Well, that didn’t take long. Sure, we knew the Porsche 911 R was desirable. It’s probably—no, certainly—the most desirable of the current, 991 generation of 911 (although Porsche nerds surely know the R technically is based on the 991.1 series rather than the 991.2 on sale today). It’s also rare, with just 991 examples built, all of which are already spoken for. But we didn’t think it would reach air-cooled-911 prices less than a year after deliveries began.
The R was designed purely for enthusiasts. To review: It has the 500-hp 4.0-liter dry-sump flat-six of the GT3, here redlined at 8500 rpm. It wears much of the bodywork of the GT3/GT3 RS but without the attention-seeking aerodynamics. In the interest of saving weight, the front and rear lids and front fenders are carbon fiber, the roof is magnesium, and the rear seats have been jettisoned. It has carbon-ceramic brakes, rear-wheel steering, and a suspension lifted from the GT3, albeit with slightly mellower dampers. The black leather racing seats have houndstooth inserts, and the instruments feature vintage-style light-green markings. Most significant, of course, it has a manual transmission—the car’s reason for being, after purists derided the latest GT3 for being PDK only—and that manual is not the seven-speed box fitted to lesser 911s but a custom-made six-speed that does without the loafing highway gear.
So the 911 R is special. And this one that sold at a recent RM Sotheby’s auction in Paris is even more so. While the standard color options were limited to silver or white (with red or green stripes), this is one of the 10 percent or so finished in a custom Porsche paint-to-sample color ($6000), in this case slate gray with silver stripes and yellow lettering. It’s optioned with the lighter, single-mass flywheel (replacing the 11-pound-heavier dual-mass version at a cost of $3650) as well as the Sport Chrono pack, the front nose lift, bixenon headlamps, and a few lesser items. It is sprinkled with a bit of Steve McQueen magic dust, in the form of illuminated doorsill plates that feature the McQueen character Michael Delaney’s quote from the film Le Mans: “Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”
All of that made for a sale price of €515,200, or about $550,000 at current exchange rates. This auction did have a charity element, with one-quarter of the proceeds benefiting a children’s cancer charity in France. But even if you take the price down by a quarter, to the amount paid directly for the car, that’s still about $412,000. Pretty astounding for a machine that had a U.S. sticker price of $185,950 before options and—in all likelihood—dealer markup. But the MSRP is almost immaterial, since for most people the 911 R was unavailable at any price. In the United States, the cars were offered first to current 918 Spyder owners, although supposedly some were sold to those who did not already have a 918 Spyder in the garage.
There have been a few listings and declarations about the car’s astronomical value over the past eight months or so, with a U.K. collector reportedly paying $1.3 million last summer for a secondhand example. But this is a public, documented gauge for the value of the ultimate driver’s 911, not to mention a pretty strong message about what the brand’s faithful want in a 911 and what they’re willing to spend to get it.