It’s the centerpiece of a 1971 motion picture starring Steve McQueen. It brought Porsche its first two overall victories in the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In 1973, it became the fastest car to lap a closed course at 221.12 mph. It all but annihilated the competition in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup and pushed McLaren to quit the series altogether. It’s the Porsche 917 and, in 2019, Porsche celebrates its 50th anniversary with an outlandish prototype.
Few race cars have an aura surrounding them like the 917 does. That’s because it is Porsche’s first truly great sports car, one that raised the bar higher in both endurance racing and the unlimited Group 7 Can-Am series. But, in 1969, when Porsche first unveiled the 917, nobody wanted to drive it. All of Wiessach’s works drivers tried to seem busy when Porsche called them asking to test or race the 917, and there’s a reason for that, a reason that sits at the foundation of the 917’s legend and its incredible story of evolution.