- 1966 Porsche 911 Spyder by Bertone - via GOODING & COMPANY ©

The $1.4 Million Porsche 911 that you've probably never heard of

American money, German engineering, and Italian styling. That's the right way to build a 911, right?

I'm sure there are some out there who would think that messing with the iconic 911 shape is blasphemy. But for the rest of us, this 911 may just be the prettiest 911 ever made. The reason you probably have never heard of it is because only one was ever made and it was built over 50 years ago.

Back in the early 911 days (i.e. 1960's-1970's), Porsche didn't make a 911 Cabriolet. The engineers in Stuttgart didn't think they could design a convertible version (or perhaps feasibly build one) that would meet the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rollover safety regulations, which is part of the reason the 911 Targa exists.

Since the American market was quite important to Porsche as far as sales and profitability of the 911, a convertible wasn't built back then. It wasn't until 1981 that Porsche showed the world a concept 911 Cabriolet at the Frankfurt Motor Show and a production version didn't come out until late 1982 as a 1983 model year. This may not seem like much of an issue... unless you're a huge Porsche enthusiast living in California (with a big bag of money to spend).

Johnny von Neumann met that exact description. Johnny wasn't just any Porsche fan with a lot of cash, though. He was fully immersed in motorsports and even helped arrange a hill climb in 1948 and an open road race. He also (successfully) raced Porsches and Ferraris and was the US West Coast distributor for Porsche and VW at the time (you can read more about him on Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car). As you might imagine, someone like that wouldn't be interested in simply hacking the roof off of a 911. He wanted it done properly.

What he didn't want, though, was to build just one for himself. He believed there would be a market for a car like this, especially in California, so he didn't even just take a production 911 and properly modified it. Instead, he went to Porsche and got a bare 911 chassis, then took it to Italian coachwork legend Nuccio Bertone to build him a custom 911 convertible. That's right. This is a 911 styled by Bertone.

Johnny funded the whole project himself and was hoping to eventually put it into production, provided that Porsche agrees. Judging by the looks, Bertone had full liberty in the design and, short of the Porsche and 911 badges (and perhaps the swollen rear end to the keen eye), you'd never guess this was anything but a beautiful Italian drop-top.

Inside, the instrumentation and some of the switch gear were repurposed, but it is a clear and exquisite departure from the functional utilitarian interior of a classic 911, never mind that some of the dials ended up buried six feet under and behind the gear shifter... Bertone kept all the mechanicals, though, but some of it was upgraded over the years.

The engine is the 2.0 litre flat six from the 911S with twin Weber carburetors making 160 hp and the wheels are off of a 914/6 (Mahle Gas Burner wheels for the Porsche aficionados). When it was all done, it debuted at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show as the Porsche 911 Spyder.

A revelation; a 911 with enough room in the back to actually work on it!

A revelation; a 911 with enough room in the back to actually work on it!

Unfortunately, no one placed any orders for it so Porsche canned the project. Johnny took the only one that Bertone had built back home with him. As you'd expect, it exchanged hands a number of times over the years, presumably privately, but it ended up on sale at the GOODING & COMPANY 2018 Pebble Beach (California) Auction. Prior to the auction, GOODING & COMPANY estimated it would go for somewhere between $700,000 and a cool $1M, but it ended up selling for nearly 50% more than the highest they thought it would go for; a much cooler $1,430,000.

That may not seem like a whole lot in a world where Ferrari 250 GTO's seem to break their own records year after year, an example of which most recently sold at auction for $48.4 million. But a classic car selling for over $1 million at auction is actually not an every day achievement and the sale price makes it one of the most expensive 911's ever sold, so it is in an elite group of cars. It is certainly a one-of-a-kind, and a gorgeous one at that.

Although far less expensive than the Ferrari 250 GTO (and it has exactly zero racing pedigree), it is actually more rare being the only one in existence and the only one ever built, so it is quite a special car. That said, I'm sure it isn't to everyone's taste. What do you think? Is this a marriage made in heaven between German engineering and Italian styling, or it's the ruination of an automotive icon; the 911 shape?

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Comments (41)

  • I see a resemblance to a mid 60’s Corvette

      2 years ago
  • It looks way better than the production 911 of the era. Too bad it did not have a run, I like 😉

      2 years ago
  • Beautiful car and thank you for sharing! I had no idea and love custom builds. Too bad it wasn’t even put into limited production.

      2 years ago
  • I really like it. Sort of big Fiat 850 spider. 911s engine was a must in the 60's. Not your neighbour's car.

      2 years ago
  • The front and some angles puts me in mind the Lamborghini Jarama (only less angular) but this Spyder is a brillant example.

    Shame it never caught on..

      2 years ago