It was May 19, 1968, the date of the Nürburgring 1000 Km, the sixth round in the International Championship for Makes. The showdown between Ford and Porsche was at its height: Porsche’s 907s won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, ahead of the mighty GT40s, which caught up with victories at Monza, Brands Hatch, Spa and Watkins Glen. Porsche bounced back on the Targa Florio, with a win for Elford and Maglioli’s 907.
To do battle at the Nürburgring, Porsche entered two 2-liter 907s and two 3-liter 908s. At the start, Siffert and Elford’s 908 quickly took the lead, followed by the Ford GT40 of Ickx and Hawkins. Behind them, the Porsche 907s of Herrmann/Stommelen and Neerpasch/Buzzetta laid in ambush. Stopping for fuel less often, Ickx’s Ford briefly held the lead, but Siffert regained the upper hand, with Herrmann and Stommelen’s 907 right behind him. Neerpasch, driving 907031 (the car we are presenting), lost time as he nearly ran out of fuel and limped back to the pits, but he held on to 4th place. At the finish, Porsche was triumphant, with a 908 and 907 1st and 2nd. Neerpasch and Buzzetta’s 907031 came home 4th, ahead of several Alfa Romeos and the Ford GT40 of Hobbs/Redman.
It is this car, chassis 907031, that we are offering for sale, and its 4th place in one of the toughest races in the world speaks volumes for its performance and endurance: With its 2.2-liter engine, it could hold its own with a 5-liter V8-engined rival. The Porsche 907031, the last but one built, left the workshop in Zuffenhausen a month before the race, with the final preparations carried out in May 1968.
|Vehicle:||1968 Porsche 907|
|Number Produced:||14 (711 engine)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tag on tube in engine bay|
|Engine Number Location:||On block near rear distributor|
|Club Info:||Porsche Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1968–70 Porsche 908, 1966–67 Ferrari Dino 206 S, 1964–69 Ford GT40|
This car, Lot 203, sold for $4,832,952 (€4,390,400), including buyer’s premium, at Artcurial’s Paris sale on March 18, 2022.
For over 50 years now, longer than most SCM readers have been paying attention, Porsche has been the baddest of the big dogs in endurance- and production-car racing. Starting tentatively with the 908 of 1968 and emphatically with the 917 and successive racers, Porsche has simply dominated the finishing order wherever it has chosen to compete. Other manufacturers have entered the fray with varying degrees of success, but eventually, they all have run out of budget or enthusiasm and cut back, leaving Porsche as the hegemon.
Because of that, most readers have forgotten that in its early years, Porsche was the scrawny welterweight of car racing. It was a strong contender in the under-2-liter classes, but basically a supporting act to Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Ford and the like, which were providing the main attraction. The history of how Porsche muscled its way to the front of the pack in the big leagues is where we find our subject car, the Porsche 907.
Racing smaller, but smarter
In the early decades following the Second World War, times were tough and fuel was expensive. European governments all levied nasty displacement-based taxes on passenger cars, with the result that selling cars there meant keeping mostly under 2 liters of displacement. Three-liter and larger cars needed to be either luxury models or American exports to have a chance at selling, so Porsche built almost strictly 1,600-cc 356 models. As the post-war recovery really got rolling in the 1960s, Porsche stepped up to the 2-liter 911, but they were still small cars relative to Ferrari, Ford and Jaguar.
Porsche itself was a relatively small, privately held company with limited budgets (and probably lacking in the near-maniacal obsessiveness of Enzo Ferrari). So it set to figuring out how to win with what it had: engineering prowess, light weight and slippery aerodynamics. In 1965, Porsche introduced the 906, its first use of a tubular frame bonded into a fiberglass body structure for a stiff, lightweight envelope, using a racing-developed version of the 911 engine. It was successful in the 2-liter class, but quickly became dated with its older 904-based suspension and wheels. By 1966, the tire revolution was in full swing, and 15-inch wheels were passé.
The successor was the 910, often described as the “906 that the engineers wanted to build.” With a similar but better-developed frame design, lots of titanium in the suspension, and wider 13-inch wheels, the 910 allowed a much lower ride height with less drag-producing frontal area. The engine was now a fuel-injected version of the 911 flat-6, though a few 910s were given the experimental 2.2-liter Type 711 flat-8.
The engine wars
Back in the early 1960s, Porsche had allowed itself to go Formula One racing, and in the process had developed a flat-8 1.5-liter GP engine. The whole F1 project was modestly successful but proved terribly expensive and was quickly dropped. A bored-out 2.2-liter version of the motor for sports-car use (Type 711) turned out to be a better engine than the original. It was light, powerful, had a usable power range, and was dependable enough for endurance racing. It was, however, insanely expensive and complicated to build. A factory mechanic with proper assembly tooling needed 220 man-hours (that’s over five man-weeks) versus just 16 for the 911’s flat-6.
Porsche had embarked on the development of a proper racing 3-liter flat-8, but it was proving to be a problem child, and there were races to contest, so the 910 replacement, called the 907, was adapted to use the Type 711 engine.
In 1967, the cars Porsche wanted to beat were 5-liter Ford GT40s and 4.4-liter Ferraris. Porsche had a roughly 270-hp 2.2-liter engine, so its hope was to be lighter and much more slippery than the competition: On the long Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, top speed was paramount. Porsche had long been obsessed with weight and drag, so the design engineers went after it. In the early 907 LH (long-tail) cars, Porsche achieved a tiny package with extremely low drag numbers, and the first two were promptly dispatched to the Le Mans test day.
Unfortunately, in Porsche’s obsession with drag, it messed up a few other things, such as cockpit ventilation and, particularly, aerodynamic stability. At the Le Mans test, none of the drivers dared take their hands off the wheel long enough to shift into fifth gear — the cars were that unstable at speed. These problems were eventually solved, though, and the 1967 907 was the first Porsche to serve notice that the big dogs had serious competition.
In 1968, Porsche finally got the new 3-liter engine working well and the 907 chassis adapted to the new engine was called the 908. Both models ran in 1968, with the 907 being a bit lighter, thus better on twisty tracks like Nürburgring, and the 908 having the horsepower to contest faster tracks. The important points here are that the only real difference between the later 907s and the early 908/1 is the engine and transaxle, and that, historically, this is the point at which Porsche entered the big leagues.
One to collect, not to race
From a collector standpoint, both the 907 and 908 models are extremely important. With only 14 built, the 907 is rarer than the 908 (over 60 built), but this is balanced by the 908 being an evolution of the 907 and thus both faster and easier to drive. If you want to go race one, the other big consideration is the engine. Recall the complexity of the Type 711 engine, which was a nightmare to build and maintain 55 years ago, more so today. In today’s world this means that a 907 is seldom actually driven, much less raced. It’s just too risky. The 908 has a far simpler engine (basically an 8-cylinder, 4-cam 911 mill) that is substantially more powerful. If you want to go play, the 908 is your better choice.
Probably because of the increased usability and generally better histories, 908s carry a roughly 20% premium over 907s, and they seem to have tracked both each other and inflation over the past 10 years or so. In 2014, a 907 LH sold for $3.6 million, which, adjusted for inflation, is about $4.4 million today. Our subject is a very late short-tail model, so a bit more user-friendly, that sold for 8% more than that, which is not enough to suggest a trend. These 8-cylinder Porsche racers experienced a boom 10–12 years ago, but since then have been constant in inflation-adjusted dollars. This car sold pretty much where I would expect, and was fairly bought. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Artcurial.)