Porsche 917 will always have that special thing, a raw racer build for speed that outperformed the whole field and factories such as Ferrari. The 917 is a special car, the engine is special, an air-cooled flat 12 ! But appart from the racers, in 2010, I discovered that 2 cars had been converted for road use and that one still existed and was around somewhere in Europe. I was on a quest, I wanted to see that and here it is, when we visited it in early 2012.
Yes, two cars were converted, the first one was the chassis known as “917-030” and the other one was “917-021”. Both cars were Martini liveried cars with the later one being the well known “psychedelic” “K” version. Although they both ended up on the road, the stories are completely different. While 917-030 did end up on the road, nothing was changed. It just ended up being registered and driven on the road. 917-021 was a properly converted car which featured many unique change as it had to meet the German “TUV” procedure in order to be driven on German roads.
But let’s go back to 917-030, the car was built as a “K” version in January 1971 and started its life as Porsche testbed for its ABS system back in Zuffenhausen and that was the only purpose of the car before it went to the track on the very last european round of the 1971 World Sportscar Championship, the Austrian 1000 Km at the Österreichring. Entered under the Martini Racing Banner, Dr. Helmut Marko and Gérard Larrousse were to be the drivers of the car and that wasn’t an easy task as it was the first time they would sample an ABS system on a racecar.
Qualifying went well and they qualified 3rd behind Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni on their Ferrari 312PB. Pole position was for another 917K but this time run by the John Wyer Automotive Engineering team with Pedro Rodriguez and Richard Attwood at the wheel. The race went well although they did retire with a broken suspension. Yes, the racing career of the car was short ! But then, it returned to the factory to continue its testing duties until the end of 1972 when the car was finally put into storage.
Two years later in 1974, the Count Rossi, the man behind the Martini sponsorship turned up at the factory with a strange request. He wanted to buy the car and convinced the factory to turn it into a road going 917. Shall we say “917 Stradale” ? Well yes if we consider the Count’s origins but then, paperwork started as the Count had to find a registration for the car while Porsche would adapt it to the road. Nothing was pretty much changed, the car was painted grey, the fins were removed and a big 911 silencer was fitted to the car in order to keep it quiet. On his side, the Count convinced the American State of Alabama to give him a registration for the car as an antique vehicle, the only request from Alabama was to keep the car out of its borders.
The 27th of April 1975, the Count Rossi went back to the Porsche factory in Stuttgart and took delivery of his car with a run home to Paris straight by the road on the same day as you can see on the picture below.
The last change that was made to the car was the interior, the Count wanted a bit of comfort and he got it leather trimmed inside. Well if that’s the only change from the racecar you want, then we accept it ! The car sat in Paris for years before being moved around in Europe. What is great is that it’s still in the same family. Another great thing is that apart from the paint, leather and silencer this car is just a road going racecar and probably the best of all ! It cannot be driven on the road as the last registration, in Texas this time is no longer valid and you could imagine that using it today would be a little bit tricky..!
All pictures below © HMSC.