(NEW YORK) — A rare Porsche 911 Speedster could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not more — for novel coronavirus relief efforts this month.
Porsche teamed up with auction house RM Sotheby’s to sell the last 991 generation 911 that rolled off the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen production line in December. The 911 Speedster, a two-seater convertible painted in GT Silver Metallic with a cognac leather interior and optional Heritage Design package, is one of only 1,948 available. The vehicle had just arrived at a dealership in Southern California from Germany but Porsche executives had other plans for the $312,000 sports car: it would go up for auction and all proceeds would be donated to United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.
“Typically we would not auction a car that has historic relevance to us — it would go a special customer or in our museum,” Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, told ABC News by phone. “We were looking for ideas to be a good citizen and to give back to the community.”
Zellmer said he learned about United Way, one of the world’s largest nonprofits, through the organization’s affiliate in Atlanta.
“This is the first time we have worked with United Way,” he said. “They do great things for society, especially for the underprivileged.”
United Way said donations to the COVID-19 fund will help “vulnerable populations receive critical financial and social service support during this global crisis” and the money will be “dispersed through our network of local United Ways and to support our 211 nonemergency services hotline” in the U.S. and around the world.
Porsche employees at the company’s North American headquarters had already agreed to deliver meals to students in the Atlanta area whose schools were closed because of the virus. But Zellmer wanted to do more on a national level. In early April he and other executives brainstormed ideas about how the 72-year-old German carmaker could help others suffering from the deadly and insidious virus. They decided an auction could be incredibly powerful — and rewarding.
“A few weeks ago I would have said it was unlikely Porsche auctions off an important part of its history,” Zellmer acknowledged. But, he added, “Wouldn’t it be great to [sell] one of our treasures?”
The online auction, which begins at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday and ends at 1 p.m. ET on April 22, was arranged in less than two weeks. The bidding starts at $50 and gearheads can track the results in real time. The 2019 911 Speedster is powered by a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat six engine that produces 502 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Zellmer said he will be “very happy” if the car sells for more than the six-figure sticker price. The car will be auctioned without reserve.
“We are confident we can raise a significant amount for a good cause,” he said. “This is a rare and special 991 Speedster — a street legal race car derived from the GT3.”
Ramsey Potts, a car specialist at RM Sotheby’s, said there’s already been a lot of interest generated about the sale.
“This one is going to bring in a pretty big group of enthusiasts,” he told ABC News.
Potts, who called this sports car “the most beautiful derivative of the 991 generation,” said Speedsters are so valuable because of their limited production runs and performance characteristics.
“They are different to drive — much more raw and visceral,” he explained. “Unlike other 911s, when you’re in a Speedster you experience more wind and connection to the road. They’ve always been tuned for better handling.”
The first Porsche Speedster debuted in September of 1954. There are currently eight generations of the 911 but Porsche did not always produce a Speedster variant. The auction car remains unregistered, according to Porsche, with just 20 miles on the odometer. The winning bidder will receive a letter of authenticity confirming that it is the last of the 991 generation to pass down the production line.
Porsche’s decision to auction off such a rare and historic car was unexpected, according to Potts.
“The company could have written a check with an endless number of zeroes,” he noted. “We all recognize that Porsche did not have to do this. It’s pretty special.”
Zellmer will present the car to its eventual owner later this year. Whomever wins the Speedster gets more than bragging rights; included in the sale is a 911 Speedster Heritage Design Chronograph watch that features a “strap made in the exact same cognac leather” as the interior and a “silver winding rotor that mirrors the car’s unique wheels.”
Moreover, the future owner and a guest will fly to Germany for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Porsche development center and test track and meet with the heads of the 911 and GT model lines.
So far Porsche is the only automaker offering a car for charitable auction related to coronavirus.
“Let’s hope nothing like COVID-19 happens again,” Zellmer said.
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