40 years of the Porsche 917

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Forty years ago on 13 March, 1969 at the Geneva International Motor Show, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche unveiled the Porsche 917. It became a legend as one of the fastest and most successful racing cars of all time.

Porsche fired the starting shot for Project 917 in June 1968, after the international motor sports authority or FIA had announced a class of “homologated sports cars” with up to five
litres cubic capacity and a minimum weight of 800 kilograms.

The engine configuration of the 917 was just as unusual as its different car body versions: Behind the driver’s seat extended an air-cooled, twelve-cylinder engine with horizontal
cylinders, whose crankshaft designated it as a 180-degree V engine. The 520hp engine had an initial cubic capacity of 4.5 litres. The tubular frame was made of aluminium, the car body
out of glass fibre reinforced synthetics. Porsche engineers developed different car body models to best meet the different demands of different racetracks. The so-called short-tail
model was designed for heavily twisting roads in which a high contact pressure was necessary for fast cornering. The long-tail model was designed for fast racetracks and a high final velocity. Then came the open 917 Spyders, which were used in the CanAm and Interseries races.

The technologies for increasing performance developed for these races were successfully transferred to the on-road sports car. That’s how the 911 Turbo, with its side-exhaust turbocharger, began its career in 1974.

All in all, Porsche built 65 units of the 917: 44 sports cars as short-tail and long-tail coupés, two PA Spyders as well as 19 sports cars as CanAm and Interseries Spyders with up to 1400hp turbo engines.

Seven of the most important 917 models – among them the Le Mans victory cars from 1970 and 1971 and the 917/30 Spyder – are currently on exhibit in the new Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.