‘Massive f*** up’: Bungled auction turns cheers to jeers as Nazi-era ‘Porsche’ fails to sell
The race car, a 1939 Porsche Type 64, hit the auction block at RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, on Saturday, with predictions estimating it would sell for hefty $20 million.
Problems started as soon as the auctioneer began the bidding process. He called out a starting price of $13 million, but a giant screen behind him showed the first bid as $30 million. The next bid was $14 million, but the screen showed $40 million instead. The mix-up rapidly went on all the way up to $17 million, when the screen showed a surreal figure of $70 million, more than 3 times the price the car was expected to fetch.
Reports state that the crowd was erupting in cheers and shouts as the figures on the screen appeared to change auction history. However at $17 million the auctioneer stopped the bids and announced that bids on the screen were incorrect.
“I’m saying 17, not 70,” said the auctioneer, Maarten ten Holder. “That’s 17 million.”
The screen figures then changed to 17, and the crowd immediately began booing and shouting in indignation. No more bids followed, and since $17 million was below the car’s reserve price, the minimum selling sale price required by its seller, the auction house pulled the lot.
John Bothwell, the director of Pur Sang Bugattis, called it "a massive f--- up," the Australian Financial Review reported. Two RM Sotheby's representatives were not available for comment after the sale, according to the newspaper, with a third walked away without a word when approached for a statement about the car.
“The car didn’t meet reserve. We will make every effort to sell the car post-sale,” Sotheby’s said in a statement following the incident.
Media reports, citing some attendees, state that the error was not actually technical but resulted from the auctioneer’s Dutch accent which made “17 million” sound like “70 million” and confused the screen operator. Sotheby’s said that the mix-up, whatever its reason, “was in no way intentional on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”
Despite being touted as the “world’s first Porsche,” strictly speaking the Type 64 isn’t a Porsche; back in 1939 it was labelled as a ‘Volkswagen Sport’ as its creator Ferdinand Porsche worked at Volkswagen at the time. However, the Type 64 is considered an ancestor of today’s Porsche sports cars bearing “Porsche’s DNA,” Porsche Museum spokesperson Astrid Böttinger said recently.
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