John Fitzpatrick uncovers a fake Porsche 935 in California
A trip to Monterey brings back fond memories of Porsche race winners, and of the details that made them unique – which is how John can spot a fake
It’s been a busy summer, with bigger and better classic events and more and more previously unseen gems emerging from their years in hibernation. I have just returned from the Porsche Rennsport Reunion in Monterey where, every three years, the world’s largest display of racing Porsches can be seen. Le Mans-winning cars from 1951 up to the latest 919 Evo, which recently broke the Nürburgring lap record by almost a minute, were on the track and in static displays at the festival. Porsche also revealed its latest road-going special, the modern-day 935, which relies heavily on styling from the Le Mans ‘Moby Dick’ that I drove at the Festival of Speed in July.
More than 50 Porsche racing drivers past and present were invited to drive the cars and meet the thousands of fans who lined up at autograph sessions on each of the four days. Porsche has a racing heritage like no other marque. The main display area in the paddock was a collection of 80 race-winning Porsches that included seven of my cars – the 1972 European Gt-winning Kremer 911, the ’72 Gelo European GT winner, both Dick Barbour 935 K3 IMSA winners, my own K3 and K4 935s, and the J David 956 that is to be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in Atlanta in October.
Seeing all the cars together and estimating their current values brought back thoughts of ‘why did I ever sell them?’ The answer is that I sold them to be able to buy the next competitive car. They’re probably worth $25 million at auction now – all for an outlay of less than $1.5m back in the day. Not a bad investment if only I’d had the foresight...
Having said all that, there were a few cars in the paddock pretending to be the originals, and that is a big problem for the dealers. Even the chassis plates can be forged, but someone like me can remember the little details that identify the fakes from the real cars. The small detail changes to the seats, the steering wheel, the hole drilled in the dashboard to attach a lucky charm, the holes for screws holding the drinking bottle.
Strolling round the paddock, I was approached by a very enthusiastic guy in a nice Porsche jacket. Would I come over and sign the 935 he had recently bought? Apparently this was the car in which I’d won a 1000km race in the late Seventies. It looked right but on close examination, I just knew it was a copy. Poor guy.
Little details as previously mentioned stick in the memory. Perhaps a different seat or steering wheel or even a different make of seatbelt. He had photographs of my car crossing the finish line but this one just looked too new and fresh. Even when race cars are restored, they retain a certain patina which this one didn’t have.
What do you say? ‘Sorry, but you’ve wasted £2m on a fake’? So you smile and say how it brings back good memories and you move on, relieved he didn’t ask you to sign the steering wheel. Not everything is as it seems.
J David-sponsored 935 K4, left, and Jägermeister Kremer 935 K3 – both of them the real thing John Fitzpatrick began his racing career in the British Saloon Car Championship, winning it in 1966. He was European GT Champion in 1972 and 1974, and became a team owner in 1981.