Robert McCormick Holbert, one of the first Porsche dealers in the U.S. and a prominent Porsche racecar driver in the 1950s and 1960s, died in his native Warrington, Pennsylvania, on November 12. He was 84.
Born in Warrington in 1923, Bob opened a general purpose automotive garage in the late ’40s, 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 2nd overall in 1960. His racing career started in 1953 in an MG, then moved to Porsches in 1957 after seeing driver Jack McAfee dominate a race at Cumberland Raceway in a Porsche 550 Spyder. His subsequent racing activities in the Porsche RS-550 and RSK led to four SCCA National Championships and a podium finish at Le Mans with Masten Gregory.
“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 U.S. 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.