Not a company to stand still for long, Porsche was constantly looking for ways to improve its engines in the ‘60s. Somehow the Type 916 twin-cam 6-cylinder engine always seemed to miss the limelight…not anymore!
The promotional brochure gave the power output of the new Porsche 917 as 520bhp when it was launched at the Geneva Motor Show on 12 March 1969. The engine powering the revolutionary 917 was a 12-cylinder boxer unit of 4494cc capacity, which up until that point, was the largest capacity racing engine that Porsche had built. The Type 912 12-cylinder engine, correctly referred to as a 180 degree V12, was a large lump, and featured gear-driven cams instead of the double chain system that drove the cams on Porsche’s other engines.
‘What’, one might ask, ‘is the link between Porsche’s mighty 12-cylinder 917 engine and their traditional 6-cylinder 911 engine’? The answer lies in a little known but technologically important experimental engine called the Type 916, a twin-cam 2-litre 6-cylinder engine. Very little is known about this unit outside of Porsche’s experimental racing department, and therefore not much has been written on this missing link over the years.
Hans Mezger, Head of Engine Design at Porsche remembers, “It was Ferdinand Piëch’s idea, we worked together in Zuffenhausen at that time. He was in the engine experimental department and I was in the engine design department but we worked together on the original 6-cylinder engine, which by the way was also his idea. But then he wanted to improve the production 911 engine by using four camshafts instead of only two.”
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