The introduction of the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS, to give it its full name, marked the beginning of an unprecedented period of race car development for the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen factory. Not only did every year from 1964 to 1969 see a new race car, but the cars developed during this time represented a distinct change in construction and design philosophy for the company.
The Porsche 904 was the first of this new batch of race cars, but because of the dramatic change in direction for the company, and the rules laid down by the FIA, Porsche had to produce 100 of these new racers in order to meet homologation requirements. A race car’s life expectancy is usually just a season, and so it was entirely possible that the company might not sell all 100 race cars before the car was due to be replaced, and to have a large number of unsold race cars sitting on your books represented a big risk for Porsche. As a result, Porsche pegged the price for a 904 at just DM 29,700 which was exceptionally low for such a racer, while some cars were planned for sale as road cars to other customers. As it happened, the company need not have worried because the whole batch of 100 cars was snapped up in no time, and a second run of twenty vehicles was duly authorised. Of those additional twenty cars, only sixteen cars were fully assembled, the additional components being used as spares for repairs.
Ferry Porsche’s son, F.A. ‘Butzi’ Porsche, was responsible for the design of the 904 which has been widely considered as a masterpiece in design. This is largely down to the fact that Butzi was given complete freedom to design the car from scratch, without interference from the outside. Just three prototypes were produced for testing which took place at the Weissach test facility in August 1963. The tests proved very encouraging but there was little time to wallow in admiration for his work, as the car was to debut at the Sebring 12 Hours in February the next year, and so a design freeze was imposed in November 1963. The fibreglass bodies were fabricated by the Heinkel aviation company and bonded to the steel ladder-chassis, this construction method being a first for Porsche.
The first twelve cars were prepared and shipped to the USA, where no fewer than six were entered for the Sebring race. Two of those six 904s finished the race, the top finisher being driven by David Piper, Mike Gammino and Pedro Rodriguez which came home in seventh place behind three prototype Ferraris and three 5-litre Cobras. The second 904 finisher crossed the line in ninth place. If the factory was pleased with this start for their new race car, they would have been ecstatic after the Targa Florio just two months later, where a pair of 904s finished first and second in this gruelling event.
The Porsche 904 would go on to record numerous impressive results in the months that followed (the 904 was successful right up until 1967), and these can be found in many other publications. This publication, however, is not about the 904’s record of achievements, it is instead a celebration of the (in the opinion of this writer) fantastic road racer, the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. Designed and developed in just six months, many still count the 904 among the most appealing road racing cars ever produced.
The Porsche 904 box set – what do you get?
The box set consists of two books, the larger book comprising a combination of both period and studio photographs spread over 224 pages, and the smaller one in dual English/German covering the history of the 904. The photographic selection contained in the larger book is superb, with the studio shots being the work of renowned photographer, Stefan Bogner. These show the 904 in its design and development phase including some engineering drawings and artist’s impressions, while also showing the car in action at various races around the world. A short piece of text introduces each new section, and this is then followed by glamorous but relevant images each with a very brief caption. The image selection is truly impressive, so the reader will be well pleased to peruse that section many times.
Towards the back of the photographic portfolio is a section containing a series of sketches and paintings of the 904, which are attractive in their own right. The final section of the book contains a detailed photo shoot of 904-092, which is now in the hands of the Porsche family in Zell am See, in Austria.
The smaller of the two books, comprises 90 pages of the 904’s pre-history, the racing scene into which the 904 was born, and some detail about the evolution of the model. This is interesting content written by renowned Porsche author Jürgen Lewandowski. However, the subject has not been covered in sufficient depth, in our opinion, to do this fine race car justice. When one considers that of the 90 pages, half of that is in German and the other half in English, it would not be possible to provide a full and detailed history of the model such as researchers might be looking for. With this in mind, this publication would be best described as a ‘coffee table’ book.
The two books are held together with a strong rubber band and are presented in a high-quality gift box making this an attractive publication to own. For the reader who is perhaps not that familiar with the Porsche 904, this publication would look impressive on the bookshelf. There is, no doubt, a cost advantage to printing dual languages in one run.