Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche sold at auction for £1.2m | CAR Magazine

Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche sold at auction for £1.2m

Published: 11 December 2015 Updated: 14 December 2015

► Ex-Janis Joplin Porsche sold at auction
► Joplin family owned since 1973
► New owners unlikely to lose it in the car park

Wow. I mean, seriously. This is the 1964 Porsche 356 Cabriolet that Janis Joplin bought used in 1968, and subsequently had painted in the psychedelic scheme you see pictured here. Reputedly her daily driver, it was even parked outside of the hotel in Hollywood when the singer sadly died of an overdose on 4 October 1970. She was just 27.

But like Joplin’s music, the Porsche lives on. Janis’s siblings Michael and Laura Joplin took custodianship in 1973, and have owned it ever since. For the last 20 years it’s been on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and now it’s been sold by RM Auctions, one of the lots in the firm’s Driven by Disruption sale in New York on 10 December 2015.

Come on then, how much did Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356 sell for at auction?

The estimate was $400,000-$600,000 – but it smashed that. The hammer came down at $1,760,000, which is currently around £1.2 million.

For that the buyer is getting not only a piece of rock and roll history, but also a classic Porsche in recently-restored-to-running order. Assuming this process has recaptured most of the original horses, the 1.6-litre flat-four in the back should be good for around 95bhp.

What’s the story with the paint job on Janis Joplin’s Porsche?

According to the auctioneers, Joplin was inspired a similarly decorated vehicle she spotted in San Francisco, so having bought the Porker for $3500, she handed it and $500 to roadie Dave Richards, and essentially left him to it. The resulting design, known as the History of the Universe, incorporates Joplin’s star sign (Capricorn), portraits of Big Brother and the Holding Company band members, valley scenes and ‘The Eye of God’, resplendent on the front boot lid.

'Eye of God' design on the front of Janis Joplin's Porsche 356

The 356 was originally a very light Dolphin Grey, which is still in evidence inside.

Is the Janis Joplin Porsche entirely original?

Mechanically, everything is ‘numbers matching’, which always gets auction buyers excited. The paint, though, has been through a couple of incidents… 

The first occurred when it was stolen from Joplin in San Francisco. Realising he’d TWOCed the most recognisable Porsche in town, the thief hastily carried out a respray. Fortunately, Dave the roadie had covered his design in clear coat, so when the car was recovered the amateur retouching was easily removed.

Later on, however, Joplin’s siblings had the Porsche restored to its original Dolphin Grey finish. It wasn’t until 1990, when the historical significance of the car began to resonate, that artists were commissioned to put it back the way it once was – a job that was undertaken with reference to ‘stacks’ of period photographs.

Regardless, this 356 puts a bit of a different perspective on Joplin’s song ‘Mercedes-Benz’. I’d always thought she just wanted a fancy car, but perhaps she really wanted something different to all the other San Fran hipsters…

All pictures: (c) RM Auctions

Not your average Porsche colour scheme, for sure

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first