A car built by legendary automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche and which had been expected to raise $20 million at auction failed to be sold at all, after the bidding process left potential buyers sneering at the auction house for mistakenly announcing offers of up to $70 million.
The car, known as the Porsche Type 64, was built by the engineer in 1939 when he was still a designer for Volkswagen. It was commissioned by the National Socialist Motor Corps to run in a planned Berlin-to-Rome race celebrating the pact between Nazi Germany and Italy, but the outbreak of World War II meant the event was canceled.
Although three of the vehicles were originally planned, the one offered for sale is the sole surviving model according to the auctioneers, RM Sotheby’s.
At a sale in Monterey on Saturday the auctioneer started the bidding at $13 but a large screen in the hall displaying the offers flashed up $30 million, the CNBC news channel reported Sunday.
A following bid of $14 million was shown on the screen as $40 million and the confusion continued with a bid of $17 million displayed as $70 million, drawing cheers and laughter from the crowd at what would have been a record-breaking price — far above the $48 million paid for a Ferrari 250 GTO that went under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s last year.
Realizing the error, Dutch auctioneer Maarten ten Holder, announced “I’m saying 17, not 70. That’s 17 million.”
His correction was met with booing from the audience.
The auction was brought to a close within minutes after no bids were made above $17 million, which was under the minimum price required by the seller.
Some who were at the auction said Holder’s Dutch accent had confused the screen operator and the audience, CNBC reported.
RM Sotheby’s said in a statement after the auction it would “make every effort to sell the car post-sale.”
“This was in no way intentional on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room,” the auction house said.
The car is still listed as “for sale” in RM Sotheby’s online catalog.
Johnny Shaughnessy, a collector from Southern California, was at the sale. “What a joke,” he told the Bloomberg news agency.“They just lost so much credibility. My father could have bought that car for $5 million years ago. It has been passed around for years, and no one wants it.”
The sleek silver vehicle shows some of the design shape that Porsche would later use in the famous sports cars that carried his name. However, there is some dispute among experts as to whether the Type 64 is a true Porsche as it was built using Volkswagen parts.
Though his cars would later become iconic, Ferdinand Porsche was an honored member of the Nazi party. After World War II, Porsche was imprisoned by France for 22 months. He died in 1951.