It’s not everyday you have the chance to buy a car from a living legend, much less an incredibly rare Porsche race car, but here we are. Built in 1961, this 1-of-14 Porsche 718 RS 61 is being sold on behalf of Sir Stirling Moss at the Bonhams Auctions event at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, where it’s expected to fetch a staggering $3 million.

Sir Stirling has quite a history with the Porsche 718. He shared a 718 RS 60 (the nearly identical predecessor to the RS 61) with Graham Hill at the 1961 Targa Florio, a race won by 718s in 1956, 1959 and 1960. Unfortunately, the car’s transmission failed while leading, just a few miles from the finish line. He teamed up with Hill again in a 718 RS 61 for the Nürburgring 1,000 kilometer race. Amazingly, it snowed during the race (as if the Nürburgring weren’t terrifying enough), but the lightweight Porsche handled well in the abhorrent conditions. The duo almost worked their way into the lead, when, again, it broke.

Despite, his lousy luck with the car, Moss liked the 718 so much that he bought an RS 61, chassis No. 718-070, for himself a few years ago and drove it competitively in historic events, including Le Mans Classic and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. You can do the same if you’re able to find a few million dollars in your couch cushions.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The 718 was an evolution of the 550 Spyder, and spawned several variants. The RS 61 was the second of these. It was originally powered by a 1.6-liter flat-four producing around 180 horsepower, but many owners swapped these out for larger engines. Sir Stirling’s car has a 1.7-liter, but some went as big as 2.0 liters. Later coupe versions were even fitted with flat-eight engines.

Before Moss owned it, this particular 718 spent its formative years racing in the United States. It was first restored in 1969 and again more recently by Porsche specialist Andy Prill in England. RM Auctions sold another 718 RS 61 in equally good condition for $2,750,000 in 2014. Given this one’s previous owner, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it exceed the estimated hammer price of $3 million.

Press Release

The Bonhams Motor Car Department is delighted to announce that it has been commissioned to offer one of the greatest and most charismatic of all small-capacity sports-racing cars – Porsche RS-61 chassis number ’718-070’ – at the company’s Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on June 26.

Stirling Moss' Porsche RS-61 Will Be Auctioned At Goodwood Exterior
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The vendor of this outstanding Porsche RS-61 is none other than ’Mr Motor Racing’ himself, Sir Stirling Moss OBE – acknowledged as one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. He was without doubt the standard-setting racing driver of his time 1958-1962, and is a multiple winner of World Championship Grand Prix and Sports Car races during his glittering frontline career. Sir Stirling describes the Porsche RS60/61 series as having been "Just super cars – beautifully balanced and simply tailor-made for such races as the mighty Targa Florio around 440 miles of Sicilian mountain roads. That was one morning when I woke up and really could say to myself, ’For today’s race you have got the ideal car...’".

The charismatic Porsche company’s agile little RennSport (’RS’) cars with powerful 4-cylinder air-cooled engine mounted behind the open two-seat cockpit, won the now almost mystical Targa Florio – absolutely the most romantic motor race on the Sports Car World Championship calendar – in 1956, 1959 and 1960.

In 1961, Sir Stirling shared a 2-liter Porsche RS60 there with 1962 and 1968 World Champion-to-be Graham Hill (father of 1996 World Champion Damon). Sir Stirling recalls today: "We have since been described as moral winners of that race, which is unfortunate, because moral first places don’t pay first-place prize money."

Stirling Moss' Porsche RS-61 Will Be Auctioned At Goodwood Exterior
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Porsche chose the 2-liter engine for that race in place of their usual 1.7-liter to ease gear-changing demand on that grueling Sicilian countryside course:

"Our racing car was just perfect for the course, we could hardly have wished for nicer, and I led for the first four 44-mile laps, by 1½ minutes before handing over to Graham for his two laps. He handed the car back to me 76 seconds behind a Ferrari, and I managed to change that into a 65-second lead with one lap to go. We looked on course for a lap record last time round and a great win until – only 8kms from the finish - the transmission failed, put us out, and the Ferrari won instead..."

Moss and Hill then drove the latest, almost identical, Porsche RS-61, fitted with a 1605cc engine, in the subsequent Nurburgring 1,000 Kilometers race in Germany’s Eifel Mountains. On a track slick with drizzle, Sir Stirling took the lead on the second lap but, as the course dried, he was overwhelmed by far larger and more powerful factory Ferraris.

Sir Stirling: "After 12 laps I handed over to Graham who rejoined fifth. Then it began to snow! Graham handed back to me and I found the little Porsche ideal for the Nurburgring in such conditions. We climbed into third, then second. I was set to take the lead when the little car broke – but it had been exciting while it lasted."

’Mr Motor Racing’ never lost his great affection for ’this grand little Porsche’ and some years ago, when he saw the very well-restored RS-61 chassis ’070’ offered for sale in America he "...just fell in love with it, all over again".

He bought the car and subsequently campaigned it at Historic level in the Le Mans Classic on the legendary 24-Hour race circuit in France, and in the USA in his very last competitive motor race.

Porsche RS-61 chassis ’070’ – now to be sold by BONHAMS on behalf of Sir Stirling – was delivered brand-new to first owner Bob Holbert of Pennsylvania early in 1961. He was the leading American Porsche specialist of his era, and he competed in the car in his busy program of Sports Car Club of America east-coast events, including the Daytona National. He then sold the car to gentleman driver Tom Payne – who always raced wearing an impeccably valeted business suit and tie.

Stirling Moss' Porsche RS-61 Will Be Auctioned At Goodwood Exterior
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Tom Payne and Porsche RS-61 ’070’ featured in such further east-coast events as the Cumberland Nationals, Wisconsin Grand Prix, Thompson Nationals and the Atlanta ’500’ Sprints. Third owner Millard Ripley subsequently won in the car at the glamorous Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York and overall ’070’ is credited with having achieved no fewer than 13 victories and 20 podium placings in SCCA National Competition.

The car was finally retired from active competition in 1963, but survived complete and unmolested before being restored for American ’Vintage’ racing as early as 1969. More recently top historic Porsche specialist Andy Prill has completed a thorough rebuild which saw the car re-finished both mechanically and aesthetically to its current race-ready form. Sale estimate: £1.7m to £2m ($2.5 - 3m).

Bonhams Motor Car Department head James Knight says: "We are hugely honored to have been commissioned to sell Sir Stirling’s cherished Porsche RS61 following his retirement from competitive motor sport. It is particularly appropriate that we should offer the car at the forthcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed – where Sir Stirling is the founder patron and where he achieved so much throughout his unmatchable career".

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