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1969 Porsche 917 longtail

Early 917 challenges combined with a tragic ending


The Porsche 917, unveiled in 1969, stands as a testament to Porsche’s commitment to innovation and their quest to conquer the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its debut at Le Mans in 1969 revealed its formidable speed and reliability, yet aerodynamic issues resulted in high-speed instability. After major changes, mostly in its tail design, the 917 would deliver Porsche their first overall victory in 1970—a feat it repeated again in 1971.


Beyond its racing accolades, the 917’s cultural impact is undeniable, especially after its starring role in Steve McQueen‘s movie, “Le Mans.” This car wasn’t just about speed; it symbolized power, engineering, and one manufactures all-out conquest to show the rest of the world it was no longer a “small bore” car manufacturer.

Not so fast

Porsche’s journey to create the 917 was marked by ambition and struggle. While their earlier models, like the 904 Carrera GT, 906, and 908 had succeeded, they often fell behind giants like the GT40 and Ferrari Prototypes. Porsche saw an opportunity with the introduction of the 5-liter sports car class, known as Group 4. They embarked on a bold venture to build 25 examples of a 5-liter prototype, aiming for the World Sports Car Championship.

Long-tail to conquer the Mulsanne Straight

One of the first production chassis with a 908-derived long-tail was Porsche 917-005. Drawing inspiration from the 908, Porsche engineers crafted a lightweight body designed specifically for low drag at high speeds. The tube-chassis frame, made from aluminum instead of steel, weighed a mere 93 lbs. The car’s design ensured the driver and the massive engine fit snugly within its compact frame. Every aspect, from the double wishbone suspension system to the titanium-made parts, was crafted for performance.

Tragedy strikes

917-005 is a tale of triumph, passion, and tragedy. British privateer John Woolfe, the first customer of this automotive marvel, dreamed of racing it at the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours. However, fate had other plans. A tragic accident during the race claimed Woolfe’s life, marking a somber chapter in the 917-005’s history. Like so many race cars of the era, time moves on leaving its remains not much more than broken dreams with a fatal connection.

Reborn with flat-12 power

Yet, the 917-005 legacy was revived when Porsche enthusiast Willi Kauhsen took on the mission to recreate this iconic car. Using parts directly purchased from Porsche and other 917 sources, Kauhsen breathed new life into the memory of the 005, crafting an exact replica that captured its original essence.

Today, this exact recreation of Porsche 917-005 stands as a symbol of the amazing efforts that Porsche made to become a world-class racing team and conquer their rivals like Ferrari, Jaguar, and Maserati. Using an authentic Porsche flat-12 engine, it also presents itself as a rare opportunity to own a historic car for less than an original.

Now available

Go HERE for information on acquiring this vehicle. All images © 2023 Canepa


Long-tail Porsche 917 at Goodwood