This Porsche 908 Is One Beautiful Way To Spend $3 Million
Photos courtesy of Gooding & Company
It’s late 1967, and Porsche has just lost the World Sportscar Manufacturers Championship to Ferrari by just two points.
For the 1968 season, the sport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), announced new rules and regulations partly in an effort to reduce speeds during the season’s “crown jewel” endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The previous year, the most slippery cars were doing 220 mph down the Mulsanne straight at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and so the FIA reduced the maximum allowed engine capacity – and in doing so, allowed Porsche to even the odds against its more powerful competition.
Porsche’s Ferdinand Piëch committed the company to developing and building the 25 copies of a new 4.5-liter car, the 917, necessary for homologation to qualify it for international competition—with the explicit goal of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970. In the meantime—and until that car was ready—Chief Engineer Hans Mezger got the green light to set to work on a totally new 3.0-liter 8-cylinder engine for Group 6 competition. This was significant as it was the first time the company would build an engine from scratch to suit the largest size allowed in prototype racing.
Overall, the 908 is based on the 907 that came before it, but there were some sizable changes, engine aside. While fibreglass was again utilized for the bodies, new 3.0-liter flat-8 weighed just under 400 pounds, sitting in its home of a steel tubular chassis with a thoroughly revised rear section to accommodate the all-new engine and type-916 5-speed gearbox.
With more power comes more responsibility, ably handled by an upgrade to center-lock 15-inch wheels and tires to better put the approximately 350+ horsepower horsepower to the ground. The larger wheels would also accommodate larger brake calipers and discs to slow the faster car. The first chassis produced were closed coupes, and there were a choice of long- or short-tail rear ends, and even some aero devices on the long-tail versions that the factory experimented with. The 908s would go on, in coupe and spyder forms, to be one of Porsche’s most successful and long-tenured models, with some running professionally into the early 1980s in the hands of privateers.
The Porsche 908 is a piece of motorsports history, built in the days when race cars had only one job to do: go fast.
Gooding & Company is offering this 908-011 at its upcoming Amelia Island Auction on March 11, 2016. It’s one of 31 produced, and now only one of five thought to still exist. Its best finish of third overall at the 1968 Spa 1000 Kilometers aside, it’s a seriously expensive piece of kit at an estimate of more than $3 million U.S.
Since it’s not often you see 908s for sale, and it’s a bit of a stretch for most of us to spend that much on a vehicle, we thought it’d be a great opportunity to ask the auction company for some additional information about this lot. Gooding & Company specialist Hans Wurl helped answer my questions:
Benjamin Shahrabani: How does one inspect a racecar?
Hans Wurl: With competition cars such as this Porsche 908, it is always helpful to have access to a specialist in the field, especially if the vehicle is being purchased to race. Sometimes, as in the case of this car, you have the knowledge that the vehicle has been well looked after by experts during it most recent ownership, which can alleviate a lot of concerns. That said, Gooding & Co. always advise potential buyers to budget for having any race car inspected by their shop of choice either before or after purchase and definitely before it hits the track.
BS: What can one do with a 908? Can one even drive it on the street?
HW: The 908 itself isn’t street legal, but slightly older cars such as the 904 and 906 can meet road regulations in certain instances. There are a multitude of international racing and concours events that a 908 is very well-qualified for, including the Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Le Mans Classic.
BS: Do I need a team of mechanics to maintain it? Buying a car is one thing, keeping it running is another…
HW: A car like this will benefit from expert care, but you don’t necessarily need them there just to use it. Sports racing Porsches such as this 908 is a robust and relatively easy to operate machine once a few important running procedures are understood. Any racing machine is going to require maintenance and repairs as they did in period. Little has changed in that regard since the cars were new.
BS: What kind of skills do I need to drive it? Is the Porsche 908 a difficult car to drive?
HW: While I haven’t driven a 908 on track personally, most people report Porsches of this era to be very friendly on track. It might not be a perfect beginners car, but many sports racing cars such as this that were built for endurance racing have very comfortable driving traits engineered in.
BS: What kind of person is a buyer of such a car?
HW: Anyone that wants to experience the performance and feel of a car like this fits the bill. Alternatively, a Porsche 908 of this level of importance and beauty could be owned and enjoyed strictly for its aesthetics as a static object.
BS: What types of vintage racing series/classes are available for this car to compete in? What types of cars would this compete against?
HW: This Porsche 908 would be eligible for a multitude of international vintage racing events. There are opportunities to race it against other Porsches from the era, such as at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion. In a more diverse setting, the 908 could race against Ferraris, Lolas, Chevrons, Matras, and Alfa Romeos from the same era, among others.
BS: Is this car race-ready?
HW: While we are currently unaware of any faults, Gooding & Co. recommends that a new owner have any racing car thoroughly inspected by their chosen expert before track use.
Now in its 1968 Spa 1000 Kilometer livery, 908-011 is an endurance racer, but one that still includes equipment like turn signals, a windshield wiper, and even a key in the customary position to the left of the steering wheel. For the Porsche enthusiast of considerable driving skill—and means to purchase it—908-011 present an exciting opportunity to gain entry into some of the world’s most exciting vintage motorsport events.
–1 of 5 908 extant
–Factory-entered at Spa 1000km, Watkins Glen, and Zeltweg in 1968
–Comprehensively restored by Porsche specialists
~350 horsepower, 3.0-liter DOHC flat-8 engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection. Type-916 5-speed manual transaxle. 4-Wheel ventilated disc brakes.
Chassis Number: 908-011