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

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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