Great Gulf: is this the ultimate Porsche 917?

Published: 24 September 2015

► Porsche 917K emerges from a three-year restoration
► 1971 Spa 1000km winner returned to time-warp condition
► Poster car for Porsche’s new historic racing department

Do you have a restoration project on the go at the moment? A classic car patiently resting towards the bottom of a to-do list? Well, if it’s a priceless Porsche Le Mans racer you’ve been meaning to get round to, you’re in luck – Porsche itself can help finish it off for you.

Porsche Motorsport has announced a new historic racing arm, a service to repair, maintain and restore classic racing cars to time-warp condition. And to drum up a little interest in its new business venture, it’s wheeled out a rather special demo car.

Porsche 917K: a restoration project with a difference

A Porsche 917 – any 917 – is special, but this particular car even more than most. Developed by the famed Gulf-sponsored British JW Automotive team, it won the 1971 Spa 1000km (run on the old, ultra-fast, ultra-terrifying Spa road circuit) in the hands of Jackie Oliver and Pedro Rodriguez before being put into storage at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen museum many years ago.

In 2009 it was repainted in its original blue ‘n’ orange Gulf livery and began a stint on display in the museum. A full restoration was begun by Porsche Motorsport North America in 2012, aiming to return the car as exactly as possible to its original 1971 spec. This is the result, on show at the Rennsport Reunion festival at Laguna Seca – the first time this particular 917 has been to the Californian circuit for 40 years.

Porsche’s historic motorsport service

A new business arm for Porsche, the division has two bases, one in Germany and one in the USA. As well as restoring crumbling race cars to their original condition, using input from some of the car’s original engineers, the service can also prepares cars for modern historic racing series, replacing 30-year-old safety belts with modern harnesses, for example.

There’s a monetary motivation here too, of course. With values of historic racing cars climbing to stratospheric levels, a certification from the Porsche factory that a particular car is as close to its original condition as possible could give its value a further nudge upwards. See Ferrari’s Classiche Department as a handy case study…

‘These vehicles have written motorsport history and have gained in value, at times markedly, in recent years,’ says Jens Walther, Porsche Motorsport North America boss. ‘An increasing number of owners are now recognising how important it is for future gain that such vehicles undergo a true to original restoration.’

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer