Porsche to auction final 911 Speedster for coronavirus relief

The sports car manufacturer is selling one of the last non-turbocharged 911s ever made, known internally as '991,' which started in 2011 and ended last year

The 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster.
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Coronavirus is doing strange things in the car world.

Ford, General Motors, McLaren, and Tesla have turned their factories into outposts for medical equipment manufacturing; Bentley is holding cocktail hours for journalists, via Zoom; and Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz have released printable sketches of iconic models so enthusiasts can color them at home.

Now Porsche is auctioning off what could be one of the last non-turbocharged 911s ever made. The automaker will sell its final seventh-generation 911, a Speedster, in an online auction with RM Sotheby’s on April 15. It was the last 911 to roll off the production line as part of the wildly successful generation known internally as “991,” which Porsche started in 2011 and ended on December 20, 2019. The car is offered at no reserve. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the United Way Worldwide fund for Covid-19 pandemic relief.

“This car is a significant part of our history,” said Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. He was calling from his home in Atlanta, where he has worked since Porsche offices there closed two and a half weeks ago. “With the last of anything like this, you want to make sure it’s in a customer’s hands who appreciates its uniqueness, so it’s a chance to sell part of our history for a good cause.”

A previous Porsche, the special 911 Turbo known as “Project Gold," took $3.4 million (Dh12.5m) in a charity auction sale in 2018. But Mr Zellmer was careful to temper pricing expectations for this auction set under wildly different circumstances.

“My hopes are high, but let’s stay realistic,” Mr Zellmer said. “When we sold that Project Gold car it was a completely different time, and that car was a completely different project. I certainly hope we get a really good price on the [Speedster]. Let’s see what people do.”

The 911 Speedster for sale is a two-door car with a removable fabric roof. It is considered highly collectible because it is the last of the 991 range and the possible swan song of Porsche 911s that use naturally aspirated, rather than turbocharged, engines. (Porsche has not officially announced the end of its naturally aspirated range.)

The Speedsters are a limited-edition model that debuted in the 1950s with such variants as the 356 Carrera GT Speedster. They were produced sporadically through the following decades with examples such as the so-called 911 “G-Body” Speedster of 1988

and 2010’s 997 Speedster, which was limited to just 356 units worldwide.

The current version debuted as a concept study in 2018 at a crowded gala at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche brass and renowned driving champions attended the event, which culminated with the unveiling of a 70th-anniversary edition Speedster painted in white and silver racing livery. Porsche made just 1,948 of them, which had a starting price of $274,500.

Porsche devotees drool over Speedsters for their naturally aspirated engines (no turbo lag here!) and associated stick-shift transmissions; such old-fashioned accoutrements are thought to offer the purest form of driving attainable in a modern car.

Indeed, whoever wins the GT Silver Metallic Speedster that’s up for auction will find it plucky and engaging to drive, as aggressive as a GT3 and unmistakable with its rounded humps on the rear of the car, minimalist interior, and very low roadster-body style. With a zero to 60 mph surge of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 192 mph, the 502-horsepower Speedster feels like a cannonball from behind the wheel: It’s tightly constructed and nimble, with a quick-shifting, six-speed gearbox and a throaty engine roar.

The winning bid will also secure a “911 Speedster Heritage Design Chronograph” wristwatch made by Porsche Design; a letter authenticating that the chassis number applied to this car is indeed the last of the 991 cars produced; and a private tour of the Porsche development center and test track in Weissach, Germany.

“The engineers in Weissach are very shy when it comes to letting anybody into that cradle of the brand,” Mr Zellmer said. “But in this special time, they were all for it. So it’s a package that usually money can’t buy, but in this time actually there is a price to it.”

Mr Zellmer declined to comment on whether Porsche would someday make more analogue-style Speedsters. Current market indicators and the prevalence of turbo engines and paddle-shifting transmissions across the rest of Porsche’s lineup imply that chances are slim.

The auction will open for bidding at 11am East Coast time (7pm UAE time) on Wednesday, April 15. Bidding will close a week later, at 1pm East Coast time (9pm UAE time) on Wednesday, April 22.