Porsche Celebrates the 50 Years of the Porsche 917

Porsche celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Porsche 917 by Restoring Porsche 917 001 to its initial configuration

The Porsche 917, the most famous racing car in history according to leading journalists celebrates its 50th anniversary.  To celebrate the occasion, Porsche has restored the first 917 produced, Porsche 917 001 to its initial livery.

Porsche 917 001 was the first of 25 copies that was needed for the 917 to meet homologation requirements.  Porsche 917 001 was first presented in Geneva in March 1969.  It was shown a few months later at Frankfurt after being repainted in white and orange.

When Porsche announced that racing activities was to be outsourced to the engineering team at J.W. Automotive engineering, it was painted the same brand colors of its US-based sponsor, Gulf and its iconic light blue and orange colors.

After Porsche’s clean sweep of Le Mans in 1970, 917 001 was remade into a short-tail configuration and repainted the same color as Le Mans winning number 23.

The 917, dominating Le Mans

During its brief run, the 917 absolutely dominated the races that it raced in.  This includes racing events throughout Europe as well as the United States.

In its first year of competition, the 917 won a 1,000 kilometer race at Zeltweg, in Austria.  In 1970, the 917 won at Le Mans, Porsche’s most significant win to date.  In 1971, the 917 repeated its win at Le Mans.

With continued development of the 917 into the 917/10 and 917/30, Porsche sets its sights on the United States with the North American CanAm Series in 1972 and 1973.  To do this, Porsche modified the 917s 12-cylinder boxer engine to produce over 1,000 horsepower with the addition of a turbocharger. The result in North America was the same as it was in Europe, domination of the races in which it participated in.

The Porsche 917, following the recipe for racing success.

The Porsche 917 followed the “tried and true” recipe for racing success, massive horsepower wrapped in a lightweight body.  In this case, a 12 cylinder engine producing 600 horsepower placed within a tube-frame chassis made of hollow magnesium tubes.

The frame of the 917 served two purposes.  First, it was made of hollow magnesium tubing in order to conserve weight.  Secondly, it was hollow to circulate coolant to keep the massive rear-engine car cool.  As a result, the legendary racer only weighed 800 kilograms.

The 917 was as dangerous as it was fast.  For starters, the driver’s feet are in front of the front axle, there is a massive V12 engine directly behind the driver, and lastly, the frame is made of hollow magnesium.  As a result, the different derivations of the Porsche 917 had a reputation of not only being devastatingly fast but also dangerous.

Despite the perceived safety of the Porsche 917, there is little doubt as to its legendary status of one of the greatest race cars to have ever been developed.  It was so dominant in its time that it was eventually ‘banned’ out of racing.

Today, the 917 is incredibly desirable.  When they do come up for sale, which is not often, they sell for millions of dollars.  In 2017, a 917 with film credits in Steve McQueen’s legendary racing movie, “Le Mans”, sold for $14 million.

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