Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Porsche 356
Janis Joplin’s friends weren’t the only ones to drive Porsches – the Sixties singer owned a rare 356 SC like no other
Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Janis Joplin’s friends might have all driven Porsches, but they weren’t the only ones. The 1964 356 SC owned by the singer is probably one of the most famous cars of the Swinging Sixties.
It’s easy to see why. If you wanted an image to represent the decade then Joplin behind the wheel of her psychedelic paintjob, with the California sun shining above her, the Pacific wind in her hair, round frames on her glasses, the radio turned up and a bottle of Southern Comfort in the glove compartment should do it.
She might have sung that: “When I bring home my hard earned pay, I spend my money all on Mary Jane!” but she also invested $3,500 on this cabriolet back in 1968. She then handed the car, and a further $500, over to her roadie Dave Richards who set about creating the unique design across its bodywork. Called the “History of the Universe” it incorporates Joplin’s star sign (Capricorn), portraits of her bandmates from Big Brother and the Holding Company, valley scenes and ‘The Eye of God’, emblazoned across the front.
This was no trophy to celebrate her early success, destined to be left languishing while Joplin enjoyed the excesses she and the age were famed for; this car was her daily driver and she took every opportunity to set off on wild road trips, much to fans’ delight.
Joplin’s Porsche was even there when the star’s story ended at the tragically young age of 27. On that fateful day, 4 October 1970, the car was parked up outside the Hollywood hotel where the first lady of rock ‘n’ roll died following an accidental overdose, making it truly a part of rock and roll history.
The Porsche’s journey didn’t end with the singer’s passing, though, and it remained in the Joplin family, with her brother and sister continuing to use the car. Like many disapproving brothers, Michael Joplin didn’t share his late sister’s artistic freedom and enthusiasm, and returned the car to its original grey colour until sense prevailed in the 1990s, and the car’s historically significant design was restored thanks to album upon album of photographs.
After 20 years as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame display in Cleveland, Ohio, the car entered the next stage of its life in late 2015 when it went up for auction at Sotheby’s.
The affection with which Joplin is held nearly half a century after her death, was clear in the car’s popularity: the pre-sale estimate of $600,000 was smashed when it sold for $1,760,000 – or around £1,200,000 at the time. But what price a unique piece of automotive, and rock and roll, history.