'World's first Porsche' couldn't be auctioned because of pronunciation error
The "world's first Porsche" was expected to find a buyer at an auction in California, but instead it met with boos, with some even walking out of the venue. Initially, the car, a 1939 Type 64 made by Ferdinand Porsche in Germany, seemed to have reached a bid of $70 million, but remained unsold as officials at the auction house failed to pronounce properly.
At the annual RM Sotheby's auction in Monterey, California, auctioneer Maarten ten Holder announced the opening bid, $13mn. The crowd erupted in cheer as a board, screening the bids, read $30mn instead. As the bids rose to $14mn, $15mn, the board displayed $40mn, $50mn, and so forth. However, as the bid reached $17mn, ten Holder noticed the error (board displaying $70mn) and corrected it.
"It says 70, guys, but it's 17," ten Holder said. "It's a bit exciting to write seven-zero, it may be my pronunciation, but it's $17 million." The crowd booed, while the auctioneer tried to keep the ball rolling. Eventually, the bids stopped at $17mn.
The car was expected to sell at least at $20mn, the reserve price under which it couldn't be sold. Since the closing bid landed at $17mn, the Type 64 remained unsold. And, the beast is still available for a deal on the RM Sotheby's website. Unfortunately, the gaffe did more than mess-up a decent sale, with collectors telling Bloomberg that Sotheby's has lost credibility.
Meanwhile, RM Sotheby's spokesperson told Business Insider, "As bidding opened on Type 64, increments were mistakenly displayed on the screen, causing unfortunate confusion in the room." Saying that Sotheby's prides itself for conducting world-class auctions with integrity, the spokesperson added, "This was in no way intentional on behalf of anyone at Sotheby's, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by the excitement in the room."
Interestingly, the Type 64 would've broken the record for the most expensive car ever auctioned had $70mn been its real bid. A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, sold last year for $48.4mn, holds the record. Even at $17mn, it would've been the most expensive Porsche auctioned.
Notably, the Type 64 was built by Ferdinand Porsche himself in 1939 for a Berlin-Rome race that never happened as the World War II erupted. It was modeled after the Kraft-durch-Freude-Wagen ("strength through joy car"), which was made by Ferdinand as an inexpensive automobile for German families. The KdF-Wagen never went into production, and after the Nazi era, it became the Volkswagen Beetle.