Porsche and Their 917 Star Wars Race Car Page Two
I took off running for turn three also known as the International Horseshoe. Half way there it dawned on me that I was so amazed at what I witnessed that I failed to take any photos of the car. In retrospect I don’t think anyone else there that morning did either.
Testing started about 15 minutes later and both teams were present with as many as four cars at a time on the track. The new “Star Wars” Porsche would come out, run a few laps then pit, run a few laps then pit.
All of us on the corner that day went back and forth on what kind of car was this new Porsche Austria racer. Was it a hover car, electric car or an atomic-powered car? Regardless of what it was it really had us worried because every time it passed our position it didn’t emit a sound. It was totally silent. All of us began having nightmares of a Daytona 24 or Sebring 12 without the sounds of Ferrari, Matra or Porsche engines. Were we witnessing the end of auto racing? Who would want to go to a car race if all the cars were silent?
Testing continued throughout the day and because we were short staffed on the turn I didn’t get a chance to go back to the pits to see what was happening. As the day progressed and the time for testing wound down the new “Star Wars” Porsche began to stay out longer and go faster. At one point it even passed one of the Gulf Porsches on the high banks. When we saw this several of us pulled out our stop watches and began to time the cars.
It was obvious things were getting a little competitive between the two teams and speeds increased as lap times diminished. On one lap the new Porsche Austria “T” car stayed glued to the bumper of Pedro Rodriguez’s Gulf 917 through the entire infield and once through turn six and onto the high banks the “T” car didn’t just walk away from the Gulf 917 but rocketed away with an amazing burst of speed.
We all figured that Vic “Quick Vic” Elford was tired of playing with the Gulf cars and decided to show them what this new car could do. Our stop watches showed incredible lap times for the car and we all figured the car had to be doing at least 300 mph on the high banks to get such short lap times on the 3.81 mile course.
After the testing session ended I got volunteered to pick up all the safety equipment and never made it back to the garages or had a chance to talk to Fritz about what we had all witnessed.
Two months later all the usual suspects were back for the running of the 1970 24-Hours of Daytona and I was back as a corner worker. On one of my tours of the garage area during the first day of practice I came across Fritz and we greeted each other warmly.
When I brought up the subject of the amazing Porsche we had seen just weeks earlier he turned so pale I thought he was going to faint. Reverting to his native German he said; “Ich kann nicht mit dir reden darüber!” or “I can’t talk to you about that!”
“Why not?” I exclaimed. I reached into my pocket to show him a 5×7 photo I took of the car at turn three and told him I wanted to get Vic Elford to autograph the photo for me.
He grabbed me by the elbow and directed me to one of the empty garages nearby. Speaking in a hushed voice he said; “That picture will get you in a lot of trouble. Important people from the oil industry, car industry and several governments pressured and then paid off Porsche to cancel the project and then destroy the prototype racer. All the Porsche mechanics and engineers were given huge bonuses and threatened with dismissal or worse if they ever spoke about this to anyone.
Like a light bulb going off in my head I realized what he was referring to. A car that didn’t need gas, oil, brakes or tires was a direct threat to all the industries that made them and the millions who worked in them. Plus the loss of gasoline tax revenues could result in a recession or a depression in those countries that depended heavily on them. Economic collapse and political turmoil would ensue and could bring down governments.
I stood there for what seemed like a long time staring into his eyes then just nodded in understanding. I think Fritz realized a sigh of relief at that moment.
Finally I asked; “Can you at least tell me what made that car go?” He stared at me for a long minute then looked to his left, then right. He then leaned in close to my ear and said, “Anti-gravity.”
He straightened and took from my hand the 5×7 photo I had of the car and tore it into many small pieces and put his finger up to his lips in a keep quiet gesture. I never spoke to him again about it and on the first of April of last year he passed away at the age of 68. I will always remember him and the secret we shared for so many years.
During the telling of my friend’s story I refrained from interrupting him with the dozens of questions that were popping up in my mind. When he finished he looked at me intently expecting some sort of response. All I did was asked if I could see the photo he promised to show me.
He got up and went into the back room of his house where he had his office. He returned with a manila envelope which contained a 8×10 color photo of the car. I examined the photo carefully and then looked at him with raised eyebrows while pointing to the photo. He said, “Not Photoshopped or altered in any way.”
I then asked if I could see the negative. He said, “Follow me” and we went into his office where he had a very large gun safe inside a closet. He entered the combination to the safe and opened the door. Inside were a number of hand guns plus an AK-47, M2 Carbine, shotguns and assorted military looking rifles.
He was looking for something on the top shelf of the safe among the boxes of ammunition and retrieved a plain white business envelope which he handed to me. He also handed me a magnifying glass from his desk. Inside the envelope was a single 35 mm Kodak color negative strip containing four negatives. I examined all of the negatives carefully and all of them showed the Porsche Austria “T” car and the best of them was the negative for the photo he gave me.
He said, “See if your editor will publish my story and try to get him to publish it on the first of April in memory of the day that Fritz died. I said, “I will give it a try.”
[Source: Louis Galanos]