Porsche 904 Carrera GTS Coupé (1963-1965)

Premiere: November 26, 1963 Solitude race track near Stuttgart

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
Power ~132 kW 176-191 kW ~147 kW
Number of cars built 105 2 or 3 7
Chassis numbers 904-002...007, 904-010...108 904-008, 009, maybe 082 904-001, 906-001...002, 906-005...006, 906-011...012
The table does not contain the five 904/8 Spyders

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 he became also 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 the 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

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).

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© Porsche
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Porsche 904 prototype
This is 904-001 prototype, but with later modifications© Porsche
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Although mainly used for racing, some cars were destined for the streets© Corel Photos
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The lightweight glass-fibre body is bonded to the ladder-type frame© Porsche
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The 904 came with coil springs and disc brakes (naturally)© Porsche
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FIA-specified 110-liter fuel tank© Porsche
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The first large door prototype (chassis 904-003) has no side air inlets here© Porsche
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© Porsche
Graph shows the adjustable steering wheel and fixed seat© Road & Track
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Porsche 904 prototype with small doors
Prototype 904-001 shows the small doors (only on 001 and 002)© Porsche
Raised tachometer and steering wheel are unique to the prototype. You would hardly find leather interior in the production cars.© unknown (please inform us if you know)
Interior of a production car© Gordon Chittenden / Road & Track
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Porsche 904 2-litre 4-cylinder Fuhrmann/Carrera engine
4-cylinder Fuhrmann engine © Corel Photos
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Porsche 904 prototype
Leather straps were used only on the 001 and 002 prototypes © Porsche
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Porsche 904 prototype with 6-cylinder engine
904-001 was initially fitted with a 4-cylinder engine, but almost immediately replaced with the new 6-cylinder engine© Porsche
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Porsche 904 6-cylinder engine
© Porsche
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Porsche 904 prototype with small doors
The small door 904-001 belonged to its designer F. A. Porsche until his death in 2012 © 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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904-003 large door prototype shows side air grilles here. The temporary license plate S-04324 was also used on a 901 prototype.© Porsche
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904-003 is wearing license plate MON-A270 here© Porsche
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The FIA-required luggage space of 65x40x20 cm can be accessed from the rear. Note the different rear hatch compared to the prototype.© Corel Photos
The engine cover could be completely removed if needed© Gordon Chittenden / Road & Track
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Porsche racing driver Edgar Barth presenting the adjustable steering wheel. The prototype can be spotted by the special design steering wheel and instrument cluster.© Porsche
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The photo shows well how low the car is at 41.5"/105 cm© Porsche

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

Like the Porsche 356 C was sold 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 the 901 ran into in France (car model names with zero in the middle were somehow reserved for Peugeot).


Racing history

While the 4-cylinder 904s were racing already, the 8-cylinder fuel-injected prototype (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 the 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 winning 904/4 (904-005) of Antonio Pucci/Colin Davis © Porsche
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1964 poster: Porsche's 5th overall victory at Targa Florio (note: the car on the poster is a prototype, 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. The best Porsche result in the 1964 Le Mans 24 hour race was 7th overall and a class victory for the 2-litre 904 driven by Robert Buchet/Guy Ligier of Team Auguste Veuillet (A.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 had 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 from winning 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 production' 6-cylinder 904, chassis 906-001, was entered in Paris 1000 km on October 11, 1964, but it had to retire due to an accident. The 8-cylinder 904-009 scored 3rd driven by Edgar Barth/Colin Davis.

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 Porsche drivers signed up to start from Frankfurt.

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1965 January in Zuffenhausen before the departure to Frankfurt for the Monte Carlo Rallye starting point there. From left to right: Rolf Wüterich, co-driver of Eugen Böhringer in 904-006, 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© unknown (please inform us if you know)

A few six-cylinder cars were built for the 1965 racing season and they had many differencies compared to the predecessors: centered fuel filler, side windows that moved vertically (like on regular cars), a bit smaller doors (third door size), “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 so they started to look like the 6-cylinder versions.

On the May 23, 1965 Nürburgring 1000 km race the 904/8 (chassis 904-009) driven by Jo Bonnier/Jochen Rindt scored 3rd overall and was 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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The rear spoiler lip was integrated into the rear body panel in 1965. This is a 1964 904/8 (chassis 904-008), but has the '65 engine cover that also has much larger air intakes. This car has wider rear wheels and widened rear wheel arches.© 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)

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

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

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.

Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com


Continue to 904 Spyder or to designer F.A. Porsche
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Aug, 23 – 22nd birthday of the Boxster 986 (1996)
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Sep, 03 – 143rd birthday anniversary of Ferdinand Porsche (1875)
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