If you’re talking petrol pedigree, there’s no better breed than the stupendous Porsche 917, which earned its stripes at Le Mans in 1970 and 1971.
Generations of motor fans since haven’t had the chance to see the 917 in real life. That means there is a serious number of track addicts who’d love nothing better than to slink down low and get behind the steering wheel of this high-class beast and experience what it’s like to have a 3.6-liter flat-six turbocharged rocket propel them forward.
Currently on the drawing board at a sophisticated UK workshop is a set of complex plans aimed at reinventing the 917, using today’s technology to design a machine that will turn heads in the way the original model did.
Initially, the plan is for a prototype that will be confined to test and track usage, but in the long-term, the aim is to produce a street-legal version.
Project 917 will see an independent team with a passion for Porsche recreate this classic car. Not affiliated with Porsche, the team hopes to use a contemporary Porsche engine, set in a chassis and body they are commissioning from the South African firm, Bailey Cars.
This won’t be a car for taking on spins to the supermarket or even on difficult long-haul open road routes. The team, headed by Ian Howe, intends instead to offer serious addicts a chance to experience the power out on a track. This is the only place you can really put your sole to the floor and feel all the thrusting power that Howe and colleagues Chris Beatty and Neil Yates are packing into this head-turner.
The car is to look exactly like the version that Steve McQueen drove in the classic film Le Mans, and the engine should register somewhere between 285 and 300 HP.
That might not sound like much when compared with, say, the Porsche 911 Turbo S, which has a mind-blowing 580 HP, but the designers point out that it’ll have a lot less weight to push forward as they’re using an aluminum body. They calculate that this means the car will easily do 160-180 mph.
Street Legal Version Planned
Once the funding is in place and the prototype built, the engineering team will turn their focus to the street legal version, requiring significant changes from the original such as the location of the front wheels and the petrol tank, which in the original version were down the side of the chassis.
Whoever buys one of these will not be able to zoom around unnoticed. This will be a serious statement machine. They will be rare–the expectation is that only around four will be built each year.
To sign up for a chance to drive the prototype in mid-2017 and to keep abreast of news of the developments, check out the website that Howe, Beatty, and Yates have set up to outline their plans. For more updates from Porsche, please subscribe to The Auto Gallery’s newsletter.