Way back in 1974, racer and team owner Roger Penske developed a new series called IROC which would bring together all of the champion racers from a season and put them all in identical cars to see who was actually the fastest racer. With stars from Trans Am, Can Am, Formula One, NASCAR, USAC, and more, the racing was stellar and star-studded. For the first two seasons of the series, Penske chose Porsche 911 RSRs, largely because he’d already developed a great relationship with Porsche running their 917-30 in the Can Am series and winning pretty much everything. As a Porsche fanatic, you probably already knew all of that.
Did you know, however, that one of the cars, the one raced by two-time Formula One champ Emerson Fittipaldi, was later sold off to Colombian drug kingpin, narcoterrorist, and solo head of the Medellín cocaine cartel, Pablo Escobar? Strap in, this is one heck of a story. And at the end of it, you may find yourself wanting to buy the car.
In Emerson Fittipaldi’s hands, the car started on pole for the first ever IROC race. The car, and Emmo, were a fast pair. But because Fittipaldi was late for the driver’s meeting on the morning of the race, he was docked 10 grid places as a penalty, and started 11th. He got tied up in a crash, spun across the runoff, and wrecked the car’s fueling system. What a promising start for the car, but an ignominious DNF to finish it off. The car was relegated to a reserve role after it was repaired, and didn’t make the trek to Daytona for the finale. Instead the car was shipped to a Georgia dealership to be sold on to other racers. John Tunstall and Charlie Kemp would continue racing the car through 1978, giving it many starts in IMSA GTO competition, including several Daytonas and Sebrings. The car’s best finish was a 9th place during a Mid-Ohio 5-hour enduro.
After sitting unraced for three further years, in 1981 the car was sold off by Tunstall to South America where it ended up in the hands of the king of cocaine. During the car’s more-than-a-decade tenure in South America, both with Escobar at the wheel, and later racer Sergio Garcia, the car was given a makeover with more period-correct 935 bodywork. In those days an iconic 911 RSR was just an old race car. Why not update it with the newest and the best? The history of the car isn’t well documented during its time in South America, but it was certainly entered in many races, and probably crashed more than once.
In the 1990s the car was brought back Stateside by Garcia, who kept it around, but didn’t really race it anymore. In 2009 the car was purchased by Porsche collector Steve Goldin and given a thorough nut-and-bolt restoration back to its 1974 IROC spec with Fittipaldi’s name once again returned to the door. Its Escobar sins had been forgiven, and it was once again a brand-new wide-eyed child, ready to face the world. That restoration took two and a half years, and the 2011 Rennsport Reunion event was its debutante ball. In 2011 the car was sold at auction by Mecum, bringing in a paltry-by-IROC-standards $875,000 sum, sold to the Dennis Kranz Collection. While the car didn’t get much actual IROC action, it stands today as one of the most correctly-restored of the original IROC chassis. It’s certainly not original, as some of the others remain, but the work that was done was done the right way.
Now, 47 years after it was built, the car is again coming up for auction. This time the auction house is an online one, by the name of Collecting Cars. There are just two more days of bidding left, as the auction ends on Thursday at 6 p.m. eastern. If you want one of the original fifteen IROC cars, this is probably your best chance at getting a deal. These don’t often come up for sale, and when they do, they sell well into the 7-figures. Besides, Sahara Beige is one of the best colors for a race car. Go bid. Do it. You know you want to.