By 1971, Porsche had won just about every major event in which the venerable 917 was eligible to compete and the company needed a new challenge. It didn’t take long for Porsche to set it sights on the North American Can Am series where the competition was fierce and the rules were almost non-existent. With the help of Penske Racing and Mark Donohue, the company set about transforming their long distance coupe into the open top monster seen here.
By the time Porsche was done, the new 917-10 possessed much more than just topless bodywork. Under the wafer-thin fiberglass panels lay a flat twelve-cylinder engine force fed by a pair of massive turbos, and fired by a twin-plug ignition. Dump valves were routed into the turbo plumbing so that they’d stay spooled up even as the engine’s rpms dropped. The car’s final weight just reached 1800lbs. Its horsepower could hit 1200 depending on boost. It would run from a standstill to 200mph in 12 seconds and pull until 220mph. Mark Donohue famously quipped, “It is the only car I have ever driven that spins the tires at 200mph.”
Not surprising then, that Donohue put this very car, s/n 917-10-003, on the pole for its very first Can Am race at Mosport in June of 1972. But while qualifying would go well, the race and the season would not be without its issues as teething problems would result in a few lost opportunities and Donohue’s spectacular testing crash in a different 917 would see him miss most of the season. For most teams, of course, these kinds of events would signal the end of all championship hopes. Porsche and Penske, however, signed a young George Follmer to take over and during the course of the 1973 Can Am season, 917-10-003 would storm to victory in 5 of 9 races and win the Can Am Championship.
This then, is a remarkable opportunity to purchase one of the most significant Porsche race cars in existence and one of just a handful of 917 Can Am cars whose performance will likely never be equaled. And whether the next owner chooses to compete with 917-10-003 on track or show field, the Porsche will remain the fiercest of competitors. Find the Porsche 917-10 on offer here at Mecum’s upcoming Monterey auction.