Porsche 904 Carrera GTS Coupé (1963-1965)

Premiere: November 26, 1963 Solitude race track near Stuttgart

The 1964 904/8 (chassis 904-008) with 1965-style engine cover (large 'elephant ear' air intakes, upward bent rear end)© Porsche
904/4 Carrera GTS 904/8 Carrera GTS 904/6 Carrera GTS
Produced in 1963-1964 1964 1964-1965
Engine 2.0 flat-4, mid-mounted, type 587/3 2.0 flat-8, mid-mounted, type 771/0 2.0 flat-6, mid-mounted, type 901/20
Number of cylinders 4 8 6
Power ~132 kW 176-191 kW ~147 kW
Number of cars built 105 2 7
Chassis numbers 904-002...007, 904-010...108 904-008...009 904-001, 906-001...002, 906-005...006, 906-011...012
The table does not contain the five 904 Spyders (all 8-cylinder)

Following the 550 and the 718, the third Porsche model created for racing was the 904. The homologation rules stipulated a minimum of 100 units and Porsche thought there weren’t that many potential racing customers, so the solution was a street legal car. In 1962, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche had become the manager of the Porsche design studios and the designer of the 904.

F.A.Porsche in design office© Porsche
Father Ferdinand Anton Ernst 'Ferry' Porsche and son Ferdinand Alexander 'Butzi' Porsche, the designer of the 904 and also 901/911© Porsche
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New technology: glass-fibre and resin injected into the mold of a 904 body panel. The use of plastic was a first for Porsche, hence in the construction they sought advice from aviation experts. Two bodyshells per day were laminated by hand at the Heinkel Flugzeug Bau GmbH in Speyer, Germany.© Porsche
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The lightweight glass-fibre body is bonded to the ladder-type frame© Porsche
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The 904 comes with coil springs and naturally has four disc brakes© Porsche
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The gear ratio selection of the 5-speed transmission was almost infinite - the four standard sets of ratios offered a final drive between 3.362 and 4.605© Porsche
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FIA-specified 110-liter fuel tank© Porsche

In August 1963, the first prototype was tested. Following the unveil of the 901 on September 12 at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show, around 10 weeks later on November 26 the 904 was presented at the Solitude race track near Stuttgart. The 4-cylinder cars were shown - chassis 904-002, 003 and 004 (002 and 003 being the prototypes). The chassis 904-001, designer F.A. Porsche's personal 6-cylinder prototype, was not shown (it belonged to him until his death in 2012).

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Prototype with early front design and without side air inlets© Porsche
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Prototype with side air grilles. The license plate S-04324 was also used on the 901 prototype© Porsche
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The photo shows well how low the car is at 41.5"/105 cm© Porsche
The engine cover could be completely removed if needed© Gordon Chittenden / Road & Track
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Porsche racing driver Edgar Barth presents the adjustable steering wheel. The prototype can be spotted by the special design steering wheel and instrument cluster.© Porsche
Steering wheel raised together with the tachometer is unique to the prototype. You would hardly find the leather interior in the production cars.© unknown (please inform us if you know)
Interior of a production car© Gordon Chittenden / Road & Track

Like the Porsche 356 C was sold and called at the time as just a Porsche C, the type 904 was called as Porsche Carrera GTS and therefore didn't have the naming problem in France the 901 ran into (car model names with zero in the middle reserved for Peugeot).

The first 904s were delivered on January 16-17, 1964 - chassis no. 012 and 013. They were also the first 904s to be signed up for a race - the SCCA Divisional Riverside race of February 2 (result unknown, so actual presence not confirmed - please inform if you know).

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1964 March 12 Geneva Motor Show (Salon international de l'auto-Geneve): in addition to the 356s, the new 901 and 904 are displayed
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© Porsche
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© Porsche
Graph shows the adjustable steering wheel and fixed seat© Road & Track
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Although mainly used for racing, some cars were ordered to be used in traffic© Corel Photos
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© Corel Photos
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The FIA-required luggage space of 65x40x20 cm can be accessed from the rear© Corel Photos

The 8-cylinder and fuel-injected 904 (chassis 904-009) was tested on the Le Mans test day on April 19, 1964. A week later, on April 26, the 008 8-cylinder was entered in Targa Florio road race in prototype category. Driven by Edgar Barth/Umberto Maglioli it was victorious in the prototype class, but because of an accident scored only 6th overall. Antonio Pucci/Colin Davis in a 4-cylinder 904-005 took the overall victory and were followed by Gianni Balzarini/Herbert Linge in a 4-cylinder 904-006.

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1964 April 26 Targa Florio. #86 904/4 Pucci/Davis (winner), #84 904/4 Linge/Balzarini (2nd), #186 904/8 Maglioli/Barth (6th) © Porsche
1964 April 26 Targa Florio: the first 8-cylinder to enter racing is chassis 904-008 driven by Maglioli/Barth. Note: the car has an installed rear spoiler lip and large round opening in the engine cover for the horizontally placed fan of the 8-cylinder engine.© unknown (please inform if you know)
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1964 Targa Florio winner© Porsche
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1964 poster: Porsche's 5th overall victory at Targa Florio (note: the car on the poster is a prototype and there was no #15 in the race)© Porsche

May 31, 1964 Nürburgring 1000 km race saw a record number of 904s signed up - 19 cars! Not all arrived, but there were eight 904s among the first twelve places. Gerhard Koch/Ben Pon won the 2-litre GT class with chassis 904-055 and were 3rd overall after larger-engined Ferraris. The next important race was the Le Mans 24H in June. Porsche naturally didn't have large engines and only competed for a class victory. Despite the very small engines, Porsche had scored 4th overall in 1955 with the 1.5-litre 550 and 3rd in 1958 with the 1.6-litre 718 - results very hard to beat even with the 2-litre 904. The best Porsche result in 1964 was 7th place overall and class victory for 904 of Team Auguste Veuillet driven by Robert Buchet/Guy Ligier. By the way, Auguste Veuillet was the first Porsche importer in France and the man who took Porsche to Le Mans in 1951 driving an aluminium 356.

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1964 June 20 Le Mans start. 24 hours later the 904 #34 (904-021) driven by Robert Buchet/Guy Ligier takes the victory in the 2-litre class and scores 7th overall after 3-4-litre Ferraris and a 4.7-litre Shelby Cobra© Porsche
1964 July 19 Zolder GP: winner #35 Bernardus Pon and 2nd #36 Rob Slotemaker (both Racing Team Holland). The driver of the delivery van lost control of the trailer carrying those 904s to Zolder and damaged the cars (chassis 023 and 055). As can be seen from the photo, Ben Pon's car has a wind deflector installed instead of the windscreen, but it didn't stop Pon to win the race!© unknown (please inform if you know)
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Poster with 1964 racing results© Porsche

The last cars with chassis number starting with '904-...' were delivered before the Tour de France road race in September 1964. In total 108 cars were made with chassis number '904-' including one 6-cylinder prototype and two 8-cylinder coupés. The first 'series' 6-cylinder 904, chassis 906-001, was entered in Paris 1000 km on October 11, but it had to retire due to an accident. The 8-cylinder 904-009 scored 3rd driven by Edgar Barth/Colin Davis. Few six-cylinder cars were built for the next season and they had many differencies compared to the predecessors: centered fuel filler, shorter doors, side windows that moved vertically, “elephant ear” large air intakes, different engine cover etc. In the case the early cars were badly damaged in accidents, they were rebuilt with new parts and they started to look like the 6-cylinder versions.

Although 904 was designed as a racing car with low 4.7"/12 cm ride height, two 904s were entered into the rallye to Monte Carlo in January 1965. Although called the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo, it really was a rallye 'to' Monte Carlo as the start was given from different locations around Europe (until 1972 the event was held on public roads and was more about durability than speed). Start for the 1965 rallye was given in the following cities: January 15, 16:32 Stockholm, January 16, 03:26 London (GMT), 04:38 Warzaw, 06:21 Athens, 06:34 Minsk (Moscow time), 07:35 Lisbon, 11:12 Paris, 12:36 Frankfurt and 13:19 Monte-Carlo. Every starting point had different rallye-route. All Porsches started from Frankfurt.

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1965 January in Zuffenhausen: before the departure to Frankfurt for the start of the Monte Carlo Rallye. From left to right: Rolf Wüterich, co-driver of Eugen Böhringer in 904, standing between the cars is Peter Falk, co-driver of Herbert Linge's 911© Porsche

The route for the participants starting from Frankfurt took them to Nürburgring, Holland, Belgium, all the way to Rennes in north-west France and with zig-zag down to Monaco covering more than 4000 km. After six days the 904 driven by Eugen Bohringer and co-piloted by Rolf Wütherich scored second (Wütherich is known as James Dean's mechanic who survived the horrific 550 Spyder crash in 1955). The very same car, chassis 904-006, also had scored 2nd on the 1964 Targa Florio.

1965 Monte Carlo Rallye 2nd place 904 (chassis 904-006). As the 904 was built for racing, not for rallying, it only had the driver side window wiper originally and for the rally car the co-driver side independent wiper was installed. © unknown (please inform us if you know)
1965 Monte Carlo Rallye: 275 participants signed up, 237 started and 35 were classified on January 22© unknown (please inform us if you know)

On the May 23, 1965 Nürburgring 1000 km race the 904/8 (chassis 904-009) driven by Jo Bonnier/Jochen Rindt scores 3rd overall and is victorious in the 2-litre prototype class.

1965 May 23 Nürburgring 1000 km start in Le Mans/running-style. The #72 car (904-036) of Udo Schütz/Anton Fischhaber wins the 2-litre GT class (11th overall). Previously Udo Schütz had crashed the car at Nürburgring in August 1964 when the car ended upside down in the trees. It was rebuilt at the factory.© Lothar Spurzem
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As a modification for the 1965 season, the rear spoiler lip was integrated into the rear body panel. This 1964 904/8 (chassis 904-008) is also equipped with much larger '65 side air intakes and the rear wheel arches and rear wheels have been widened.© Porsche
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904 is definetely one of the top Porsche designs. This is chassis 904-008, the car which at the 1964 Targa Florio had an added-on rear spoiler lip (now integrated and part of the bodywork), large round opening in the engine cover (now deleted and with two rear-facing openings) and first generation smaller air scoops (now very large air scoops)

June 20, 1965 delivers the best Le Mans result for 904 - a 6-cylinder version becomes 2-litre prototype class winner and 4th overall driven by Herbert Linge/Peter Nöcker. They are followed by 4-cylinder car driven by Gerhard Koch/Anton Fischhaber: 5th overall and 2-litre GT-class winners.

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1965 June 19-20 Le Mans 24H: 904/6 (chassis 906-001) driven by Herbert Linge/Peter Nöcker achieves 2-litre class win and 4th overall. Note the centered fuel filler cap, shorter doors and side windows that now moved vertically, all distinctive to the 6-cylinder models. © Porsche
1965 October 10, Innsbruck airfield, Udo Schütz © Erwin Jelinek/Technisches Museum Wien

All 904s came with 2-litre engines from the factory - either 4-, 8- or finally 6-cylinder. Generally the 4-cylinder cars had "904-" chassis numbers and the 6-cylinder cars had "906-" chassis numbers. It was no rule though as the first prototype chassis 904-001 had a 6-cylinder engine and the 8-cylinder coupés also had "904-" chassis numbers, while the 8 cylinder spyders had "906-" chassis numbers. The last factory chassis for 4-cylinder car was 904-108.

As the 4-cylinder engines were high tech units which were not so easy to maintain, later many were replaced with 6-cylinder engines. Although such a request could be carried out by Porsche, these conversions were mainly done by independent garages and so the new engines were not only the 2-litre units, but later even up to 2.8-litre units that were originally made for the racing 911s.

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First Porsche crash test performed in 1966. In order to simulate a front impact at a speed of 30 mph/50 kmh, a 904 was dropped from the height of 10 meters. Before the first crash facility was developed in Weissach, 72 crash tests with impact speeds of up to 50 mph/80 kmh were carried out in this manner. The crash test with the 904 was performed after the 904 was already discontinued and it was about the basics of crash testing, not about to crash test a 904. The car on the photo was probably chassis 906-005.© Porsche

At the 1966 Nürburgring 1000 km race, German TV channel ZDF had borrowed a 904 from Porsche to install a TV camera in the cockpit for live broadcast. The car was driven by Paul Frère/Rainer Günzler. Because of the mountaineous landscape, a helicopter followed the car and transmitted the received signal to the station in Nürburg from where it was sent to ZDF headquarters in Wiesbaden and then immediately broadcasted.

1966 June 3, test day before Nürburgring 1000 km, antenna can be seen on the ZDF camera car (904-009) © Lothar Spurzem

Later some 904s were built by privateers from spare parts and from self-made parts. The following made-up chassis numbers are known to exist: 904-109, -113, -115, -119, -126. Another fact worth to mention is that some of the cars around the globe have same chassis numbers. For example if after a crash a new chassis was ordered from the factory and the chassls number plate was transferred, the old chassis was shed aside with no further plans. But then came the times when 904 prices skyrocketed and the old crashed chassis were also woken alive and new number plates were fabricated with the same numbers. Because of the risen value of 904s even the totally crashed and burned-down cars have been restored.

2004. F.A. Porsche with a 904 model in his design studio in Zell am See, Austria.© Porsche Design

Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com

Continue to 904 Spyder or to designer F.A. Porsche
Jan, 30 – 67th death anniversary of Ferdinand Porsche (1951)
Feb, 03 – 34th birthday of the 962 (1984)
Mar, 05 – 15th birthday of the Carrera GT (2003)
Mar, 06 – 6th birthday of the Boxster 981 (2012)
Mar, 12 – 49th birthday of the 917 (1969)