Introduced in 1968, the Porsche 908 was one of the longest running prototypes in the company’s history, as it was still doing duty twenty years later in 1988. The 908 took on many different forms, Long Tail (LH), Short Tail (KH), 908/02 Spyder, Flounder and 908/03 and Turbo, and it was successful in all of these body forms. Essentially, the 908 was Porsche’s endurance specialist of the day – until that is, the arrival of the Porsche 917 the following year.
Replacing the 8-cylinder Porsche 907, the 908 took advantage of the new 3-litre capacity limit for Group 6 Prototype Sports Cars in 1968. Where the 907 had been fitted with a 2.2-litre 8-cylinder engine, the 908 was simply given larger barrels to increase its capacity right up to the 3-litre limit for sports cars. In 1969, Porsche so nearly clinched the coveted crown when the #64 Porsche 908 LH came within 120 metres of clinching its first overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour race, losing out to Jacky Ickx in that legendary final lap drama.
Being offered for sale by RM Sotheby’s at their Monterey auction on 24/25 August 2018, is this magnificent 908 three-litre racing coupé, chassis #908-010. It is one of only five to be fitted with special short-tail (Kurzheck) bodywork, and one of two that was entered in the 1000km race at Spa, Belgium, on 26 May 1968, the seventh round of that season’s International Championship of Makes series.
Well-placed in fourth position on the starting grid, the #6 Porsche 908-010, shared by Vic Elford and Jochen Neerpasch, took off at the start on a very wet track. Elford brought the car in to have the throttle linkage repaired and once out again he even gained ground on the similar Herrmann/Stommelen car (chassis 908-011). When it came for Neerpasch to take over from Elford after 32 laps, the rain was still pouring down, and he was just not comfortable with the car. Neerpasch spun the car at Malmedy, and slid off the road knocking down a telegraph pole, part of which came in through the passenger side window and hit his crash helmet, knocking him out. Fortunately, the car stopped safely on the edge of the track, and after Neerpasch was extracted from the car, he spent the night in the local hospital with a slight concussion, but no other injuries. The car, however, was quite badly damaged on the right side where it had been impacted by the telephone pole.
After the Spa race, 908-010 was returned to the factory where it was dismantled and put into storage. Eventually the chassis and body were sold to a Swiss collector but decades would pass before the car was tracked down and purchased by American Porsche specialist Dale Miller, on behalf of Florida racer and collector Bill Ferran. The chassis and body were brought to the U.S. and entrusted to prototype expert John Corson of Pine Plains, New York, who sorted through the many boxes of parts and began a lengthy restoration around 1999.
Corson restored the original steel spaceframe chassis (lighter aluminium alloy was used as from chassis 908-012), replacing the damaged portions of tubing. He tracked down missing parts, including a series-correct, factory-original flat-eight three-litre engine and a correct 908 five-speed transaxle, the latter being acquired from an old Indy Car project. Most of the original fiberglass body panels had survived largely intact, and Corson repaired parts as required.
The car was painted in its original factory colour of white and sent to Florida in time for the 2004 Rennsport Reunion at Daytona International Speedway. There, the owner took the car out for several demonstration laps and then placed the car on display. Elford and a number of other Porsche factory racing drivers autographed the underside of the rear engine cover. In December 2006, Cameron Healy of Portland, Oregon, purchased the car and brought it to the West Coast where it has been actively raced in vintage events. In 2016, the suspension and engine were given a once over, and the car has not been raced since.
Today, this historic race car is maintained in its original white factory paint scheme, along with the #6 and broad yellow identification stripe across the nose. The fit and finish on the car are still described as excellent. It was featured in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s acclaimed exhibit Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed from October 2013 to January 2014.
More recently, 908-010 was awarded Best in Class at the Forest Grove, Oregon, Concours d’ Elegance in July 2016 in a special group of Porsche race cars judged by Miles Collier and Dr. Julio Palmaz. This Porsche prototype was a participant at numerous Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunions (2007–2010), Rennsport Reunions II and III at Daytona, as well as RS IV at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The car received its FIA HTP in April 2010. Chassis 908-010 has also been submitted for entry at Rennsport VI at Laguna Seca in September 2018.
The 908’s mid-mounted engine was essentially a larger version of that used by the 2.2-litre 907. When in 1967 the FIA announced new rules for Group 6 Prototype Sports Cars limiting engine size to 3000cc, Porsche began development of a new eight-cylinder boxer motor. It was the first racing engine from the Stuttgart company to meet a class displacement maximum. Work progressed rapidly, and the new engine made its first appearance during Le Mans testing in April 1968. The earliest versions of the all-alloy, dry-sumped, twin-ignition, four-cam, eight-cylinder boxer engine were subject to severe vibration, an issue resolved by changing the firing order and using the 66mm crankshaft of the 907. With Bosch Kugelfischer indirect fuel-injection and 10.4:1 compression, the engine produced upwards of 350bhp at 8500rpm and 232 foot-pounds of torque at 6600rpm. Weighing in at just over 1300lbs, the 908 enjoyed an impressive power-to-weight ratio. Porsche would build 31 examples of the 908 from 1968 to 1973 in both long-tail and short-tail coupe, and Spyder configurations.
Raced by some of the best sports car drivers of the time, this prototype racer is surely as sought after as any top race car today, and represents an ideal opportunity to acquire a significant slice of Stuttgart history. The car can be viewed here, where many more images can also be seen. For further information contact:
RM Sotheby’s California Office: +1 310 559 4575
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Robin Adams ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s