PCS Blog

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a….1965 Porsche 356C?

Posted by Kinsley Suer | 29 June 2011

“Oh Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends." 
- Janis Joplin, “Mercedes Benz”
Ironically, although she famously claimed to desire a Mercedes Benz, Janis Joplin actually owned an arguably more awesome set of wheels: a custom-painted 1965 Porsche 356C Cabriolet.
By the late 1960s, Janis’ fame had reached a new high, and she finally had the means for some true rock star transportation. So, in September 1968, Janis bought the three-year-old sports car from a Beverly Hills car dealer. She initially paid about $3500 for the used set of wheels, painted a plain-jane “oyster white.” She quickly realized, however, that the standard paint job didn’t quite suit her flamboyant and outspoken nature. Eventually, she asked her friend (and Big Brother and the Holding Company roadie) Dave Richards to create something more dramatic.
Janis thought it would be fun to redo the car with a multicolor psychedelic paint job, featuring hallucinogenic mushrooms, flowers, butterflies, astrological signs, peaceful mountain scenes, blood on an American flag, and even an image of Janis and her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Using standard paint, Richards took these ideas and converted them into a swirling psychedelic design, including Mount Tamalpais (a mountain peak near San Francisco) on one fender and the portrait of Big Brother and the Holding Company on the other. Ultimately, he succeeded in creating nothing less than an eye-popping, traffic-stopping four-wheeled icon of the psychedelic era. He was paid $500 for his work.
Obviously, the car was hard to miss, and everybody knew it was Janis behind the wheel. She would often drive it around the Haight-Ashbury area with the top down. Fans would leave notes and gifts for her under the wipers and on the hood wherever it was parked.
During one of Janis’ gigs, a gutsy thief - or an overzealous fan - stole the car and spray painted it gray. Fortunately, Janis recovered it and found a body shop to restore its custom paint job.
After her death, the Porsche ended up in the hands of her manager, Albert Grossman, who lived in New York and let visiting rock musicians drive it when they were in town. In 1973, it was returned to the Joplin family. “It was trashed,” Janis’ brother Michael Joplin once recalled. “It had been sitting in a garage for a long time and it wasn’t drivable.” After pushing it down the road to a mechanic, who got it up and running again, Michael and his sister Laura drove it for the next 20 years.
During that time, the psychedelic paint job started to fade. “I would drive along and big chips of paint would fly off,” Michael remembered. “It was an old car, and it started falling apart. After much anguish, we decided to take the paint off to save the car.”
Finally, in 1994, the family decided to have it repainted in all of its hippie-era glory; only the top and seats needed to be replaced. Today, it appears fully restored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
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