Porsche is celebrating 50 years of the legendary 917

  • Porsche 917, 1969
  • Porsche Museum 2019, Porsche 917-001

The Porsche 917 is definitely one of the most iconic race cars in the history. This year, Porsche is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that car. One of the most famous race cars of all time made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show on March 12, 1969.

The Porsche Museum is celebrating the landmark birthday with plans to restore the first 917 ever made to its original condition, as it was when first unveiled 50 years ago.

Porsche 917 factory

917s in the factory

The 917-001,  which marked the beginning of a career for the 917, underwent various changes over time. The 917-001 Group 4 sports car, designed to race at Le Mans and other World Championship races, was the first of the 25 vehicles that had to be made to meet the requirement for type approval. The chief designer on the project was Hans Mezger, who was responsible not only for the twelve-cylinder engine but also for the vehicle as a whole.

The 917-001 was presented for the first time in Geneva in March 1969, with it bodywork in white with a green front section. It had a new look for its appearance at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt the same year, for which the car was repainted in white and orange.

Porsche 917 1969 Frankfurt

The Porsche 917-001 changed colours for the 1969 Frankfurt Motor Show

When Porsche later announced the transfer of its racing activities to the J.W. Automotive Engineering team, headed by Briton John Wyer, the 917-001 was once again used as a presentation vehicle – and refinished in the brand colours of US oil company and sponsor, Gulf: light blue and orange.

Following its first clean sweep at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 917-001 was then reworked into the short-tail version by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood in September 1970. When the 917-001 was handed over to Porsche Salzburg in October 1970, it was in the colours of the car that won the Le Mans race and was emblazoned with starting number 23.

Porsche 917-001 in Gulf colours

Porsche 917-001 in Gulf colours

For over a year, museum mechanics, former technicians and engineers from Zuffenhausen and Weissach, as well as the Historical Archives and partner companies, worked on the restoration of this original 917.

The project was particularly challenging from the outset because of the multiple transformations the car had undergone during its time as a test and presentation vehicle. The top priority throughout was the conservation and reuse of the car’s original materials wherever possible and technically practicable.

Porsche 917-001

For its 50th birthday, the first ever Porsche 917 has been restored

The restoration was particularly guided by testing which was able to determine which of the body materials were original and could be reused, using material analysis and comparison with historical design drawings and photographs.

It was with this approach that the body parts for the front and rear sections were painstaking reproduced using state-of-the-art 3D technology and with reference to the original design drawings; the rear section of the aluminum space frame was also restored with the aid of original documents.

Exactly 50 years on, the 917-001 will be presented in the Porsche Museum, restored to its original condition as in 1969.

Porsche 917-001 in the Porsche Museum

Porsche 917-001 in the Porsche Museum

From May 14 to September 15, 2019, the Porsche Museum will honour the 50th anniversary of the 917 with an extensive special exhibition entitled “Colours of Speed – 50 Years of the 917”. A total of 14 exhibits – including ten 917 models which alone have a combined PS output of 7,795 – will be on display.

The Porsche Museum will also present the 917 concept study to the public for the first time as homage to the first Le Mans victory of 1970. The red-and-white show car was designed by a small team of designers and engineers, though with the entry of Porsche into the LMP1 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), this model remained as purely a concept study.

Porsche 917 concept study

Porsche 917 concept study

Photos: Porsche,

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