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Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance: Porsche 917s

Posted in Automotive Event, Classic, Collector Cars, General, Porsche, Racing by Kurt Ernst | March 23rd, 2010 | 2 Responses |
Porsche 917

Car number 23 won the 1970 LeMans race

Perhaps the single most iconic racing car in history, the Porsche 917 is what most people think of when they hear the name LeMans. This isn’t surprising, as Porsche developed the 917 to compete in the storied endurance race, and 917s gave Porsche their first LeMans win in 1970. More pics after the jump.

1969 Porsche 917K

1969 917K, in Gulf Oil livery

1969 Porsche 917K

1969 917K

1969 Porsche 917K

1969 917K flat-12 motor

Steve McQueen added to the cars fame with the release of his 1971 film, LeMans, which featured actual footage of the 1970 race. If you’ve never seen the film, you should; it’s not much for dialogue or plot, but it features great racing footage of Porsche 917s battling Ferrari 512s.

1970 Porsche 917

This 917 began life as a closed cockpit car; it was crashed by Mike Hailwood at LeMans in 1970

Porsche produced the 917 from 1969 through 1973, in a total of six variants. Engines were flat 12s and ranged from 620 horsepower to over 1,100 horsepower in the 917/30 configuration. Early 917s were ill tempered and evil handling, since Porsche sculpted the body with low drag, not downforce, in mind. Brian Redman, famous for his mastery of the 917 in various versions, recalled that, “it was incredibly unstable, using all the road at speed.” An accident at the start of the 1969 LeMans race claimed the life of John Woolfe, the first privateer to race the 917.

1970 Porsche 917

1970 Porsche 917, in Martini livery, unrestored

1970 Porsche 917LH

1970 917LH 'Hippie Car'

By 1970, Porsche had developed aerodynamic enhancements that improved the cars behavior at high speeds and the victories began to accumulate. Other body styles were built in an attempt to reduce drag, but maintain some level of drivability. Five 917LH “Longtail” versions were built, including the “Hippie Car” shown here.

1972 Porsche 917

1972 917-10

1972 Porsche 917

1972 917-10

1972 Porsche 917

The flat 12 motor sounds like nothing else

The last major variant of the 917, the 917/30, was introduced in 1973 and featured an open cockpit design to compete in the North American Can-Am Challenge. It remains the most powerful sports racer ever produced; in qualifying trim, running 39 pounds of boost, the 12 cylinder twin-turbo motor produced 1,580 horsepower. This was good enough to propel the 1,800 pound car to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 1.9 seconds. The car would hit 200 mph in 10.9 seconds and had a top speed of 260 miles per hour. Ironically, the car that so forcefully dominated Can-Am racing also led to its demise; concerned that speeds had gotten too high and that motor racing was seen as wasteful following the original oil crisis, the SCCA pulled the plug on the series in 1974.

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2 Responses

  1. nospaces says:

    mmmmm like warm strudel

  2. Kurt says:

    I was standing by the 917/10 as they were trying to start it. SEAL Team 6 could not have moved me from that spot; damn, what a sound…