This 1969 Porsche 917K could top $20 million at the Gooding & Company auction in August. (Photo: Gooding & Company)

This 1969 917K could top $20 million at the Gooding & Company auction in August. (Photo: Gooding & Company)

One of the holy grails of the collector car world and possibly one of the world’s most valuable Porsches extant will be offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Pebble Beach, Calif., next month (Aug. 17-18).

The 1969 917K is probably the most desirable version of one of Porsche’s mightiest competition . The reliable and powerful flat-12 engine, combined with lightweight aerodynamic coupe bodywork, was tailor made for endurance races like The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Picking up where the Ford GT40 left off (and also sponsored by Gulf Oil in the iconic light blue and orange livery), the 917K helped show the door to Ferrari in endurance racing, leaving them to concentrate on Formula One, where they remain today.

The car offered for sale by Gooding had its most famous exploits at the Le Mans circuit. It wasn’t during the actual race, but rather in a hyper-realistic simulation that was the basis for the 1971 Steve McQueen film “LeMans.” In the pre-CGI days, this is how it was done; it was the car that took the checkered flag at the end of the film.

The auction company hasn’t released a pre-sale estimate, but according to David Gooding, “The most expensive automobile that Gooding & Company has ever sold at public auction is the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. We expect to shatter that record at Pebble Beach this year.” To put it into perspective, anything Steve McQueen carries an enormous premium at auction. For example, the camera car for the film “LeMans“ was a Ford GT40 that RM Auctions sold in 2011 for $11 million. Given the extreme upward movement in the collector car market over the last three years and the fact that this was truly the hero car of the film, over $20 million seems more than attainable.

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