The Porsche 356 that was daily driven as part of the journey of legendary American singer/songwriter Janis Joplin was finally offered away by the singer’s family and long-time owners. Through the RM Sotheby’s Driven by Disruption sale in New York, the Porsche 356 C 1600 SC Cabriolet that had been vividly hand-decorated to become one of the symbols of a generation became a new collector’s piece, leaving the Joplin family indefinitely for the first time since 1968.
With the car’s undeniable presence and significance, it was tagged with a preliminary auction estimate of $600,000. More than a million dollars in bids later, the car hammered at an unbelievable $1.76 million, making it the highest-selling 356 at public auction.
Very rarely is the history of a car so blatant, but in this case it was plastered all over the car pretty literally. After Joplin noticed a psychedelic-liveried car on the streets of San Francisco, her inspiration came and she handed over the Porsche and $500 to a roadie to cover the car in a wild design. None of the car was left untouched on what artist Dave Richards called “The History of the Universe.” It was abstract but also entirely specific, with the design including forms of her bandmates as well as the flowing valleys of Northern California. The car not only traced her journey, it marked the end as well, as it was noted to be sitting outside her hotel at the time of her death in 1970.
Following Joplin’s death, the car was retained by her family who shared use of the car before having it restored to its original Dolphin Gray color. But eventually, the significance of the car as a symbol of Janis’ life and her generation was paramount and the car was repainted to Richards’ design based off of period photographs. The car was then sent off to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where it was on display for more than 20 years, but occasionally taken out for display at other museums and events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
RM Auto Restoration recommissioned the car to full running order, returning the drivability that made it a San Francisco icon.