The Porsche 917 is one of the most successful racing cars of all time, in fact some automotive historians go so far as to call it the greatest racing car of the 20th century. Porsche began development of the model in 1968 with a very clear goal in mind – they wanted outright victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in May, 1970.
In order to shorten the development timeline as much as possible, it was decided that two Porsche 911 flat-6 engines would be joined crank-to-crank, giving an initial displacement of 4.5 litres from the two donor 2.25 litre units. Over the course of its development variants of the 917 would be offered with 4.5 litre, 4.9 litre, and 5 litre engines – some of which would be turbocharged for Can Am racing and capable of over 1100hp.
Over the course of its service life, Porsche 917s registered wins in many of the world’s great racing series, including the World Sportscar Championship, Le Mans, and Can Am to name just a few. The 917s win at Le Mans in 1971 set a distance record of 5,335.16 kilometres that would stand for almost 40 years.
The car you see here is an early prototype for the open-topped Porsche 917/10 variant. It carries chassis number 917/10-001, and it was completed on the 3rd of December 1970. This is the car that was used for wind-tunnel development at Porsche’s Weissach R&D facility to combat the significant aero issues faced by the model when it was first introduced. It also underwent a long on-track development programme, including 23 consecutive testing days on the Weissach skidpad.
After its testing regimen drew to a close, chassis 917/10-001 was rebuilt by Porsche, and sold on to Willi Kauhsen who began racing it extensively in Europe, the USA and South America. Over the course of its active years the car was driven by Willi Kauhsen, Emerson Fittipaldi, Charlie Kemp, Gunther Stekkonig, and Wilson Fittipaldi.
After competition retirement the car sat in storage for over 20 years, before undergoing a 2 year restoration in 1997. Since its recommissioning it’s been displayed and driven at Austria’s Ennstal Classic (where Ferrari F1 driver Gerhard Berger took the wheel), as well as Goodwood, Nürburgring, Daytona, Brands Hatch, and St. Raphael Concours d’Elegance.
Chassis 917/10-001 is now being offered for public sale by RM Sotheby’s with an estimated value of between €4,600,000 and €5,500,000. It’ll roll across the au auction block In Paris on the 8th of February – and you can click here if you’d like to read more of register to bid.
Photo Credits: ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s