The one that left an unshakable mark
Whether you are young or old, it is highly improbable that you do not know about the legendary Porsche 917. A car that has crossed the hearts and minds of motorsport enthusiasts for decades. Its sublime curves, timeless design and impressive trophy list make this car a model of exceptional attention, something that the Porsche 917 throughly enjoys.
At the end of the sixties, the FIA (International Automobile Federation) modified the regulations for the International Championship of Makes (World Sportscar Championship), that would reduce engine capacities of participating cars to below 5-litres in an effort to reduce speeds, specially at fast circuits like Le Mans. The new rules also reduced the costs for manufactures who now had to make a minimum production run of just 25 cars instead of 50 units for Group 4 sports cars. By the end of the 70s Porsche decided to take maximum advantage of the new rules.
Till now, Porsche had been competing with their 904, 907 and 908 models, but with the new rules decided to design and build a completely new prototype as per the new regulations, that they would use for racing as well as catering to their customer sports. That said, the development of the new car was with just one underlying goal – to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was here when the Porsche designers took up the task to create a new machine that would be based on the Porsche 908. They had to create the car in just 10 months, which they did, christening it as the Porsche 917K.
The Porsche 917K was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show of 1969, painted in white with a green nose, and would be sold to customers for a price of 140,000 Deutsche Marks, which barely covered the development cost of the car. But Porsche knew from the word go that they had a winner. It wouldn’t be long before the 917 started bringing home the trophies. Its first overall victory came at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 followed by another one in 1971.
Immortalised by Steve McQueen in the movie classic, Le Mans, the speed and success of the 917 resulted in it becoming a popular choice for private entrants racing in the Sportscar World Championship. A total of 59 examples of the 917 were built, 41 as short or long-tail coupes, and 18 as Can-Am or Interseries Spyder versions with the power going up to 1,400hp with turbocharging.
This particular model with white and red trim shown through the pictures is the #23 Porsche Salzburg 917, the very car that won the Le Mans in 1970. Driven by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood, the 4.5-litre 917K crossed he finish line that year under pouring rain to give Porsche their first 917 victory, followed by Martini’s 917LH.
I came across this beautiful example of racing history when it was kept on display at the Festival International Automobile in Paris at the start of 2017.
1970 Porsche 917K “Kurzheck” (Short Tail) Specifications
Engine: 4,494cc, twelve-cylinder, horizontally-opposed pistons, air-cooled, two valves per cylinder, four cogwheel-driven overhead camshafts
Power: 580 hp at 8,400rpm
Fueling system: Bosch mechanical, 12-piston, dual row pump, 120-litre (31.7-gallons) fuel tank
Transmission: Five speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Chassis: Aluminium tubular space frame, plastic body, independent suspension, coil springs, vented discs
Dimensions: Wheelbase 2,300mm (90.5in), length 4,140mm (163in), height 920mm (36in)
Weight: 800 kg (1763 lbs)
Performance: Top speed 340km/h (211mph)