In 1998, Porsche launched the 996 model, which was a big departure from the 911s previously manufactured. It was the first model with a brand-new chassis in many years, but more significantly, it was the first to switch from an air-cooled engine to a water-cooled version. Some consider the air-cooled era the golden years and seek out earlier 356 and 911 models, deeming them more valuable.
A year ago, a 1996 Porsche 911 GT2 sold for close to a million dollars at a Sotheby’s auction. It’s not surprising to see one-off rare Porsche sales in various places, but it’s exceptional to find a number of these air-cooled cars all in one place. At the Saratoga Automobile Museum in New York, an architect and frequent rally driver has lent 16 of his pre-1998 mint-condition Porsches for an exhibit they’re calling Rare Air and it will be on display through Labor Day.
This post is part of our ongoing museum series, which was created to bring the stories from museums around the world toThe Autance readers. Check out our previous posts in the series about a restored 1921 Duesenberg Model A, a drag-racing 1937 Willys, and James Hetfield's Art Deco hot rod.
Harris remembers when he was eight years old and his uncle took him for a ride in a 1958 Porsche 356.
“It was Ruby Red with a black interior, and I can still remember how it smelled,” Harris told me. “I spent the rest of my life obsessing over Porsches and driving them.”
While the cars in this collection are immaculate, Harris isn’t afraid to get out on the road and get dirty. He participates in road rallies on a regular basis, shoehorning them into his jam-packed schedule with his work and as a professor of architecture at Yale. This year, he scheduled four competitions, including the recent California Mille and the Ramshorn Rally, which is a 30-car event just for air-cooled Porsches from 1989 or earlier.
Harris was lucky enough to drive off to college in a 1967 Porsche 911 S in Aga Blue that he said he “hornswoggled” his father to let him borrow. After Harris finished grad school several years later, the 911 was returned to his father and he didn’t buy another Porsche for 20 years because he didn’t have that kind of money.
He made up for lost time, however, amassing models that he stashes in various places. Today, he mostly drives a new 992 Turbo S Cabriolet when he's in California and a 991 Turbo S coupe with carbon fiber and winter tires in New York.
In the Rare Air collection, notables include a 1974 RS 3.0, a homologation car that is only one of 50.
“Mine is the only one in the color Licht Grun, which means light green in German,” Harris says. “It’s the color of a highlighter.”
The rarest is a 1984 SCRS; only 21 were made and 13 were converted to rally cars. Harris' 1984 model is one of the remaining nine, which were never modified, and it has its original tires and wheels with fewer than 1000 miles on the odometer. Others in the collection are a 964 RS N-GT “Macau”, a “widow-maker” 993 GT2, and a host of speedsters, coupes, and cabriolets that are former Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance winners.
“You know there are people who are obsessed with certain cars and some are all about one particular kind of car?” Harris says. “I have no imagination; I love Porsches.”
For more information on the Rare Air exhibit, click here.
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