Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Heinkel
Ernesto Prinoth, Bolzano, Italy (acquired new in 1964)Joseph Pfister, Sherman Oaks, California (acquired by 1968)Leslie Gunnarson, Orange, California (acquired from the above in August 1968)Current Owner (acquired from the estate of the above)
1964 was a groundbreaking year for Porsche. The debut of the 911 road car and the innovative 904 Carrera GTS ushered in a new era of sophisticated design and engineering. The introduction of these two models, both designed by F.A. “Butzi” Porsche, represent a remarkable moment in the company’s history; many future successes were rooted in these cutting-edge cars.
The 904 was the first Porsche model to use fiberglass construction for its bodywork, created after much consultation with aircraft manufacturers that had pioneered use of the material. The fiberglass bodywork bonded to a boxed steel chassis created a very lightweight package; the 904 weighed just 650 kilograms, or 1,433 lbs. The 904’s unique design also produced stellar aerodynamic qualities, allowing it to achieve top speeds that weren’t possible with Porsche’s earlier sports racing cars. Despite the model’s many technical and material advances, the 904 was the last Porsche developed as a true dual-purpose car – equally capable on road and track.
The 904 also marks the final application of the Ernst Fuhrmann-designed four-cam, four-cylinder engine. Used to great effect for a decade, this complex and potent design was still capable of winning races in the right chassis. The production 904 featured the most advanced version of this famous engine, the Type 587/3, which utilized a plain-bearing crankshaft and produced approximately 180 bhp.
Following its official debut in November 1963, the 904 was actively campaigned by the Porsche factory racing team and privateers throughout the mid 1960s. Results were spectacular, with the model capturing over 300 class wins and 145 overall victories at international venues.
The 904 presented here, chassis 044, was completed in April 1964 finished in the classic color scheme of Silver Metallic with blue velour upholstery. This car was one of three 904s ordered by Ernesto Prinoth, an Italian racing driver and manufacturer of snow grooming vehicles. The three 904s were delivered through well-known Porsche dealer Paul Ernst Strahle; Prinoth kept 044 for his own use, while the other two cars were purchased on behalf of Paolo Colombo and Giacomo Maioli.
Prinoth, who had owned and raced a variety of sports and Formula One cars since the late 1950s, entered 044 at the Bolzano Hillclimb in Northern Italy and later sold it to a gentleman named Berger. In 1968, the 904 was exported to the US and ended up in Southern California. That August, Leslie Gunnarson, a Porsche enthusiast, collector, and one-time president of the PCA Orange Coast Region, purchased 904-044 from its then owner Joseph Pfister.
Mr. Gunnarson then performed a typical “California restoration” – repainting the Porsche red and trimming the interior to make it more comfortable for road use. He debuted his freshly restored 904 at the 1969 Porsche Parade, took home a First in Class prize, and then drove it regularly over the next two decades. Remarkably, it remained a fixture in his collection for over fifty years, during which time it made occasional outings at local shows.
Today, 904-044 presents as a remarkable time capsule, appearing much the same as it did 50 years ago. Significantly, and unlike the majority of four-cam Porsches, this 904 retains its original, matching-numbers engine (99035) and transaxle (904-042) and is accompanied by an original factory sales brochure, owner’s manual, and black California license plates.
Uncovering a long-hidden, matching-numbers 904 in a Southern California garage is what many collectors dream of. Here is just such a car – presented untouched, exactly as it was discovered, and available for the first time in decades.