This Typ 718 RSK, chassis 718-031, was among the last of the 35 718 RSKs built. According to its Kardex, it was completed in June of 1959 for its first owner Bernard “Bernie” Vihl Sr. of Clifton, New Jersey. A successful industrialist, Vihl immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1920s and used his background in aeronautics to begin working at the American offices of Fokker Aircraft in Long Island. He later broke out on his own to start Industrial Copper and Metal Work, which proved to be rather successful and allowed him to begin racing and campaigning sports cars in the mid-’50s, focusing his attention on Porsches. He would go on to own a 550 Spyder, this 718 RSK, and, later, an RS60, among others. With the purchase of his new 718 “Giant Killer”, Vihl went hunting for big game and top honors at tracks around the country using his new car and the extremely talented and accomplished Bob Holbert as his wheelman.
In the world of racing, especially in the United States, Porsche, and Robert “Bob” McCormick Holbert are inseparable. Born in Warrington, Pennsylvania in 1923, Holbert began wrenching on cars professionally in the 1940s and later opened Holbert’s Garage in his hometown specializing in foreign cars in 1951. Two years later he began his racing career in an MG TD and the next year became one of the first authorized Porsche dealers in the United States—an operation that is still going today as the one of the oldest and best-known Porsche dealerships in the country. In 1957, seeing the success of the Porsche 550 on the track and its ability to slingshot past larger bore cars, Holbert switched brands and quickly established himself as top contender driving Stuttgart’s finest. In Porsches, he won four Sports Car Club of America Championships, “Best Sports Car Driver” from The New York Times, and top finishes at the 12 Hours of Sebring. He retired from racing in 1964 to focus on his dealership while his son Al would go on to further the Holbert legacy of racing Porsche by taking two overall wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Porsches.
This car, 718-031, would be Holbert’s chariot for the 1959 and 1960 season. Fresh from his 4th overall and 1st in class win at the 1959 12 Hours at Sebring in another 718 RSK, Holbert started the SCCA season in the brand new 718 RSK at the SCCA National Marlboro on April 14, 1959. 500 yards into the first lap of the first practice session, the Porsche was clipped in the left front corner by Walt Hansgen’s Lister Corvette and promptly rear-ended by Bill Kimberly’s Ferrari 500 TR. Pictures of the 718 after the incident were featured in the May 1959 issue of Porsche Panamera. Of course, being racing in the 1950s, this had little effect on Holbert’s progress in the season as less than a month later the car was repaired and on the track at the SCCA National Cumberland where it took 2nd place behind Walt Hansgen’s Lister. A photo of a smiling Holbert and family with the RSK on a trailer behind the family wagon at Cumberland shows how quickly and well things were repaired. Holbert’s season in 718-031 continued apace around the country with Bridgehampton, Riverside (both SCCA and USAC), Montgomery, Vineland, and Thompson – getting on the podium of all but one of his SCCA outings. In September, Holbert took the RSK to a 7th overall and 3rd in class finish at the 12th Annual Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Ending the year on top, he and 718-031 would blow into the 6th Annual International Bahamas Speed Week in December of ’59. In its first outing of the event, the Governor’s Trophy for 2000cc and under, Holbert took 1st overall edging out Ricardo Rodriguez’s Ferrari Dino 196S and Harry Blanchard’s 718 RSK. Two days later in the Nassau Trophy race, 718-031 was piloted from a Le Mans start to 3rd overall and 1st in class – just behind Phil Hill in his Ferrari 250 TR 59 and ahead of the 718 RSKs of Jo Bonnier, Harry Blanchard, and Wolfgang von Tripps—among others.
For 1960, Holbert kept up his A-game taking first place twice—at the May 1st Nationals in Virginia and July 17th National Continental Divide in Colorado—and scoring a podium finish overall all but once and first or second in class in virtually every race. For his efforts he was awarded the SCCA National Championship in 1960, thanks in no small part to his performance in this car.
By 1961, Holbert had moved onto Porsche’s newest offering—the RS60—and Vihl would enter his RSK at one last race, the Canadian Grand Prix/The Pepsi-Cola Trophy at Mosport on September 30th, but it is not recorded that he arrived at the event. Shortly thereafter, 031 was acquired by fellow Tri-State Area racer and restauranteur Herb Wetanson. One of two 718 RSKs he would own, he continued to campaign the car throughout the Northeast. In the mid-60s, Wetanson swapped the original typ 547/3 motor for a larger 587/3 from a 904 that was sourced from George Barber of Birmingham, Alabama. Remaining in Herb’s collection for about a decade, 031 was acquired by the current owner through Gran Turismo Automotive Enterprises, LTD of Greenvale, New York on March 12, 1974.
Receipts on file, dating from April of ’74, indicate the Porsche was taken to Malcolm Pray’s Porsche dealership for service, new tires, and—two months later—a repair to the front nose and a full repaint. In early 1978, a trade was arranged through Rennsport Werke of Santa Clara, California to repatriate a correct type 547/3 engine with the RSK in exchange for the 587/3 motor that was in the car—the latter going into Donald Orosco’s 904. Rennsport Werke also sourced the correct type rebuilt transmission, no. 718-073, to be installed in the car. In 1981, Grand Prix Restorations performed a thorough mechanical restoration with receipts totaling more than $12,000. In 1985 the seats were reupholstered by Northumberland Engineering in East Hampton, New York. Further restoration was done in 1995 by KAM Motorsports. During this time the RSK was actively campaigned at VSCCA events across the Northeast as well as participating in the New England 1000. Not driven much from the early 2000s until recently, over $10,000 has been spent on recent service by Automotive Restoration in Stratford, Connecticut to recommission the car. The Porsche is complete with a large file of receipts and records recording all the work completed from 1974 to today as well as its VSCCA logbook.
Raced By Bob Holbert in the 1959-1960 season
Multiple First Place Finisher
Ordered New by Industrialist Bernie Vihl
Owned by Restauranteur and Racer Herb Wetanson for nearly a decade
Over Three Decades of Ownership by its Third Owner
Four Owners From New
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