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The Porsche 917 is a sports prototype race car developed by German manufacturer Porsche. The 917 gave Porsche its first overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Powered by the Type 912 flat-12 engine of 4.5, 4.9, or 5 litres, the 917/30 Can-Am variant was capable of a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 2.3 seconds, 0–124 mph (200 km/h) in 5.3 seconds, and a test track top speed of up to 240 mph (390 km/h).[better source needed]
In 1971 the car featured in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans. In 2017 the car driven by McQueen in the film was sold at auction for $14m, a record price for a Porsche. For the 40th anniversary of the 917 in 2009 Porsche held a special celebration at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (3–5 July).
Also, a new low drag version of the 917 was developed for Le Mans with support from the external consultant Robert Choulet. The 917LH (Langheck) featured a spectacular new long tail body which had very low drag, yet more rear downforce than the 1969 long tail. A 4.9-litre engine, introduced at 1000km Monza, was available but these proved to be unreliable for longer distance races.
The 917 did not compete at all the races of the season, however. Porsche's previous competition model, the 908, was redesigned with an all-new chassis and designated 908/03 so it would be used at the Targa Florio and Nurburgring 1000 km events- two twisty, narrow and slow tracks the 917 was not competitive at. Vic Elford drove a 917 during practice for the 1970 Targa Florio and it proved to be so physically demanding and difficult to drive around the circuit that he had to be lifted out of the car, although he set the 5th fastest time. The 908/03 was very effective at these two races. Porsche's dedication was such that they were building cars for each type of track- the 908/03 for the slow, twisty tracks, the 917K for the medium and high-speed tracks, and the 917L for the fast straights of Le Mans.
The favorite team to win, Gulf-backed John Wyer Automotive, lined up three 917Ks, two with the 4.9-litre engine and one with the 4.5-litre unit.
Porsche 917 Kurzheck 4.5L, winner 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans
Two 917 LH were entered in Le Mans, one in white and red trim by Porsche Salzburg. Driven by Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens, the pole sitter's 4.9-litre engine dropped an inlet valve after 225 laps. Both drivers had also been entered on the team's other car, a red and white 917 K with the 4.5-litre engine, qualified by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood in rather low 15th spot, but they did not drive after their own car failed.
The other LH was entered by Martini Racing, qualified by Willy Kauhsen and Gérard Larrousse on 12th position. The spectacular livery of this car was an elaborate whirls and swoops of light green on a dark blue background. The car with the 4.5L engine gained the nickname of the Hippie Car or the Psychedelic Porsche from the team and media.
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