Porsche 911s keep getting more expensive, but even that has its limits. While you can certainly ratchet up a lot of costly options, the top of the line peaks just over $200k. So what makes this old Elfen worth $286,000 that is 128 Million naira – or nearly the combined prices of a new 911 Turbo S Cabriolet plus a base Carrera?
In a word: Sportomatic. Never heard of it? That was what Porsche called its first automated transmission, long before the dual-clutch PDK or even the Tiptronic.
Closer to a sequential transmission than a full automatic, Porsche's Sportomatic gearbox was essentially a manual with a torque converter and a single-disc vacuum-operated dry clutch. With no clutch pedal to actuate, the driver used a lever to go through the four gears – later actually reduced (if you can believe it) to three.
It had a “park” position but no fully automatic mode, making the Sportomatic something of a quirky stopgap. And while it wasn't exactly what you might call “rare,” at $2,380 (on a $6,300 base price), it wasn't a hugely popular option, either. 1969 (the year after its introduction) was one of its most successful, but out of the 12,000 examples of the 911 sold that year, barely more than 1,000 were so equipped. Add to that the number that have since been converted to manuals (due to maintenance cost and desirability) and coming across a 911 with a functioning Sportomatic today is anything but a common event.
Of course it didn't hurt that this particular example is in pristine condition, described as “what may be the most original 1968 Porsche 911 coupe in the world, let alone the finest equipped with the intriguing Sportomatic semi-auto transmission.” It was built at the beginning of the transmission option's first year and sold to a customer in Los Angeles, painted in a single-stage metallic silver with no clearcoat, a black vinyl interior with dealer-installed air conditioning, and later fitted with a Blaupunkt radio.
It has since traded hands only a few times, and has racked up less than 23,000 miles in nearly 50 years. Presented in immaculate condition, it sold for $286,000 this past Saturday at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance – where it wasn't anywhere near the top lot of the auction, but a high price for a model whose values have been escalating steadily among collectors.