Dashboard confidential
Driving 'another little piece of my heart'

By Dave Sweetman, columnist

Way back in the late 1960s, when I was a teenager, I had access to a lot of wonderful music, live and up close. Growing up an hour south of Philadelphia, I was a short train ride away from concerts by Cream, Richie Havens, The Doors, Blue Cheer, Jimi Hendrix and more. One of my favorite venues was a converted warehouse called the Electric Factory that offered incredible weekly concerts. Truly a rock and roller's dream, each and every weekend.

One of my early loves was a Texas blues singer named Janis Joplin. Wildly dressed and layered in feathered boas and colorful flashy dresses, she belted out songs that just kicked you in the gut. Her take on blues standards like "Piece of my Heart," "Summertime" and "Ball and Chain" captivated audiences like no other. When Janis sang a Billie Holiday or Bessie Smith song, she made it her own. At the concert's end, you were left emotionally drained, as Janis made you feel her pain and heartache.

Some months later, I had the great opportunity to again witness Janis Joplin live at the Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, N.Y., along with about 400,000 of my new best friends. The band's performance was in the 2 a.m. wee hours of the morning and I recall how surreal it was.

The crowd was absolutely silent as Janis poured her heart out for a solid hour. Her performance was truly the highlight of the whole experience for me. Several months later, I enlisted in the Army for three years. My heart was broken when I found out that in October 1970 she had died from the demons she could not shake.

Roll forward 25 years to 1995 and I am now driving around the country, transporting cool cars of all ages to shows, exhibitions, high-end auctions and private customers. Imagine my surprise when I get dispatched to pick up a 1968 Porsche 356c in San Francisco. Not just any Porsche but Janis Joplin's actual car.

I had seen the pictures of Janis posing with the car and had heard stories of how fans would leave her notes under the wiper blades. The car had become quite famous in its own right because of the wild psychedelic paint job and was instantly recognizable.

When Janis first bought the car, she thought the gray paint boring and paid band roadie Dave Richards $500 to paint it. Paint it he did, with a title called "History of the Universe." The car featured portraits of the band members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Northern California scenery of a twisty road, Janis' astrological sign Capricorn - and on the hood a very mystical "Eye of God." Under the gas filler lid is a scary looking demon very few even know is there.

To say that I treated the car with respect, love and a certain amount of awe would be an understatement. I knew that the car had been repainted as the original paint had crumbled and gone away, but that made no difference to me. This was more than just a car - rather, an important artifact of a time in my life, of an important person, even so far away, that was very much a life changer. This was more than a work of art. I kept my reverence to myself.

For nearly 20 years the Porsche had been on loan by Janis Joplin's siblings, Michael and Laura, and was displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Several months ago, Janis Joplin's 1968 Porsche 356c was consigned for auction in New York as part of a very prestigious Sotheby's event. Pre-auction estimates were that the car would bring around $400,000. News of the upcoming sale made the rounds of car collectors, as well as rock and roll historians. It was also the talk of all mainstream media.

Hammer price of the car was $1.76 million. LL