In 1969, the CanAm series was known for its 'anything goes' rules package and Porsche was looking to expand the role of the new 917. It didn't take long for Porsche to figure out that its 680 horsepower 5-Liter flat-12 cylinder engine wasn't powerful enough against the aluminum 8-Liter V8 Chevrolet engines of McLaren and Lola, and looked at two different routes to develop the necessary power. One was turbocharging the existing 12-cylinder engine and the other, this flat 16-cylinder prototype
While the 16-cylinder made considerable horsepower - up to 880 in the 7.2-liter configuration - it still wasn't enough to match the boxer-12's turbocharged horsepower and before all was said and done in Can Am in 1973, the Porsche Turbo-12 produced 1200 horsepower and helped secure two consecutive CanAM championships.
917-027, with its elongated chassis, acted as a test mule for the Hans Mezger developed 16-cylinder engine, the most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever produced by Porsche.