Sold! The Porsche 935 that Paul Newman raced at Le Mans in 1979

Sold! The Porsche 935 that Paul Newman raced at Le Mans in 1979

Last weekend, as Monterey Car Week came to a close in California, several cars that once competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans were sold at auction, including the Porsche 935 that Paul Newman drove to second place in 1979.

The Porsche 935 is a truly exceptional car. During its nine-year long career, the car triumphed at the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and finished second overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is also the only car known to have been sponsored by computer giant Apple.

After taking Le Mans victory with the 917, a genuine prototype, it was back to basics for Porsche in 1976 with the 935 derived from a road-going 911. This chassis 009 0030 sold by Gooding at Monterey was purchased by Dirk Barbour Racing (Barbour had tried the car out himself a few days earlier) in 1979 to replace a 935 that had been damaged after crashing off the track. It came with a twin-turbo engine and all the latest developments, such as large brake discs and the “upside-down” gearbox. It wowed the crowds at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, where it was driven by Paul Newman, the Hollywood legend whose passion for motor racing began while filming the 1969 movie “Winning”.

Despite being a Le Mans rookie, Newman placed chassis 009 030 second overall (and first in the IMSA class), sharing driving duties with Dirk Barbour, team owner and driver, and Rolf Stommelen. The trio teamed up again at the legendary Watkins Glen circuit that year, where they also finished second. The car was then altered to comply with the new K3 regulations ahead of the 1980 season. Sporting the Apple rainbow livery, chassis 009 030 was this time driven by Rahal/Moffat/Garretson but unfortunately had to abandon mid-race.

It was all change in 1981 with a new sponsor, the American low-cost hotel chain Red Roof Inn, and a new owner, Bob Garretson. Supported by Bobby Rahal and Brian Redman, Garretson raced the car to overall victory at the Daytona 24 Hours. After another outing at Daytona then Le Mans in 1982, the car was reconfigured as a Porsche 934 to comply with the new regulations in 1983. The alterations and the new single turbocharger setup did not affect its performance as driving trio Wayne Baker, who had since purchased the car, Jim Mullen and Kees Nierop dominated at the 12 Hours of Sebring to take the chequered flag.

The Porsche 935 continued to race until 1987 before enjoying a well-earned retirement and full restoration in 2006 when it reverted to its 1979 Le Mans Hawaiian Tropic (an American sun cream brand) colours. It won the Concours d’élégance at Amelia Island, one of the largest classic car meetings in the US, in 2007.

The stunning red German racer returned to the track at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2015 where it was driven by Brian Redman, over 30 years after his victory in the same car at Daytona. It was also on display at Le Mans Classic this year.

Despite its outstanding race history, Paul Newman’s Porsche 935 was sold for a “mere” $4,840,000 (around €4,280,000) after estimates of $4.5-5.5 million (€4-4.8 million), a long way off the records attained by Ferrari.

Photo (D.R. Archives ACO): The #70 Porsche 935 drew the crowds when it was driven by Paul Newman.

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