High bid of $1,300,000 at 2013 RM Auctions - Amelia Island. (did not sell)
Chassis #: 908/03/004
While the 917 would garner all of the praise and recognition, there would be one chassis built by Porsche that would have a nearly perfect record and would be every bit as dominant, but more often than not, undeservedly overlooked. The 917 had one very important weakness and it would take its understudy to carry the Porsche name to glory.
When Porsche finally earned overall victory in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans its 917 would become the toast of sportscar racing, and the praise would be deserving. However, the car wasn't perfect. It had one major weakness, one major chink in its armor that threatened Porsche's hopes for retaining its title as Makes Champion. What's more Porsche knew it.
The 917 was being developed for one thing—Le Mans. Therefore, the car was powerful, but it was also heavy. The weight wouldn't be as much an issue at the ultra-fast Le Mans circuit, but, its size and lack of handling would certainly be exposed for all to see at other events in the championship, circuits like the Nurburgring and the Targa Florio.
Porsche knew the 917 just wouldn't be capable of competing at these races for they were filled with constant twists and turns—absolute death for a big, ill-handling, machine. Thankfully for Porsche, they had hope.
Porsche had won the championship in 1969 with its 908/2. It knew it had a very capable design concept. And, with the Targa Florio and the 1000km of Nurburgring presenting the deepest concern, Porsche would determine to build an updated version of the 908 that would be utilized in just those two races in an effort to keep Porsche's championship aspirations alive.
Though the 908/2 would win the championship in 1969, there would end up being very little that would translate over to the final example of the 908. Porsche would determine that the engine was certainly worth keeping. Therefore, the design team would begin by taking and designing a car around the 350 bhp, air-cooled 3.0-liter flat eight engine. Basing their design on their highly successful 909 hillclimbing car, the team would play around with driver positioning and would end up throwing out the use of metal body panels in favor of a polymer body that was both strong and very light. The end result would be a car that was extremely nimble on its wheels and that moved very little side-to-side during quick changes of direction. Porsche wouldn't merely make a suitable understudy to the 917. Instead, they would achieve in creating a car that was every bit as good, perhaps even better in some important categories, than its more famous brethren.
Though very much a new car, Porsche couldn't take any kind of teething issues. And, considering the pressure, the car would perform flawlessly. In the hands of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman, the car would achieve its purpose by taking 1st in the 1970 Targa Florio. Two other 908/3s would finish the race in 2nd and 5th. The car would continue to perform flawlessly as it would go on to the infamous Nurburgring and would come away with a dominative one-two finish. Immediately following its two races the 908/3 would be stored away. That is, until the following year, when, once again, they would be brought out for the same two events. Though the Targa Florio didn't go as they hoped, another one-two finish at the Nurburgring would certainly demonstrate the sheer brilliance of the 908/3.
While never considered a second thought, the 908/3 was certainly created as a stop-gap measure. However, the car would come at a time in Porsche's sportscar racing history when it was on the rise, and therefore, the car would easily exceed expectation. Because of its impressive power-to-weight ratio and nimble handling the 908/3 would go on racing for a number of years following the 1970 and 1971 seasons.
Despite the fact the 908/3 would go on to race even as late as the early 1980s there would be just 13 examples that would be produced. Obviously, 004 would be just one of those.
Even amongst the 908/3 chassis there would be some that would receive all of the glory while others would remain hidden in the shadows, but vitally important to the overall goal. Chassis 004 would be one of these that would be overshadowed, even within its own model. Originally designated as a spare chassis, 004 would never be fitted with a body, even after it would come to be purchased by Kremer Racing in 1976.
Even when it came to be owned by Kremer, the chassis would remain a backup to 006, the car they already had and were actively using. Kremer would never use 004 and would end up selling the car to Bill Bradley Racing.
Bill Bradley Racing would retain the car until the mid-1990s when Porsche historian Mr. Miller came calling. The owner of Miller Historic Motorcars and a respected trader of rare Porsche prototype race cars, the 908/3/004 seemed the perfect fit.
Even after being purchased by Mr. Miller chassis 004 was still not a proper, complete race car. Therefore, following purchase of the car in 1996, a complete restoration would be undertaken to make the car a proper 908/3. With the help of well-known Porsche expert Jerry Woods, work would begin. Once a chief mechanic with the Kremer team Woods would be quite competent in his own right. However, Woods would turn to Morspeed for help, especially with the chassis and bodywork.
The work would be second to none and every possible step for an authentic 908/3 would be taken. This would include getting fiberglass cloth directly from Germany along with authentic body molds. An actual 3.0-liter 908 engine would also be located and rebuilt to original specifications by Woods. Everything possible that needed to be addressed to make it a proper 908/3 would be, including the car's livery. Not surprisingly, the John Wyer/Gulf Racing livery would be the scheme chosen to finish the car. When it was all finished in 2005, approximately $300,000 would be invested in the venture that took two and a half years to complete.
Finally, 004 would take to the track. The current owner would end up racing the car about a dozen times. And, just as it did when it was first introduced back in 1970, the performance and handling would be impressive and hard to beat. In its first competitive outing, the 2005 Road Atlanta Vintage Event, the car would end up taking pole. In 2009, the car would finish in 9th place at the Monterey Historic Races. Interestingly, the field for that particular race would include a couple of Porsche drivers, Brian Redman and Derek Bell driving a couple of 917s.
It would seem as though this particular chassis, without an exhaustive racing history, would be less desirable. However, there are some particular issues that must be addressed when assessing the real value of this car. One of those issues is that of the bodywork not being original. However, it must be considered there is just one 908/3 with its original bodywork intact and currently mounted to its chassis. Therefore, since all of the others in existence are also wearing some refurbished body certainly gives 004 some room for special consideration. The reason for the special consideration would be the fact that it never did race, and therefore, in many ways would be considered fresh. Either way, 908/3/004 is still certainly an important piece of Porsche racing history and would certainly be a proud member of any collection.
Chassis 004 would be presented for sale at the 2013 RM Auctions event held in Amelia Island. Just one of 13 ever to be produced and recognized as authentic by the Porsche factory, 004 would draw estimates prior to auction ranging from $1,400,000 to $1,700,000.Sources:
'Lot No. 148: 1970 Porsche 908/3', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1057767). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1057767. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
'1970 Porsche 908/3 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z8004/Porsche-908/3.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z8004/Porsche-908/3.aspx. Retrieved 6 March 2013. By Jeremy McMullen