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Why air-cooled 911s continue to skyrocket, and the best Porsches to snatch while they're still cheap

Why air-cooled 911s continue to skyrocket, and the best Porsches to snatch while they're still cheap

Porsche’s now-iconic 911 will be one of the star models at a variety of auctions unfolding during Pebble Beach’s annual Concours d’Elegance week, Aug. 13-17. A glance at Mecum’s catalog alone reveals glossy photos of candy-colored gems from the early ‘70s, including two Carrera RS Tourings and a few late ‘70s 935 IMSA standouts.
   
Expect the bidding to be fierce and healthy six-figures high, reflecting this air-cooled car’s growing status as a must-have collectible.
   
“These cars have been undervalued for decades,” says Bruce Canepa, an ex-Porsche racer whose eponymous restoration and sales shop in Scotts Valley, Calif., traffics heavily in pristine air-cooled Porsches. “Even a few years back, you’d show up with a 911 race car at auctions and things might take a bit to heat up. But now it’s Katie-bar-the door time.”
   
Canepa has a few explanations for the uptick in 911 values, which extend even to the latest air-cooled iteration of the model, the 1995-1998 993. “Many of them were driven hard and used up, so now if you see one that has modest miles, it’s worth quite a bit,” he says, noting that rarer models such as 993 Turbos, early ‘90s RS Americas and now-legendary late ‘60s 911S are particularly sought after by collectors.
   
“I recently sold an RS America for $145,000,” says Canepa, astonishment seeping into his voice. No kidding, considering that the same car could have been snapped up a decade back for considerably less than half that amount. “What’s the appeal? Well, Ferraris still live on another planet. But I like to say that 911s are still the best driving real sports cars on the planet.”
   
Longtime Porsche magazine editor and enthusiast Pete Stout recently declared himself “astonished” at the creep in 911 prices, pointing out not just how early 911s - which leaped to life out of Porsche’s groundbreaking 356 in 1964 - with the right pedigree have gone up tenfold in value in recent years, but specifically how a 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 fetched $1.4 million at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island auction this year.
   
“Are these 911s worth more than a million dollars?” Stout wrote in his editor’s note in the May issue of Panorama, the magazine of the Porsche Club of America. “Is this the sign of a bubble about to burst? While the early 911 market feels like a bubble to me, it has felt like one for years. Yet prices keep climbing.”
   
Stout goes on to say that he is “shocked by 911 and 964 Speedsters priced at $200,000, (and) clean 930 Turbos selling for $35,000 to $50,000 a year or two ago are moving toward and exceeding six figures.”
   
Keith Martin, longtime publisher of Portland, Ore.-based Sports Car Market newsletter, counsels collectors with a yen and wallet for an early air-cooled car to “skip the early S model, and look for a 911 (E or T) from 1969 to 1973, which will be half the price (of a $200,000 S) but offer 95% of the driving pleasure.”