World's first Porsche fails to sell at an auction

The Porsche Type 64 car was bidding up to $70 million until it wasn't

However, on Saturday night in well-moneyed Monterey, California (the small city that's been acerbically memorialized in the HBO hit series Big Little Lies), the proceedings of an automobile auction ground to an uncomfortable halt when it became clear that the auctioneer was either accidentally or deliberately misstating the price of a distinctly unique item: a 1939 Porsche Type 64.

The controversial silver coupe had been expected to sell for some US$20 million before a massive mistake by the auction house upset the crowded room, leaving some collectors to believe it was an attempt at a joke.

It was one of the most farcical vehicle auctions in recent history. The auctioneer then realised the mistake and sale of the auto was stopped. Then another bid came in and the price around the room flew up to $70 million, at which point the auctioneer with a thick accent declared there was a problem; the bidding was at $17 million, not $70 million. The company said it was an "unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room". RM Sotheby's had lined up the sale. My father could have bought that auto for $5 million years ago. Insiders at RM Sotheby's described the current market as "a bloodbath".

But the Type 64 was the most white-hot of the lot, with noted collectors and Porsche bigwigs discussing its veracity in hushed tones for weeks before the sale.

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The auto was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and three cars were said to be built around the time World War 2 started.

Some observers, led by the terminology in RM Sotheby's own auction catalogue, called the silver coupe a true Porsche. It was based on one of Ferdinand Porsche's earlier designs, the KdF-Wagen.

Technically, the Porsche Type 64 isn't a Porsche at all. VW supplied the engine and most of its parts, with other components bought from Fiat, according to Bloomberg. It is said that Ferdinand Porsche's son, Ferry, applied the Porsche badge to the auto. However, the Type 64 is considered an ancestor of today's Porsche sports cars bearing "Porsche's DNA, " Porsche Museum spokesperson Astrid Böttinger said recently.

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