Featured: This Is How The Porsche 908 Evolved To Become A Champion

This Is How The Porsche 908 Evolved To Become A Champion

The Revs Institute By The Revs Institute
August 9, 2016
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Written by John Lamm // Original photography by Peter Harholdt and archival material courtesy of The Revs Institute

It was thought 1968 could be a championship year for Porsche’s new 3.0-liter 908. Didn’t happen. There were two wins for the 908—the Nürburgring and in Austria—but struggles with reliability meant that much of the glory the German automaker earned that year came thanks to the older 907 model. In the end, even that wasn’t enough to keep Ford from winning the Manufacturer’s Championship.

Then again, it was hoped 1969 would be a successful debut year for Porsche’s mighty 917. Didn’t happen. This time it was the 908, now well sorted out, that brought Porsche not just glory, but the championship.

There were two body styles used for the 908, one with a short Kamm-style tail and the LH or long-tail version. The latter were meant for the fast tracks, circuits like Spa, where Brian Redman’s record 908 LH lap in 1969 was 145.28 mph or Le Mans with Rolf Stommelen averaging 148.49 mph to put an LH on the pole the same year.

The letters LH after the 908 designate it as a long-tail version. They stand for “Langheck,” which in German translates to “long rear.”

During its 1968 development year, the 908s suffered numerous reliability problems, mostly due to design changes made in the search for lower weight. The final 1969 LH version weighs in at a mere 1350 pounds. Thanks to the 908s in short- and long-tail form, Porsche dominated in 1969, easily winning the Manufacturer’s Championship over Ford and Lola.

Beautiful as it looks, the aerodynamics of the 908 LH were imperfect, causing the drivers to weave back and forth across the track at almost 200 mph. Brian Redman said the 908 LH, “scared me stupid,” and yet he set a lap record at Spa of 154.28 mph as he and Jo Siffert raced to a win.

It was all thanks to an air-cooled, 16-valve flat-8 powered the 908 LH, the dual overhead camshaft, fuel-injected powerplant delivering 350 horsepower at 8400 rpm. All business, of course, from inside, with a high-sided driver’s seat, crucial gauges well hooded against glare, gearshift for the 5-speed transaxle, and a spectacular view out front.

For the 1970 season, Porsche concentrated on the 12-cylinder 917 and the short, open 908/3 depending on the type of circuit. The careers of the 908 LHs basically came to an end…but not quite. In 1972, well-known Porsche racer Reinhold Joest entered a 908 LH at Le Mans, where it finished in a solid 3rd place.

Rev’s Collier Collection has the most successful of the extended-bodywork 908s, chassis 025. It has a place of pride in the collection’s extensive Porsche display, but it isn’t unusual to find that spot empty. Instead, 025 is on the road, racing at a Porsche gathering in California or on display at the Amelia Island Concours in Fernandina Beach, Florida. It’s also one of the most popular cars in Revs’ Collier Collection…for very good reason

There’s even more detail in the Revs Digital Library, with full captions and more photography available at its website.

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Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

You did I a feature of the 908 awhile back that had another of these great black & white shots from Spa. Still think it’d make a great poster (available through Petrolicious ?).