A 1939 Porsche Type 64, expected to headline a slightly lacklustre Monterey auction weekend, failed to sell in spectacular fashion on Saturday. RM Sotheby’s had lined up the sale. It took headline slot during the final day of the auction, only to fall short of the reserve.

It’s not the no-sale that has people talking though. It is the manner in which RM reached that result. Confusion ensued when the auction’s screen mistakenly announced the car’s opening bid at $30 million with experts predicting a $20 million hammer price. Very quickly, a series of rapidly progressing bids was called. Eventually the screens displayed a $70 million bid.

The scarcely believable bids were of course incorrect. The auctioneer then revealed that the correct opening bid should have been $13 million. Bidding eventually ended at $17 million with the car failing to hit its reserve price. A disappointment which was echoed in numerous other high value lots which also failed to sell.

The auctioneer appears to have called the bids correctly, however, an error with the screen went unnoticed until bids reached $17 million. The result was that buyers were spooked. After the correction, no further bids were received and the early Porsche failed to find a new owner.

Even at $17 million, the Porsche Type 64 would have been the most valuable Porsche. In a statement, RM Sotheby’s said: “We take pride in conducting our world-class auctions with integrity and we take our responsibility to our clients very seriously. This was in no way a joke or stunt on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”

Technically, the Porsche Type 64 isn’t a Porsche at all. It was created years before the Porsche company was incorporated. It was based on one of Ferdinand Porsche’s earlier designs, the KdF-Wagen. It was one of three built. One was destroyed early in World War II. The two remaining were used by the Porsche family until the end of World War II when it was destroyed by American troops.

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