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Lowenbrau Special Porsche 962 – Car Profile

This Porsche 962-103, better known as the “Holbert Racing Löwenbräu Special,” is widely considered the most successful and recognizable 962.

Built by Porsche AG in Spring 1984, 962-103 was the third customer car completed at the racing department in Weissach. Intended to compete in the IMSA GT Championship, 962-103 was originally delivered to Holbert Racing, an American outfit with long-standing ties to the German marque. Prepared for the upcoming racing season and finished in the distinctive blue and white Löwenbräu livery, 962-103 made its racing debut at the Charlotte Camel GT 500 on May 20, 1984.

After failing to finish in its first outing, 962-103 easily won its second at the Camel Continental 6 Hours of Watkins Glen in July. Not only did the Holbert Racing Löwenbräu Special score the first win for a Porsche 962, it also set the tone for the future of IMSA GTP racing. Porsche was back in a big way.

Following a 4th place finish at Sears Point, the Löwenbräu Special was equipped with the latest type 962/71 racing engine. With its new power plant, 962-103 went on to win both the Camel GT 500 Grand Prix at Pocono and the Eastern Airlines 3 Hour Camel GT at Daytona. Although Randy Lanier’s five wins in a March 84G earned him the IMSA Camel GTP Championship for 1984, it was clear that the Porsche 962 was going to be the car to beat in 1985 and Holbert Racing had one of the very best.

This was confirmed at the SunBank 24 Hours of Daytona on February 3, 1985. At the end of the race, Porsche 962s held the four top positions. The Löwenbräu Special finished 2nd overall, behind 962-104 and ahead of 962-106 and 962-102.

After Daytona, 962-103 next appeared at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where it was driven to another 2nd place finish. From there, the Löwenbräu Special went on a tear. In May, Holbert drove the 962 to victory at the Laguna Seca 300 Kilometers. Two weeks later, Bell returned for the Charlotte 500 Kilometers and Holbert Racing won its second race of the season. After a 4th place finish at Lime Rock, 962-103 went on to capture two more wins: the first at the Mid-Ohio 500 Kilometers and the second at the 3 Hours of Watkins Glen.

In July 1985, Holbert Racing began to alternate between 962-103 and a new car, 962-HR1, the first monocoque constructed in the team’s workshop. At the close of the 1985 season, the Löwenbräu Specials displayed utter dominance of the IMSA GTP series. With the combined efforts of 103 and HR1, Al Holbert earned his fourth Driver’s Championship and Porsche secured the GTP Championship for Makes.

With 962-HR1 becoming the preferred choice for sprint events, Holbert’s confidence in the preparation and quality of 962-103 led him to press the car into service for the 1986 season opener at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

With Holbert, Bell and Al Unser Jr. at the helm, 962-103 gave a brilliant performance in what proved to be one of the most competitive races in Daytona history. At the end of 24 hours, the number 14 Löwenbräu Porsche claimed victory by a remarkably slim margin, beating Preston Henn’s 962 by 49 seconds. It was the first time in event history that the top two cars finished on the lead lap.

Not only was the win at Daytona a major accomplishment for the Holbert Racing outfit, it was particularly satisfying for Al Holbert, who had finally won the prestigious endurance race after so many valiant attempts.

Team Holbert, Porsche 962 Lowenbrau Special, 24 Hours of Daytona
The Porsche 962 Lowenbrau Special of Al Holbert, Derek Bell and Al Unser, Jr. on its way to victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona (Photo: Autosports Marketing Associates)

Impressed with 962-103’s stellar Daytona result, Holbert Racing relied on its warhorse for the 12 Hours of Sebring the following March. With the same team of drivers in place, the Löwenbräu Special placed an impressive 3rd overall behind 962-113 and 962-106. From there, the Porsche went on to take 4th at Lime Rock and a 7th at Portland, before taking the checkered flag at the Road America 500 Löwenbräu Classic on August 24th.

Even after a DNF at Columbus, the 1986 season proved to be a tremendous success for Holbert Racing: Al Holbert won his second Driver’s Championship with the 962s, giving him a career total of five. Once again, with 962s winning race after race, Porsche was rewarded with the Championship for Makes.

Between the 1986 and 1987 seasons, 962-103 took part in a featured comparison test arranged by Road & Track magazine titled “Top-Speed Trapshoot – Holbert Racing 962 vs. Chevrolet Monte Carlo.” As the name suggests, Holbert’s IMSA-winning 962 was pitted against the Hendrick Motorsports-Folger’s Coffee Monte Carlo, to see which of America’s finest racing machines was faster. Ultimately, as the 962 was designed for punishing endurance racing as well as occasional cornering, it was at somewhat of a disadvantage when compared to the purpose- built oval racer. Nevertheless, the test showed that, even with ground effects, Holbert’s Porsche was exceptionally fast. With the installation of the Le Mans tail and undertray, the 962 flew through the traps at 227 mph.

Just as Road & Track was hitting the newsstands, 962-103 was being prepared for its third appearance at the 24 Hours of Daytona. As the original Löwenbräu Special had placed 2nd at the race in 1985 and won it in 1986, Al Holbert had every reason to believe that 962-103 was the right car for the 1987 race.

To further cement its reputation as a winner, 962-103 returned to Daytona with the winning team of Bell, Holbert and Unser Jr. as well as the addition of Chip Robinson, the 1986 CART Rookie of the Year. Although Holbert had intended to serve as the team’s manager for the 24-hour race, 962-103 eventually lost its side window and the drivers were quickly exhausted by the hot air blowing into the cockpit. As a result, Holbert took his turn at the wheel, leading the Löwenbräu Special to victory. At the end of the 24 hours, the Löwenbräu Special completed 753 laps, 2,680 miles and averaged a record 111.499 mph. To this day, 962-103 is the only car to ever capture back-to- back wins at America’s premier endurance race, a proud testament to the successful partnership of Holbert Racing and the Porsche 962.

Throughout 1987, 962-HR1 was being campaigned with greater regularity, yet Holbert’s beloved 962-103 was still proving to be competitive in its fourth IMSA GT Championship season. At the 12 Hours of Sebring, Chip Robinson and Al Holbert drove the original Löwenbräu Special to a most impressive 2nd overall. This achievement was followed by a 3rd place finish at Laguna Seca, a win at Lime Rock, a 2nd place finish at West Palm Beach and a 3rd place finish at Road America. In its last race, at the Columbus 300 Kilometers, 962-103 managed to cross the finish line in 4th place – a positive result for the well-used Porsche and certainly good enough to earn Chip Robinson and Porsche their respective Driver and Manufacturer Championships.

By the end of the 1987 season, 962-103 was showing its age and, with new cars appearing from Jaguar, Nissan and Toyota, the original Löwenbräu Special was no longer able to compete successfully in professional racing. Although Al Holbert always looked forward to the next racing Porsche, he had every intention of retaining 962-103; the car that was largely responsible for his rise to the top of American motor racing.

By the end of the 1987 season, 962-103 was showing its age and, with new cars appearing from Jaguar, Nissan and Toyota, the original Löwenbräu Special was no longer able to compete successfully in professional racing. Although Al Holbert always looked forward to the next racing Porsche, he had every intention of retaining 962-103; the car that was largely responsible for his rise to the top of American motor racing.

In a letter to Porsche, Al Holbert wrote, “As you know, my desire is to own the car as part of my own racing legacy. My goal is to retain the car in my own estate.”

Sadly, in this respect, Al Holbert’s desire was fulfilled. After his tragic passing in 1988, his original 962 was kept by the Holbert family and displayed with pride in the Pennsylvania showroom. Between 1989 and 1990, 962-103 was loaned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum where it served as a centerpiece in a major exhibit highlighting Al Holbert’s countless accomplishments.

Over the next two decades, many attempts were made to acquire 962-103, yet none were successful. The Löwenbräu Porsche was simply too significant for the Holbert family to consider parting with it. Among those with a desire to own the winningest 962 was Matthew Drendel. In 2008, following a long-term campaign to pursue the car, he was finally given the opportunity to purchase 962-103.

Because of the car’s inimitable status, it immediately became one of the Drendel Family Collection’s signature cars and has since shared the garage with its Holbert Racing stablemate 962-HR1. Contributing to the remarkable pedigree of 962-103 is an exhaustive file of memorabilia from the Al Holbert Collection, including trophies, medals, plaques, a racing suit and historical documentation. Not only does this collection make for a spectacular display, it underscores the significant role of this car – and Holbert Racing at large – in the history of Porsche motor racing in the US.

Twenty-five years have passed since 962- 103 last raced, yet the original Holbert Racing Löwenbräu Special remains one of the most recognizable racing Porsches of all time. Despite being one of the first 962s built at Weissach, 962-103 remained competitive throughout four IMSA GT Championship seasons, winning four races in 1984, five in 1985, four in 1986 and two in 1987, for a total of 15 overall victories. This record is a testament to the longevity of Porsche’s engineering and the incomparable talents of Holbert Racing.

While accumulating over 14,000 race and test miles, 962-103 contributed to three IMSA Driver’s Championships, captured back-to-back victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona, became the winningest IMSA GTP chassis and helped Porsche regain a position of dominance in American sports car racing. Beyond its outstanding racing achievements, 962-103 remained in the care of the Holbert family for over two decades before joining the finest private collection of turbocharged Porsches ever assembled. Its provenance is unquestioned and its pedigree is second to none.

Offered for public sale for the first time ever, the appearance of the original Löwenbräu Special at auction represents a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to acquire a Porsche of the very highest order.

This 1984 Porsche 962, chassis number 962-103, sold for $1,925,000 at the 2012 Gooding and Company Amelia Island sale, held March 9th in Amelia Island, Florida.

Auction Editor Rick Carey reported on 962-103:

1984 Porsche 962 on auction block Lot # 53 1984 Porsche 962; S/N 962-103; White, Blue ‘Lowenbrau’/Black; Estimate $1,750,000 – $2,250,000; Competition restoration, 2+ condition; Hammered Sold at $1,750,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $1,925,000 — 3160cc/720hp SOHC turbocharged flat six cylinder, 5-speed, four wheel disc brakes, fully independent and adjustable suspension, Lowenbrau livery, 3-piece center lock BBS wheels, Goodyear racing slicks, race-win medals displayed on dashboard, I piece race seat, five-point restraints. The third customer 962 built. Without any visible flaw. Sold to Al Holbert who scored myriad wins including back-to-back Daytona 24 hour victories in ’86 and ’87 with it. Displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and retained by the Holbert family until sold to Matthew Drendel in 2008. Drendel Family Collection. An epic car with an equally epic value, the 962’s final price was within the expected range considering the rarity of the 962s in general, and the condition and history of this car in particular.

[Source: Gooding & Company; photos: Mathieu Heurtault courtesy of Gooding; Autosports Marketing Assoc.]