Total Production: 14
Debuting in 1958, the Porsche 718 was a racing vehicle that continued in production until 1962. Riding on the coattails of success from the Porsche 550, the 718 was very similar in concept with its lightweight body, mid-engined, perfectly designed and very simple to maintain. The Porsche 718 was also responsible for bringing Porsche's first win at Sebring, also at the 1960 12 Hours race and a variety of successes in the Targa Florio, and countless national hillclimb, along with endurance and sports car championships throughout the world.
The Type 718 utilized many of the same mechanics that had been successful with the 550, even before the Type 547 engine had with its 1.5 liter displacement with over-head camshafts. This engine is considered to be the signature, first truly developed engine FOR Porsche, for use strictly in their automobiles. The 718 featured a small capacity that allowed it to enter into the ‘small sports car' class, as is defined by the FIA, the European motorsports governing body.
As before, Erwin Komenda was commission to design the Porsche 718. The end result, a streamlined and compact shape that was prime to elicit the fame and reputation the vehicle received throughout its lifetime. The exterior of the 718 was all aluminum placed on top of a tubular space-frame chassis which held the engine. Featuring a brand new five-speed manual gearbox, the drive went to the rear wheels.
It wasn't until 1960 when the Porsche 718 received modifications that included enlarging the engine to 1600 cc, and this was the birth of the 718 RS60. Updates to the Porsche 718 included a larger windshield, a regulation trunk in the tail, a ‘functional' top, and a four-cam engine that now produced 160 hp.
The RS60 wowed fans and was extremely successful and the factory entry driven by Olivier Gendebien and Hans Herrman, who won outright at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1960. Their team-mated finished second. Meanwhile the RS60 won the 44th running of the Sicilian epic, the Targa Florio under the direction of Jo Bonnier and Hans Herrman.
In 1961, the RS61 was once again updated, and annual updates continued continuously until the end of the vehicles production span.
Though initially the Porsche 718 was intended to be mainly a road-legal sportscar with its two seats and steering wheel placed on the left, Porsche also created a single seat version of the 718; the 718/2 by moving the steering wheel to the center of the cockpit, and eventually into a real open-wheeler Formula 2 car. The first single seater 718 was entered into a Formula 2 championship following a special order by Grand Prix driver Jean Behra. Based on the 718RSK, the 718/2 utilized its engine along with a variety of its mechanical components. Behra still considered the vehicle to be too slow, and created another. Despite all of this, he still went on to win the 1958 Formula 2 race at Reims, in France.
This vehicle kept the 718's engine, but joined it to a brand-new tubular spaceframe chassis. The majority of the work on this vehicle was done by ex-Maserati engineer, Valerio Colotti, in Modena. The vehicle was raced for the first time at the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix, against the much faster Formula 1 cars. Horribly though, this vehicle was involved in a collision with another competitor, and was forced to retire. Hans Herrman, grabbed the wheel at Reims and happened to finish a close second to Stirling Moss in the Cooper. Behra took the wheel of his Porsche at the next race that occurred at Germany's Avus track, but unfortunately the day before the race, he was killed tragically driving a 718 in a Sportscar race, and the vehicle didn't turn another wheel. Eventually, American driver Vic Meinhardt purchased the car and raced it at amateur level in the USA.
In 1961 the Formula One's rules changed and Porsche realized that it could finally enter the earlier single seater into the championship. With mixed results, Porsche entered the car in several Grand Prix races of the 1961 Formula One season. At the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix, four Porsches competed and finished despite complications, making this race the only GP in decades in which all of the starters finished. The results were varied and 718/2 was replaced by the 804 for Porsche's F1 efforts. Fortunately the demand for the race prepared RSK718 was so intense, that Porsche decided to sell a version for road use and was dubbed the RS60 and RS61.
Unfortunately the Porsche 718 was considered by many to be too large, too heavy and down on power when compared side by side with newer designs of the competition that appeared in late 1961. This was a season that was dominated by Ferrari's V6 156 Dino. Until 1964, privateers such as Carel Godin de Beaufort entered the 718 in F1.By Jessica Donaldson