In 1969, the Porsche 917 made its debut. With an air-cooled flat-12, lightweight aluminum frame, low downforce, and the driver’s feet placed ahead of the front axle, the wisdom of its creators was certainly questioned. By 1972, with the help of some key modifications, the brute would become race-winning legend.
In its original configuration, aerodynamics proved to be the 917’s Achilles’ heel. Its high-speed, low-drag body couldn’t produce the downforce needed to keep the car stable. The fix was the 917 Kurzheck—German for “short tail”. Its upswept rear end increased downforce and improved handling at the expense of higher drag and lower speeds. Despite the handicap in speed, the 917k won the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche’s first victory in the classic endurance race.
In 1971, the 917k would repeat its performance in spectacular fashion. Fins were added to the tail, lowering drag and upping speed all while retaining the short tail’s race-winning handling. A white Martini-entered 917k equipped with a one-off magnesium frame would take the victory at the hands of Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep—setting an overall distance record that would stand for 39 years. Helped with changes over the years to Circuit de la Sarthe, the fact remains that #22 still holds the fastest lap record at Le Mans.
Partially thanks to Steve McQueen’s starring role in the movie Le Mans, few images invoke thoughts of the race more than a Porsche 917 in Gulf Oil livery. The #19 Gulf-Ayer 917k driven by Richard Attwood and Herbert Muller finished two laps behind the #22, for 2nd place. This would be the highest-ever result for a Porsche wearing the famous blue and orange colors at the famed French race.
Finally, the ’71 race featured the unique 917/20, an aerodynamic test bed. After a reporter compared the wider, rounder car to a pig, Porsche painted it pink and adorned it with a butcher chart for pork! It was nicknamed Der Truffeljäger von Zuffenhausen, “The Truffelhunter of Zuffenhausen”—or, simply, "Pink Pig". The experimental machine qualified a surprising 7th, but would only make it halfway through the race before crashing during the night due to to brake failure.
Now, these three cars are icons of the sport and the focus for Pierce’s illustrated prints. Each measures 24” x 18” and is hand-screened on heavy French Paper Co. “Sweet Tooth” stock. Companion shirts are also available, as are a range of prints from previous work that feature cars as varied as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL AMG and the Edsel. You can find them all at WorldShutYourMouth.com, with a 5% discount for Petrolicious readers: just enter PETROLICIOUS at checkout.