Every great artistic, scientific and historical movement can point to one moment where everything changed. For Porsche, that moment is the 904-6.
By the end of the 1962 racing season, Porsche ended of its Formula One efforts, ceased production of the 550-based 718 RSK and entered the final phase of development and testing on the 356′s replacement which—due to a lawsuit from Peugeot—would eventually have its name changed from 901 to 911. All of the company’s racing hopes at that moment were pinned to the capable but aging 356 Carrera GT and, faced with purpose-built racecars from the likes of Abarth, Alfa Romeo and others, victory lane appeared further out of grasp with each passing race. Ferry Porsche noted as much, and by the beginning of 1963 he and the Porsche engineering staff set out to build a limited-production race car that would appeal to privateers and, most importantly, win races.
The resulting 904 displayed a GRP or fiberglass body bonded to a steel ladder frame and had been designed with a slide rule in one hand and a rule book in the other. Easier to build than the labor intensive RSK, the 904′s low production time reduced costs somewhat and allowed the racer to reach its homologation production number of 100 in short order. The 901/911 engine originally chosen to power the 904 could not be sorted in time, so the stalwart Fuhrman four-cam was called on to motivate the new Porsche and was mated to the 901/911’s new five speed transmission. The completed car proved to be reliable and fast, and it didn’t take long to race to class wins at Sebring, the Targa Florio, Le Mans and others.
This car, s/n 906-002 is the rarest of 904s as it is one of the six works race cars equipped with the 911’s six cylinder engine as originally intended. As such the car enjoyed extensive testing at the hands of the factory through the 1965 racing season and from there was sold into private hands and raced throughout Europe. 906-002 then passed through a series of known owners and, more recently, received a comprehensive restoration.
Make no mistake, 906-002 possesses perfect condition and stands ready to win laurels on the show field and track. But the true weight of its significance is best understood in relation to the fabled Porsche racers that followed. Long before the wild and world-dominating 917s, 956s and 962s, the idea of a composite-bodied, semi mass-produced, mid-engine sports racer built to the full extent of the rulebook first took shape in the rare and capable 904-6. Find the Porsche on offer here at RM’s upcoming Monterey Auction.
[source: RM Auctions; photo: ©2012 Pawel Litwinski]