With Friends Like This…Who Needs…Other Friends?
From Vintage Motorsports Letter:
Salinas, CA — Last Thursday January 9th was going swimmingly for car collector Bruce Meyer, who was spending the day at a private track event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Surrounded by many of his friends, he was suited up in his black drivers uniform, helmet in hand, ready to track-drive his 1979 Porsche 935K3 for the first time.
It’s not just any Porsche 935 K3 mind you, but perhaps the most valuable in the world, because chassis 009 00015 won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1979 with drivers Klaus Ludwig, and the brothers Don and Bill Whittington. As if that win wasn’t enough, 00015 also finished 1st in the ’79 Watkins Glen 6 Hours and 3rd at Sebring in 1980.
However, when its competitive days were over, the Whittington boys gave the car to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, where it sat for nearly three decades. Along the way the Whittingtons found themselves on the wrong side of the law regarding drug-running, and each spent time in the crossbar hotel. Once out, the brothers realized that their old 935 might just be worth seven figures and wanted it back, but the Indiana state courts ruled they had donated the car.
Meyer meanwhile, made a deal with the Foundation to become the rightful owner of the 935 in exchange for his 1952 Indy “500” winning Agajanian Special, then sent it to Bruce Canepa’s shop for a thorough restoration. Since finished, the 935 has appeared on the cover of Vintage Motorsport and won its class at Pebble Beach and the Amelia Island Concours.
Then comes track day at Laguna Seca, where Meyer finally gets inside the 935 to feel what 750hp is like in this monster 911. Yet just about the time he’s wiping the sweat off his brow, three DEA agents approached him in the race paddock asking if he was Bruce Meyer, the agents showing up in a black Suburban with government plates, a roll-back car hauler and a dark gray Dodge sedan. They were armed and badged, and very menacing looking, handing Bruce a U.S. District Court Search and Seizure Warrant for the aforementioned Porsche, “as proceeds and/or profits of an on-going criminal enterprise.”
What made this all the more believable to Meyer was the fact that the Whittingtons had been in the news lately about the government seizing and confiscating their assets due to a new investigation. As a crowd gathered in the paddock, with the help of Bruce Canepa’s crew the car was carefully loaded onto the car hauler and Meyer’s thoughts concerned what might happen to the car in a Fresno impound yard (where they were taking it) and how long it might take to get the car back. Considering what was happening, Meyer handled the situation very well, although he was churning inside.
The car hauler fired up and drove away with the immaculate Porsche perched on top, DEA agents following in their vehicles. Meyer was left holding the paperwork and thoughts of what to do now.
Fast forward about 15 minutes, and here comes the car hauler and DEA agents back to the paddock, Meyer making a last attempt to talk them into leaving the car.
And that’s when Bruce Canepa let it be known that the whole thing was a carefully orchestrated practical joke, and also in on it were Meyer’s pals Charlie Nearburg, Chip Conner and Al Arciero. The DEA agents were actors who flew in from Hollywood, and the entire episode was actually rehearsed beforehand.
Though initially very upsetting for Meyer, in the end it’s a day he will always remember. However, for the perpetrators, we’d be looking over our shoulders from now on… . – D. Randy Riggs