The Porsche 917, one of the most iconic race cars in the history of motorsport, began as an afterthought. The car that would go on to be immortalized by setting racing records all over the world, not mention in movie classics like Steve McQueens Le Mans, stemmed from an unexpected change to sanctioning rules.
After the 1967 race season, the Commission Sportive Internationale, then the independent competition arm of the FIA, announced that all future prototypes would be limited to 3.0 liters of engine displacementa move that many agree was made in direct response to Fords dominating victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its 7.0-liter GT40s, which took first, second, and third in 1966, and first and fourth in 1967.
Manufacturers werent reacting quickly enough to the change, so the CSI also announced a new Group 4 sports car series, which allowed engine displacements of up to 5.0 liters, but required at least 25 units be produced for homologation. Porsche, already hard at work polishing its 3.0-liter race car, the 908, stunned the world when it unveiled a second prototype race car aimed at the Group 4 category: the 917. Despite the FIAs doubts, Porsche presented the FIA with 25 units just three weeks after the 917s debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1969.
Powering the early 917 was a 4.5-liter flat-12 engine, designed by the noted Porsche engineer Hanz Mezger. To curtail development costs, the engine borrowed heavily from its 3.0-liter counterpart found in the Porsche 908. The 1969 race engines produced 580 hp 376 lb-ft of torque. Later models had the option to run larger-displacement engines of 4.9, 5.0, and eventually 5.4 liters, each providing a corresponding bump in performance. The flat-12 would go on to become the 917s most defining trait.
While the engine was an immediate success, the cars body and aerodynamics were anything but. Early tests were worrisome. The car wandered heavily under braking and was diabolical in high-speed turns. None of the regular Porsche drivers wanted to race it.
But the engineers at Porsche soldiered on, eventually adding wider rear wheels and a few other changes that made the 917 into a more controllable machine. Short and long-tail versions of the car were developed, but while the 917 long-tail is a thing of beauty, the shape made famous by a flurry of victories is the short version, better known as the 917K, for kurtz.
In August 1969, drivers Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens gave the 917 its first victory at the Osterreichring in Austria. The following year, under the watchful eye of respected team manager John Wyer, 917s would don their iconic Gulf Oil livery and dominate major races on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 1970 season brought Porsches first overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 917s greatest achievement, but only one of many more. Victories that year came quickly and resoundingly at places Monza and Daytona, the latter of which would see Porsche smash the overall distance record by more than 150 miles. In total, the 917s first full year of competition would bring seven major victories.
1971 was no different, with six major victories topped by another overall win at Le Mans. Later that year, development of the Can-Am version would start, a car so dominant that it would become known as the car that broke a series.
Today, the 917 is revered as one of the most iconic race cars of all time. It was the car that brought Porsche its first overall victory at the worlds most grueling race, and the car that would go on to set one of the most impressive records of dominance in prototype racing series the world has ever seen.
ABOUT THE MODEL
Every Amalgam 1:18 scale model is supplied in a luxury black box with a protective outer carrying sleeve. Each model is mounted on a polished black acrylic base protected by a clear acrylic dust cover. The base holds a booklet containing the certificate of authenticity along with information and collateral material about the car. The model title and original branding is displayed on a polished stainless steel plaque mounted at the front end of the base.