The inspiration behind the Joplin Porsche was a similar psychedelically liveried car that Janis had seen on the streets of San Francisco in 1968, with which she adored. With typical frugality, she picked up a four-year-old Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet from renowned Beverly Hills dealer Estes-Zipper for $3,500. She then handed it over to her band’s jack-of-all-trades 'roadie,' Dave Richards – an amateur artist – $500 and not a whole lot of direction.
Richards covered the car’s grey paint in Candy Apple Red from nose to tail. He then set to work on the new finish, inch by inch, his brushes etching out what he referred to as 'The History of the Universe.' Portraits of the Big Brother and the Holding Company band members flowed up the left side; Janis’s astrological sign, Capricorn, appeared on the right rear wing. The verdant green valley of Northern California, containing a brown road that twists beneath mountains, appears on the right door, while the bonnet contains 'The Eye of God,' overseeing all else. No part of the Porsche’s bodywork was left untouched.
Janis and her cabriolet then became a familiar sight around the Bay Area and indeed over much of California. It was no stage prop; it was Janis’s daily drive, and where she went, the Porsche went too, with her own hands on the wheel.
Janis Joplin's Porsche was sold at auction by RM Sotheby's in New York recently for just over $1.7million. Photo Credit: 2015 © RM Sothebys Inc.