Rare, fast and with racing history.
Oldtimers. In the past, car manufacturers had to produce a minimum number of their racing sports cars in order to comply with the competition regulations. These homologation vehicles are basically rare and sometimes also have an interesting motorsport history - the best conditions to turn them into valuable collector's items.
The now legendary Ferdinand Piëch had a real problem on 20 March 1969. He should present his new racing car with the type number 917 to the sports authorities. The examiners wanted to see 25 copies. Unfortunately only three drove, with just seven the transmission was inserted. I had to ask for a postponement.
It was not until 21 April 1969 that the then 33-year-old Porsche development manager was able to have 25 white painted racing sports cars installed in the yard of Plant 1 to impress FIA delegate Dean Delemont and German ONS representative Herbert Schmitz. The representatives of the sports authority homologated the Model 917 on 1 May. However, Porsche missed the race in Monza.
In the homologation - ancient Greek "homologogein" (to agree) - the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) checks a vehicle type to see whether its technology complies with the regulations and entitles it to participate in racing events. The philosophy behind this is that these vehicles are sports equipment whose specifications must be similar to each other. After all, the skill of the driver and not the technology should be decisive for success. There is a homologation sheet for each registered race car, which is usually valid for seven years after the end of the original production and must be presented at the technical inspection before the race.
For vintage car collectors, however, another aspect of homologation is decisive. In order to prevent costly individual production, which could also distort competition, a further prerequisite for racing approval is that the manufacturer produces a minimum number of vehicles. The FIA will adjust the minimum number of vehicles to be produced on a case-by-case basis. And because production was expensive, the carmakers have also adhered to these limits in the past.
Ferdinand Piëch, for example, initially had to produce the 25th edition of the Model 917 in 1969. In the next three years there were another 40 pieces, some of which were open as Spyder or used as 917/10, 917/20 and 917/30 in different races. The chassis number indicates whether the vehicle in question is one of the first 25 or one of the cars built later.
Wherever one of these old racing cars is on display, the first thing that stands out is the extremely sparse equipment. As a rule, only the driver's seat - which is often worn out today - is fitted. A co-driver is provided for rally vehicles alone. In addition, a steel roll bar is often welded on. The speedometer is missing, in its place there is a revolution counter. Because no pilot is interested in speed. On the track he always drives as fast as possible anyway.
In contrast to production cars, a red switch usually lights up on the dashboard of the racing car in order to interrupt the circuit as quickly as possible in the event of a fire. A further emergency switch is located on the engine hood so that the helpers can prevent a fire from outside. The standard equipment always includes a hand fire extinguisher inside the car. "For vintage car collectors this is much more important than a minimum of comfort. This is the only way the car radiates a racing atmosphere," says Johannes Hübner, one of the most knowledgeable experts on old racing cars in Germany. "Race history is also crucial for future performance. If sporting success can be proven, the racer - like the oil painting of an old master - not only retains the value. He'll even raise it significantly."
In the case of Porsche, this was an impressive achievement. The Type 917 became one of the most successful racing sports cars of the 70s. It reached a speed of almost 400 kilometres per hour and produced up to 1100 hp (810 kW) on the road. Porsche thus achieved overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time in 1970 and remained internationally successful in the short, long tail and Spyder versions. This was not without risk for Piëch at that time. In his autobiography of 2003, he admitted that "there was an unsaleable multimillion-dollar stockpile on the farm". So he was able to sell his homologation cars to private racing enthusiasts without any problems.
Enzo Ferrari had to experience that an adventure of this kind can also end differently. During this time in the big races, mostly kept at a distance by the Porsche 917, he could not even sell all of his 25 homologated Ferraris to private teams of his type 512S.
Porsches 25 homologation cars of the first hour are also today almost weighed in gold. In August last year, Gooding auctioned a 917K in Gulf design at an auction in Pebble Beach, California, for a record $14 million. The car was originally owned by the Swiss racing driver Jo Siffert, who rented it for the shooting of "Le Mans" with the actor Steve McQueen. Since Siffert's death in 1971, the vehicle has been in a French collection.
Investors have long since jumped on the bandwagon, reports Hübner. He warns, however, that if they did not move the valuable vehicle regularly, they would have to reckon with damage to their stability. Committed collectors therefore meet regularly in the USA for a Porsche reunion. You rent one of the numerous race tracks for the weekend and don't just let the fun out there. Porsche designer Anatole Lapine had a 917/20 painted pink and the meat sections drawn on sheet metal. This unique piece quickly received the nickname "Die Sau".
Only three original copies may be legally moved outside the closed off racing area. The first one has the chassis number 030 and was rebuilt for the road in 1971 for Count Gregorio Rossi by the main sponsor Martini & Rossi. However, it did not get an approval in any European country and was allowed to be moved for the first time in Alabama in road traffic; the racing driver Claudio Roddaro now also drives one with Monegasque approval 649X.
A German registration plate conquered 1976 the innkeeper at that time Joachim Großmann for his 917er (chassis number 021), which he had bought at that time still for 20000 Mark. The district office in Calw gave the number CW-K 917 after he had equipped the car with a hazard flasher system, a handbrake, a window heater and a quieter exhaust system.
For the management consultant, collector and hobby racing driver Wolf-Dieter Ihle from Stuttgart, rally cars are also interesting. These have the advantage that they are approved for the public road. "I am proud of the last Opel Ascona A in my collection, with which the later German world champion Walter Röhrl first won in Greece in 1975," says Ihle.
His cars still demonstrate the advances in technology today. There is also the original Audi Sport Quattro S1 E II of the Frenchwoman Michèle Mouton from 1988. The Frenchwoman Röhrl often drove away with the predecessor model in the year of his world championship 1982. The superior all-wheel drive technology made Mouton fast on the gravel tracks and often made Röhrl look like the eternal runner-up with his still rear-axle powered Ascona 400. "Röhrl only became world champion because Mouton threw away her car in the last race," recalls Ihle.
Such stories also make the homologation vehicles of the Audi Sport Quattro coveted collector's items. Between 1984 and 1985, Audi built a total of 214 of these. They all had a wheelbase 32 centimetres shorter than the normal Quattro model. As a result, nobody could find a seat on the rear seat, but "the short one", as all connoisseurs called him, was much more agile and was able to complete the rally special stages faster. Mudguards, rear side panels, roof, bonnet, front and rear aprons are made of lightweight aramid fabric.
After all, Audi sold 164 of these vehicles to customers who certainly did not drive all the races with them. Last year, one of the racing cars appeared at an auction in the Villa d'Este on Lake Como. Although the original aluminium engine had already run 95000 kilometres, the Audi changed owners for 275000 Euros - which was almost three times the then already proud list price of 195000 Marks.
With fewer kilometres on the watch, a white short with the serial number 206 found a new owner at Bonhams 2015 for 333826 Euros. Sotheby's 2016 showed that a higher mileage does not necessarily mean a massive reduction in value with a red Sport Quattro (most cars were built in this colour with 128), which despite its 52580 kilometres achieved the highest price so far with 486000 Euros. This year a similar vehicle with a price tag of 480000 Euro could be seen at the Techno Classica in Essen.
The Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 EVO II, of which 502 units were built, shows a similar price development. It draws 235 hp from a displacement of 2.5 litres and has been homologated for the DTM touring car group A. With mobile.de such a vehicle is for 299000 euro in the offer. The comparable traditional BMW model is the M3. In 1990, the Sport Evolution was launched with 600 pieces. Today, with almost 100000 kilometres on the clock, 148000 euros of this is already charged.
Even more coveted is BMW's sporty luxury class coupé from the 70s: the 3.0 CSL. He homologated almost 1000 of them. Most of them are on their way with the "road package". They are distinguished by more civil chassis and glass instead of light Plexiglas panes. But the noise reduction was always omitted to make the car lighter. With such reduced mass, the 200 hp engine accelerates from a standstill to 100 km/h in just seven seconds. However, even at this speed, it is unlikely that entertainment in the vehicle will be possible. Nevertheless, the offers on the net have already reached the 340000 Euro mark.
"With the BMW 3.0 CSL however prospective customers should inform themselves exactly whether the vehicle was not changed something factory-sided. This reduces the value, and it is expensive to restore the original condition," informs classic car expert Hübner.
As with all investments in classic cars, it is also important to check the chassis numbers of homologation vehicles and insist on complete documentation of the owner's history. "The assertion 'barn find' is rarely credible," says Hübner.
Meanwhile, the wave of homologation is spilling over into brands that have not been particularly attractive in Germany for a long time. Citroën BX 4TC, Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, VW Rallye Golf, Lancia 037 Stradale, Opel Omega Evo 500 and Mazda 323 GT-R become coveted collector's items with homologation certificate. And because prices there have often not yet risen to dizzying heights, it might be worthwhile to enter the race for returns with these vehicles.
The most coveted German homologation car is probably the 300 SLR from Mercedes. The racing version of the gullwing coupé 300 SL had an eight-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.5 litres, which at 310 hp (230 kW) produced around 100 hp more than the sports car. A total of nine vehicles of this development by the legendary engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut were approved for racing. The Argentine world champion Juan Manuel Fangio was second at the Mille Miglia 1955, the first was Stirling Moss, both on 300 SLR.
Uhlenhaut, who had taken over the management of the racing car department in the 1930s, even drove the car himself as a company car. When Fangio complained to him in 1955 that the car was not lying perfectly on the road during training, he is said to have got up after lunch and sat behind the wheel of the 300 SLR in his suit and tie and circumnavigated the Nürburgring three seconds faster than the world champion. "You'll have to practice a little," he said to Fangio afterwards.
In 1956 a tragedy ended the racing history of the 300 SLR. The French driver Pierre Levegh had driven into the grandstand of the Le Mans circuit and had fatally injured 84 spectators. Mercedes then withdrew all his racing cars from the race and ended his racing activities.
The 300 SLRs were distributed to technical museums - two of them can be seen, for example, in the Deutsches Museum in Munich and in the Technical Museum in Vienna. None of the vehicles were sold. Only Rudolf Uhlenhaut was allowed to keep his Coupé 300 SLR. With him he is said to have covered the 220 kilometre distance from Stuttgart to Munich in just one hour in the middle of the night. Today, the Uhlenhaut Coupé is on display in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Auction houses estimate its value at 30 to 35 million euros. But of course it's not for sale.
This is why the model is now and then rebuilt by small workshops. The body is handmade, the frame is replicated and the engine is from the 280 SL from 1969. Nevertheless, such vehicles are offered at proud prices around 400000 euros.
Author: Gerd Gregor Feth