Porsche 804 F1 (1962)

Premiere: 1962 May 20, Dutch GP at Zandvoort

© Porsche

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cam flat-8 (type 753), 132-136 kW
Gearbox: 6-speed, from 787
Empty weight: 461 kg/1016 lb

Porsche hadn't managed to master Formula 1 - the type 360 Grand Prix car never made it to the starting line and the 787 F1 was a failure.

In 1961, a 787 development car with chassis number 718/2-05 was equipped with disc brakes (annular type) and horizontal engine fan - features that the 1962 Porsche 804 F1 would get.

In 1962, young F. A. Porsche became the manager of the Porsche design studios. His first exterior design work publicly shown was the Porsche 804 Formula 1 car. Before the 901/911 would be launched with Porsche's first 6-cylinder engine, Porsche's first 8-cylinder engine debuted in the 804. The Porsche type number for the flat-8 was 753, which is much lower than the type number of the car itself. The reason is that the engineering of the 8-cylinder Porsche engine started already in 1960.

Porsche 804 F1 cutaway drawing
© Porsche
1961 Porsche flat-8
First Porsche flat-8 built in the beginning of 1961
Porsche 804 F1 tubular frame
Although a successor to the 787, the tubular steel frame of the 804 was brand new. Interestingly, engineers went back to torsion bar suspension (787 had coils in all corners) © Porsche
Porsche 804 F1 and 718/2 F2
1962 Porsche 804 F1 vs 1959 Porsche 718/2 F2 © Porsche
Porsche 804 F1 on a trailer
The fuel tank cap is hidden under the skin, so the nose panel had to be removed for refueling © Porsche
First Porsche 804 F1, testing in winter/spring 1962
First 804 tested in winter/spring 1962© Porsche
Herbert Linge testing Porsche 804 F1
Test driver Herbert Linge. Note: there's no roll bar on the test car. © Porsche
Porsche 804 F1 flat engine with 8 cylinders
1.5-litre 8-cylinder engine© Porsche

The 1962 F1 championship started with Dutch GP at Zandvoort on May 20, 1962. Two 804 were fielded, Jo Bonnier finished 7th, Dan Gurney had to withdraw because of a transmission linkage issue.

1962 Dutch GP, Zandvoort, Dan Gurney Porsche 804 F1
1962 Zandvoort, nice shot of Dan Gurney. Unfortunately he could cover only 47 laps of the 80 laps race. Note the flaps in front of the oil cooler to keep the oil warmer. The same was done to Bonnier's car.© Porsche
Porsche 804 F1 front brake
With the annular disc brake system the disc is fixed from its outer edge to the wheel carrier and the caliper grabs the disc from the inner edge© Porsche

Two weeks later at Monaco, Dan Gurney had to withdraw on the first lap after his car was hit from behind by a competitor. Jo Bonnier entered this race with the old 718/2.

1962 Monaco Montecarlo GP, Dan Gurney Porsche 804 F1 hit from behind
On lap 1, Dan Gurney's car was hit from behind by a competitor who involved in an accident. The punch from the rear caused the transmission and engine unit to move forward and to break the frame.

Back to the drawing board - Porsche skipped the Spa GP in Belgium and was back after 5 weeks with improved front suspension. Visual differences also included the front area of the windscreen.

The first victory for Porsche in Formula 1 came on July 8, 1962, at the French GP at Rouen. Dan Gurney won the race on rough asphalt surface thanks to the robust design of the 804 chassis. All of his rivals were out due to suspension failures or drivetrain problems. Bonnier didn't finish either because of technical problems.

Two Porsche 804 F1 at the French GP in Rouen in 1962
1962 French Grand Prix, Bonnier's #32 car has different rear end compared to Gurney's #30. The highest point of the car is the driver's head!© Porsche
1962 June 8, French GP winner Dan Gurney. Note the newer design near the windscreen. © Porsche
1962 French GP Formula 1 poster, Porsche 804, winner Dan Gurney
This 1962 French GP winner poster shows an incorrect car. The photo used for the poster was actually taken at the next race after the French GP of another 804 that Gurney drove at Solitude (can be spotted by the racing number and the windscreen design). © Porsche

At the non-championship Solitude race near Stuttgart, double victory for Porsche 804 was achieved - Gurney won and Bonnier came second.

1962 Solitude non-championship GP winner Dan Gurney, Porsche 804 F1
1962 Solitude non-championship race winner Dan Gurney. Note the bolted-on windscreen extension.© Porsche

At the 1962 British GP at Aintree, Gurney finished 2 laps behind the winner because of a clutch issue and Bonnier retired with just 27 laps of 75 completed when the differential failed. After the problems in England, success came again - Gurney finished third at the German GP at Nürburgring, just 4 seconds behind the winner in a race that lasted for 2 hours and 38 minutes. Bonnier finished 7th.

Then there was a 6 week gap in the F1 championship and Bonnier used the vacation to test his 804 at the Kanonloppet race in his home country Sweden where he scored 3rd. Another outing for Bonnier was at the Ollon-Villars hill climb in Switzerland where he was much faster than hill climb cars and he wasn't classified.

The next F1 championship race was the Italian GP at Monza on September 16, 1962. Porsche surprisingly equipped its cars with aerodynamic parts. The wheels and suspension parts had flat covers on them.

1962 Monza F1 GP, Porsche 804-02
This is Bonnier's car, chassis 804-02, wearing #18 in Italy © Porsche
1962 Monza F1 GP, Porsche 804-02
Tape tuning: note the rear suspension arms© Porsche
1962 Monza F1 GP, Porsche 804-02
There were aluminium covers on the front suspension parts, but they are removed here (in order to remove the nose panel)© Porsche

At Monza, Bonnier finished 6th and Gurney did not finish - it was the differential again, that let the 804 down. The cool but useless aero parts were removed and the cars were shipped across the Atlantic for the United States GP at Watkins Glen in New York state. At the home soil Gurney finished 5th, one lap behind the winner in the 100 lap race. Team mate Bonnier had to withdraw after 79 laps. He was classified, though, on 13th place. It was the last F1 championship race for the 804 as it was decided not to go to South Africa for the last round and to terminate the Porsche F1 program altogether.

Porsche 804 with new rear suspension
This 804 with new rear suspension never saw the action© Porsche

All of the 804 built have luckily survived - two are privately owned and two belong to Porsche Museum collection.

Article © Stuttcars.com

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