, VA 22310
Alternatives: 1968-74 BMW 2800/3.0 CS, 1968-71 Mercedes 280SL, 1961-71 Jaguar XKE coupe