Janis Joplin’s Custom Porsche
RM Sotheby’s presents Janis Joplin’s beloved psychedelic Porsche at its exclusive New York City auction and exhibition, December 10.
She may have famously sung “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz”, but legendary singer Janis Joplin personally drove an unmistakably wild 1964 Porsche 356 C 1600 SC Cabriolet. This December, Joplin’s iconic Porsche will be offered as a star attraction at RM Sotheby’s exclusive Driven by Disruption sale in New York City – just in time for the holidays! “Janis Joplin’s 356 C is without question one of the most important Porsches of all time,” says Ian Kelleher, Managing Director of RM Sotheby’s West Coast Division. “It’s a fantastic automobile that transcends art, pop culture and social movements, and is as groundbreaking and stunning as the renowned singer was herself.”
Joplin purchased the Porsche in September 1968 and decided that the original Pearl White finish was slightly too conservative for the Queen of Rock and Roll. She engaged Dave Richards, a friend and roadie with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, to customize the car with a kaleidoscopic mural. Described by Richards to represent ‘The History of the Universe’, the dramatic artwork included such graphics as butterflies and jellyfish, as well as a portrait of Joplin with members of the band. The finished product was as colorful as the singer’s personality and certainly representative of the era – a one-of-a-kind flamboyant symbol of San Francisco’s psychedelic rock age. The car quickly became identified with Joplin, who was frequently seen driving it in period.
As Janis’s sister and biographer, Laura Joplin recalls, “Janis drove the car everywhere, all around San Francisco and down to Los Angeles when she was recording there. Wherever Janis went in the car, her fans recognized it. When she parked it and returned, there was always at least one fan note under the wipers.” Following Joplin’s untimely death in 1970, the Porsche has remained in her family’s ownership, and was enjoyed by her manager, Albert Grossman, who drove it for several years, lending it to visiting family and friends. By the early 1990s, the car was treated to a meticulous restoration, preserving the integrity of the Porsche and presenting the car precisely as it was customized in period.
The Janis Joplin Porsche went on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995, where it remained a permanent and popular display up until this week. Offered for sale by the Joplin Family, it is expected to bring in excess of $400,000 when it crosses RM Sotheby’s New York podium in December. As a prelude to the Driven by Disruptionsale, an exclusive six-day exhibition will open over the weekend of December 5 in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries.