FIVE Legendary Porsche 917 Liveries And The Stories Behind Them
Though I refuse to use the word – which is now as overused today as ‘literally’, ‘like’, and ‘fake news’, and equally as tedious – there’s little doubt that the 917 is the most ico… epochal Porsche sports cars of them all. This is the prototype after all that cemented the German marque the first two of its 19 Le Mans wins thus far, a race distance record unbroken for 39 years, a World Sports Car Championship, and, once modified, 37 Can-Am wins from ’71 to ’75. On motor racing’s Mount Rushmore, the 917 is up there with the McLaren MP4/4, the Lancia Stratos, and the Ford GT40.
No real surprise then that no stone was left unturned when the 917 celebrated its 50th birthday, and to draw the year to a close, Porsche has released its latest ‘Top 5’ video on the sports car’s most… legendary liveries. And no, we’re not going to ruin the list for you. Just click play.
Fittingly, the first model on this ‘Top 5’ list is the example that got the proverbial ball rolling back in 1969. Finished just two days before its global debut at that year’s Geneva Motor Show on 12 March, the 917-001 was the first of 25 homologated Group sports cars built specifically to win the World Sportscar Championship (its 908 predecessor got the job done early that year) and claim Porsche’s first overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. ‘Porsche System Engineering’s ’69 hopes went up in smoke along with their gearboxes (plus clutch issues for the Vic Elford / Richard Attwood entry) though the mission was famously completed one year later.
As a presentation vehicle, the nearly-all white 917-001 headlined Geneva with a green front section, distinguishing it from its 24 race-ready contemporaries, though the green was gone when the newly re-painted white/orange 001 arrived at the Frankfurt Motor Show later that year. With racing activites transferred to J.W. Automotive Engineering ahead of the ’70 season, the white was gone altogether at the behest of new sponsor, Gulf.
Not until its 50th birthday was the original white/green livery restored, alongside much of the front and rear bodywork the test mule had lost over the years, courtesy of 3D technology and enormous patience by Porsche’s best and brightest at Zuffenhausen and Weissach for more than a year. Once again, work was completed only a few days before the 001’s unveil, this time at the 2019 Goodwood Members Meeting.
*Images courtesy of Porsche