(Editor’s note: During September we’ve presented a series of articles about selling your collector car. As the month ends, we share the following example of what can happen if you sell the right car at the right time in the right venue.)
Kevin Shows was in Los Angeles on business in 2017. He had some time to kill before his flight home and, as a car guy and collector, was eager to make his first visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Although he didn’t really have enough time before his flight to see all the museum had to offer, he paid extra to take the tour of “The Vault,” the Petersen’s previously secret underground storage facility.
In The Vault, “sort of sitting off by itself,” as Shows recalls, was a Porsche 928. “The tour blew right past, but I knew what the car was as soon as I saw it.”
The car was the Porsche 928 that Shows had seen years before as a teenager enthralled by the Tom Cruise movie, Risky Business. Shows, now 43, grew up watching — and being influenced by — Tom Cruise’s movies. Indeed, Shows became an airline pilot and instructor after watching Top Gun.
“I had to head to the airport, so I didn’t do the whole tour,” Shows recalled, “but they did say this was the car from the movie.”
Shows inquired with the tour guide, and then with people staffing the museum admission desk, seeking to learn who owned the Porsche. He was told sharing such information was against museum policy.
Like Kevin Shows, Lewis Johnsen had been a teenager impacted by Risky Business. The movie helped to convince Johnsen to go to college. He studied communications at the University of Colorado, did an internship at an NBC-affiliate television station, and hosted and produced a home-improvement show before working in corporate marketing.
Throughout, he remained fascinated by the Risky Business 928 and produced a documentary, The Quest for the RB928, about his search for the 928 from the movie.
One thing he learned was that as many as half a dozen 928s had been used in filming and post-production promotion of the movie. According to an article in Excellence, the Porsche-focused magazine, the cars came from various model years, were in various colors, and varied in manual or automatic transmissions.
The Excellence article reports that only two of those may still exist, and one was damaged and sold to an overseas owner. Known to the film crew as the “fill car,” a 1979 928 with a 5-speed manual transmission and gold interior not only was featured in the movie, but producer Jon Avent said it was the car in which he had taught Cruise how to manipulate a manual gearbox.
Because the car was a 1979 model, and because Platinum Metallic was a new color for the 928 in 1981, the car was repainted for the movie and was used in scenes where the entire car needed to be shown. It also was used in parts of the chase scene, according to the Excellence article.
The car had been rented from a movie-supply company in California, and was sent back there after filming was completed. Johnsen used a private investigator to track down the car’s owner, who had had it for three years and, as it turned out, was ready to sell.
Johnsen bought the car, which not only had more than 100,000 miles on its odometer but had been repainted white. He scraped off enough paint in one spot to find the gold shade confirming it was the movie car.
After his visit to the Petersen in 2017, Kevin Shows flew home and started doing research on the Risky Business Porsche, finally finding an online article that mentioned father and son Bill and Patrick Shea as the owners, and not only of the Risky Business Porsche but of a screen-accurate Back to the Future DeLorean and various props from that movie.
Shows sent an email to the Sheas saying he wanted to buy the Porsche.
“I sent the email thinking there was no way I was going to get a response,” Shows said. “The next day, Bill responded.”
The response was that the Sheas had no intention of selling the car, which was on loan to the Petersen for 18 months and was about to move upstairs as part of a special Porsche exhibition.
But Shows kept in touch with the Sheas during the exhibition. In the meantime, the Sheas had purchased several of the vehicles used in the Jurassic Park films and needed space to keep them.
“Bill felt my passion for the car,” Shows said, adding that even before seeing the 928 in the movie, he remembers being a pre-teen back in Pennsylvania and his family would dine at the Candlelight restaurant, with the restaurant owner’s 928 parked outside.
“I would sneak off to the parking lot and drool over that car,” Shows said.
It is public record that the Sheas bought the Risky Business Porsche at auction for $50,000. Like the Sheas, Kevin Shows also became part of a father/son business. After retiring from ATT/Lucent Technologies, Glenn Shows, Kevin’s father, founded G E Semi, which refurbishes and selling semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
While traveling for the company, Kevin Shows would find collector vehicles for the family’s collection. With Bill Shea aware of Kevin’s passion for the car, a deal was struck.
“I had no intention of selling the car,” Kevin Shows said a few days after he had, indeed, sold the car at the recent Barrett-Jackson auction in Houston, Texas, and for $1.98 million.
But let’s not get ahead of our story… After doing his deal with the Sheas, Kevin Shows flew to Colorado to meet Lewis Johnsen, to watch the documentary and other footage that had been shot and to learn as much as he could about the car. Several Shows family members went to LA to take delivery of the car at the Petersen, and while there they did the Hollywood Walk of Fame and visited the Tom Cruise star.
“We put the car in the collection,” Shows said, adding, however, they quickly discovered “the car was not totally correct,” so work was done inside and out to “get the car back into its movie correctness.”
After the car was back to Risky Business specification, Kevin Shows took it to the Concours in the Hills, the annual car show in Fountain Hills, just east of Scottsdale, Arizona, and not far from the Shows’ home. There, the car was seen by members of the Porsche Club of America.
That led to a 928 designer’s daughter asking if the Shows would show the car at the upcoming Porsche Parade in Palm Springs, an event eventually canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the car subsequently was invited to Atlanta, for a special Hollywood-themed showcase of Porsches at Porsche Cars North America headquarters. The car was in Atlanta for a year.
Afterward, “We brought the car home and put it in the garage,” Kevin Shows said. That’s when he realized the car needed to be seen, not secluded away. He also looked at the current state of the collector car market, saw that cars from the 1980s and ‘90s were growing in popularity with collectors.
“He also knew Top Gun 2 was scheduled for release in November 2021 (subsequently delayed until May 2022), and additional publicity would be generated by Cruise’s effort to film a movie that would have him rocketing to the International Space Station.
“I went to my dad. ‘You know what, I told him, I intended to keep this car my entire life. It’s a car I had watched growing up and could only dream of owning, but maybe this is the time to let it go’.”
So Shows consigned the Risky Business Porsche to the docket for Barrett-Jackson’s auction in Houston. When the time came for the car to cross the auction block, the bidding immediately exceeded what Shows had hoped to get for the car, and then went beyond what Barrett-Jackson told him he might get, and quickly hit $1 million with four phone bidders battling for possession. The car hammered sold at $1.8 million, which produced a final sales figure of $1.98 million with the buyer’s fee attached.
“I didn’t go into this looking to make a buck,” Kevin Shows said. In fact, his father had told him he’d be happy just to get back his initial investment in buying the car.
“Hitting $1.8 million was very unexpected,” Shows added, “but if anybody could do this, it was Barrett-Jackson.”
Even before the auction, Shows, who once had a 1981 model 928 as his daily driver, told a director of the 928 owners club that he hoped to break an auction record price for such a car, that he wanted to “do something good for the 928,” to put the model in the spotlight and enhance its status with collectors.
You have to agree that he was successful in that goal.
But he also hopes he’s successful in another goal for the car and its sale. Shows is the father of 9- and 12-year-old sons.
“This is really not about a car,” he said. “This is a love letter to my children, to stay passionate, to stay persistent, and to always follow your dreams.”