The 917, the discovery of a Race Car

Porsche developed 6 variations of a designed racecar known as the 917.  Though each engine was slight different, each variant could easily produce around 620bhp, it mixed parts of other race cars developed by them like spoilers from a 908 and alterations to its body shape.   Its drive train a Type 912 flat-12 engine, situated behind the driver with the fuel tank in front of the driver.   Capable of over 240 mph, it also had a fantastic 0-62mph time of 2.3 seconds and the 0-124mph in 5.3.

The most successful of the six versions was the 917K.  There was a long tail version (917LH) and a “pig” version which was a modified 917K.    There was a famous 917 dedicated for racing the 1973 Can-Am series which had a whopping 1,100bhp and during one of the dyno tunes resulted in a throat clearing 1,580bhp!   Never the less the options for these flat 12 machines was either the 4.5, 4.9 or 5 liter engines.

If you are a Porsche owner, there is a high likelihood you’ve seen the 917 star in the 1971 classic film Le Mans.   To get a full appreciation of these machines head into your garage and take yours for a drive.  If you get out to your garage and notice that your 917 has disappeared, then you’ll just have to rent the film.    I would suggest watching it in French is far more interesting than watching it in English.

The 917 is not entirely different than your 911 Turbo other than its output size and overall shape  Most significant was the car engine was air-cooled, throwing the best of other competition car designers into a questioning the Porsche decision.  Looking around under the hood and even in the cockpit, you will see Porsche references.    Due to the super costs of developing such a car, owners needed to be giant corporations such as refined oil, beverage or tires.   Sponsorship included smaller business that included car parts, wine makers and such.  Gulf Oil, Lowenbrau, Martini+Rossi, Goodyear, Bosch all contributed in funding to the cars, mechanics, the race circuit, winning purse and finally drivers.  Variations on funding were like huge advertising sheets, flags, banners, stickers, booklets, periodicals, fan appreciation gear and that all so important product branding.

Drivers such as Udo Schuetz, Gerhard Mitten, Kurt Ahrens, Han Herrman and Willi Kauhsen each wrote themselves in history in etching laps using the dangerous 917.  Derek Bell, Vic Elford and even Steve McQueen himself both spent time behind the wheel, despite various difficulties in controlling the car.  Never the less, each helped themselves become an icon of a period when the world itself was in interesting times.

Falling under the 917 vale, on May 3, 1987 the current owner of A. Bauer Independent Repair, Oakland, California; Chris Lanzatella, was part weekend crew member for the Lowenbrau team when they raced the 300 Kilometer with a Porsche 962 at Laguna Seca.   The Porsche 962 monocoque design had an alloy chassis.  Inside it had an aircooled, six cylinder boxer, two valve per cylinder, single turbocharger 3.2 litre that produced 750 bhp.  It used Brembo vented dual circuit disks that had four piston calipers and a fully synchronized 5 speed plus reverse transmission.   This car had a screaming top speed of 240 mph.    Porsche pit crew team members need qualifications in technician mechanics as like drivers need for piloting cars.  Skip Robinson and Al Holbert were drivers.


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