Bob Holbert Dies
Robert McCormick Holbert, one of the first Porsche dealers in the country and a prominent Porsche race driver in the 1950’s and 1960’s, died in his native Warrington, Penn., on Monday, Nov. 12.
Born in Warrington in 1923, Bob opened a general purpose automotive garage in the late ‘40’s, moving to the more famous Holbert’s Garage building across the street in 1951 when he started a repair and parts business specializing in foreign and sports cars. In 1954, Holbert’s Garage became one of the first authorized Porsche dealers in the country, and continues today as one of the most well-known and oldest Porsche dealerships in America.
Holbert’s love and knowledge of cars included a distinguished racing career with awards ranging from The New York Times “Best Sports Car Driver” three separate years to top finishes in the 12 Hours of Sebring. He drove to a record six class victories at Sebring including second overall in 1960. His racing career started in 1953 in an MG, then moved to Porsches in 1957 after seeing driver Jack McAfee pass seven drivers – all cars with bigger engine displacements – in a Porsche 550 Spyder at Cumberland Raceway. His subsequent racing activities in Porsche RS-550 and RSK led to four SCCA National Championships, and a podium finish at Le Mans with Masten Gregory. Holbert also sold Roger Penske his first race car (1958).
“Through his dealership and racing successes, Bob Holbert helped establish the Porsche brand in America,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, president and chief executive officer of Porsche Cars North America. “He was a true American Porsche pioneer.”
Holbert later became a Shelby Cobra team factory driver, winning the first United States Road Racing Championship title in 1963. He and frequent co-driver Dave McDonald won the GT Class at Sebring in 1964. McDonald’s death in a racing accident at Indianapolis several months later was a major factor in Bob Holbert’s decision to retire from racing later that year.
Son Al Holbert, who also helped run the dealership and was the President of Porsche Motorsport North America, had a brilliant racing career of his own, winning twice at Sebring (1976 and 81), the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, and multiple IMSA titles before his remarkable career and life was cut short by a 1988 plane crash. His other son, Larry, has been the president and general manager of the family-owned dealership for the past 25 years.