Porsche 917 #001 the rebirth

Please excuse my english, we do our best…..

It was on March 10, 1969 that the Porsche 917 chassis 001 was completed, just a few days before the official presentation of the model at the Geneva Motor Show. Just one month before the presentation of the 25 copies of the 917 to the ITC (International Sport Commission) in April to obtain its homologation.

It is the change in the regulation of this commission that is behind Project 917.

In 1968, the CSI ended the Group 6 prototype sports category by more than 3 liters. Only prototypes with less than 3 liters and Group 4 sports cars with a maximum of 5 liters, produced with a minimum of 50 units, were eligible for the world championship. The GT40, which was produced with more than 50 copies, would once again be the queens of the Sarthe circuit. In 1969, the CSI reduced the minimum quantity of production from 50 to 25 copies, convinced that no manufacturer would be crazy enough to build 25 prototypes. A rumor nevertheless spread very quickly, Maranello had launched the manufacture of a new prototype in order to regain the victory at Le Mans (512). Porsche had to react, it was still a significant investment but the German firm embarked on this challenge a little crazy: to design a new model in 10 months and produce 25 copies to finally cap his first crown at the 24h du Mans. Circuit where the brand had shone many times by victories category but never won the race.

In view of the time left to create the car, many of the techniques used will already have proven themselves on the previous model: the 908. Designed by Ferdinand Piëch, Helmuth Bott and Hans Metzger the 917 will have, like the 908, a tubular chassis in aluminum. That of the 917 will only 47 kg.

The engine, which was designed by Hans Mezger, director of the study department of the sport department, will be a flat 12 in magnesium (block and cylinder head) developing 530 hp. The bodywork, will be polyester and fiberglass glued. This one will weigh in long tail version, 107 kg. Which, once completed and engine mounted, will make the 917 a monster of more than 530 hp and less than 800 kilos.

Period image of the presentation of the 25 Porsche 917s in the factory Zuffenhausen waiting for the inspection by Dean Delamont and Herbert Schmidt of the CS1. 001 is in the foreground. Note that the second and third car were num, they had already run in the Le Mans test days earlier. Legend has it that some cars were still equipped with truck axles, but nothing is proven about it.

The 917 will become in 1970 and 1971 the best car in the world and still today, for many, the most beautiful sports car of all time. It will exist with different types of bodies: LH for long tail, K for the short version and a spider version. These different versions will allow the car to perform on all types of tracks in the world championship, routes as different as Le Mans, Spa, Sebring or the Nürburgring. But the winners of the Porsche 917 is not the purpose of this article.

Let’s get back to these lines: chassis # 001. This chassis did not participate in any race, he served for many tests and mainly presentation car at various promotion fairs.

 Historically # 001 was a white LH (long tail) chassis with green painted front and a 917 logo. For different promotional campaigns, 1969 it was repainted in white and orange then in the colors Gulf, orange and blue, at the moment when the 917 were represented in the race by John Wyer Automotive Engineering.

In 1971, following the victory of a Porsche 917 K version at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood, the rear of the car was modified to adopt the bodywork « K ». The bodywork will be repainted in the colors of the victorious car to represent the car around the world, and then be displayed at the Porsche Museum in this configuration. Remember that this victory was the first in a long series on the Sarthe circuit and will remain forever highly symbolic for the Stuttgart firm

It’s under these colors that # 001 slept until 2018.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of this legendary model, the Porsche Museum decided at the end of 2017 to hand over chassis # 001 in its original condition, in the livery where she was at the 1969 presentation in the factory yard. (See vintage photo above) 

When, in 2018, the rebuilding of the chassis began, Porsche Museum began by completely dismantling the car. They could then see that the chassis was the # 001 on 2 elements specific to this chassis: the absence of diagonal reinforcement in front of the pedals and on the right side of the car a recess for the exhaust system. Recess that was subsequently closed to match the K body.

After checking the chassis modifications and checking the feasibility of putting the chassis back into its original configuration, the technicians began the reconstruction work, using, where possible , the original parts of the car and based on the original documents rebuild the original project. The original roof, the windshield, the door frames and the two 001 tanks were found. For the rest the use of 3D technology was widely used, especially to create, from the drawings, the negative molds essential for the realization of the bodywork with medical precision. It took more than a year of work to finally be able to fix the new front part to the frame. Then the engineers worked on the recreation of the rear chassis in LH version as it was originally. The modification in short tail (K) had involved a shortening of this part of the car. 

For the first time in 50 years Porsche would have to recreate a rear frame and have a long tail made of polyester laminate with fiberglass. The manufacture of movable shutters was, also, particularly delicate. Close to the aeronautical techniques of the time, the materials and the specificities of the latter gave a lot of trouble to the engineers of Porsche Museum. 

After 10 months of work the engine could finally be reassembled in the chassis and the car was ready to restart. There was no question of back # 001 in its initial configuration for only exposed to the Museum, the management of Porsche wanted to see the car evolve on the circuits and to perfect the result, Porsche made new magnesium wheels flow in all identical point to the 1969 rims.

The car was presented in Stuttgart in January 2019.

Here she is on the track at the Goodwood Member’s Meeting in 2019 and in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, surrounded by other 917s as part of the exhibition « 917 50years »

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