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*Please note this vehicle is sold on a Bill of Sale. Please also note that the engine internal number is 17, not 11 as stated in the catalogue.
The 1968 24 Hours of Daytona Winner
The Porsche 907
Today, Porsche remains the uncontested champion of more endurance races than any other manufacturer, having amassed the most outright wins at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring. Yet, in the early 1960s Porsche remained an unconventional, small-displacement manufacturer only capable of winning class victories. At the onset of the prototype era, however, Porsche’s strategy on motor-sports development was beginning to pay great dividends.
“For sports-racing cars the task is about as follows: without regard to cost, comfort and noise, and in the shortest time, a competitive car should be built that meets the rules and offers optimal performance and roadholding with the smallest possible expenditure of weight and volume,” explained Helmuth Bott. While Bott’s concise narrative on Werk 1 mentality held true to Porsche’s efforts across motor sports’ wide-ranging events, the focus was to build a Porsche Le Mans winner for 1967.
That year’s event guaranteed heightened competition between Ford and Ferrari, with the ever-increasing displacement of the GT40 and P-cars alike. To contend, Porsche needed more than a reliable powerplant. Ferdinand Piëch determined that the key to success was efficiency.
Given Porsche’s activities in Formula 1 racing and fantastic success in the Hill Climb Championships with the 904 and 906 derivatives, Piëch and his experimental department had much experience to draw from. The tempo within Werk 1 was unprecedented; and new models were immediately tested in competition alongside contemporary models whose evolution had not yet concluded. Chassis refinement of the 910 coincided with further work on Porsche’s flat eight-cylinder engine, which showed promise but was not yet capable of prolonged use.
The development of the new 907 was well underway, yet the true success of its design would come from its form. While the 910 chassis offered exceptional handling, Le Mans’ Mulsanne Straight challenged Porsche to achieve new speeds. Drawing from streamlined designs, Porsche’s wind-tunnel testing produced a form reminiscent of the 550 Coupe, a precursor to legendary Porsches to follow. With a low, short nose; dipped fender line; small, aerodynamic greenhouse in fighter-jet fashion; and a long, smooth tail, the 907 was unlike anything Porsche had ever designed. Despite its appearance, the car’s scale was part of its success, being both shorter and narrower than the preceding 910. Ultimately, the drag coefficient was improved by 25% over the 910 at an astonishing 0.27 cd; the lowest ever measured by Porsche for a full-sized car.
Although the eight-cylinder motor hadn’t met the deadline, Porsche went to Le Mans with the 907 “Langheck,” or Longtail. Two cars were entered with the tried-and-tested 2.0-liter, six-cylinder engine. While one failed to finish due to overrevving, the sister car went on to finish 5th overall. Ford again captured glory, but the new 907 won the Index of Performance (an achievement of equal prize money to outright victory) and a 2nd Place in the Index of Thermal Efficiency. Porsche’s success at Le Mans was a significant stepping-stone. The following months saw completion of the endurance-ready eight-cylinder engine and further enhancement of the longtail design.
Porsche prepared for the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona, and come testing time, they had a fleet of 907s properly outfitted with the Type 771, 2.2-liter eight-cylinder producing 278 bhp at 8,700 rpm. The 1968 Longtail also featured a smaller windscreen, a larger oil cooler with revised placement, brake and driver cooling ducts positioned in the front, rear air scoops for transaxle cooling, and an adjustable rear spoiler intended to improve handling. While high-speed behavior left something to be desired, the cars proved to be exceptionally fast.
Additionally, Porsche had excelled in selecting some of the era’s best drivers. The four Werks 907s were assigned amongst Vic Elford, Jochen Neerpasch, Jo Siffert, Rolf Stommelen, Hans Herrmann, Gerhard Mitter, Joe Buzzetta, and Jo Schlesser. A private 907 was entered in 2.0-liter form, and the main competition came from the pair of 5.0-liter JWA GT40s entrusted to the likes of Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, and Paul Hawkins. The prototype field additionally featured five Tipo 33 Alfa Romeos, NART’s 250 LM and Dino entries, a 911-R, and two other GT40s.
While the Gulf GT40s qualified up front and led the first several hours of the race, Porsche maintained a strategy; and after an unfortunate accident ending the race for two of the 907s, the three remaining cars pulled into the lead.
One of the most recognizable images in racing, the Porsche 907s came across the finish line in a choreographed and all-conquering 1-2-3 finish. The winner was car number 54, 907-005, shared by five of the team drivers, including Vic Elford who had just won the Monte Carlo Rally a week prior.
Porsche had won its first 24-hour endurance race and motor sports was forever changed. The 907 went on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring in addition to the Targa Florio, marking the decades of Porsche’s domination to come.
After its victory at Daytona, 907-005 returned to Europe for testing at Le Mans, after which it would spend the remainder of the season sharing circuits with the new 908 and privately entered 910s. Porsche always sought to have a veteran car in the grid to back up projects like the new 908. Such was the case for the 1000 Kilometers of Monza in which Stommelen and Neerpasch piloted 907-005 to a 2nd overall finish behind a GT40 and ahead of the new 908.
For the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968, 907-005 was entered with Spanish driver Alex Soler-Roig and his Austrian co-driver Rudi Lins. The race was highly competitive with the usual Gulf GT40s and Tipo 33s, not to mention Werks 908s. While Porsche finished 2nd and 3rd with a 907 and 908 respectively, the victory went to Ford; and 907-005 unfortunately failed to finish. Despite a broken rocker arm in the fourth hour, Soler-Roig must have thoroughly enjoyed the 907, later ensuring that it was his to campaign with factory support.
Accompanied again by Lins, Soler-Roig entered 907-005 in both the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. By this time, the 907 had been converted to short-tail specification that required fitting of little more than revised rear bodywork. At Daytona, the pair once again failed to finish, but their persistence paid off. At Sebring, 907-005 was piloted to a fantastic 4th overall behind a Gulf GT40, a SEFAC 312 P, and a Werks 908.
The 907 was then used by Porsche to test a new fire-suppression system. Official Porsche documents from the test recall the precise procedure and intent, and further note that 907-005 received only minor damage; and the suppression system proved more than sufficient. After the test the 907 was retained in short-tail specification and made ready for sale to a private team.
The Porsche then passed to Swiss driver and privateer André Wicky, who campaigned the car into the 1973 season. Wicky’s first outing was at the 1969 Grand Prix of Mugello, which ended in a retirement. For 1970, 907-005 returned to Le Mans for testing in April, then the Paul Ricard Circuit where it again retired, followed by Monza where it won its class and 15th overall in the 1,000 km event. The 907 then earned a 9th overall and 1st in Class at the Nürburgring 1,000 km race. In its second entry at Le Mans, the Porsche failed to finish. The final race of the season for 907-005 saw Wicky achieve 2nd at the Grand Prix de la Corniche.
For 1971, the 907 ran again at the Le Mans Test, followed by the 1000 Kilometers of Monza, where Willy Meier was struck by a lapping 512 S, causing an accident. The damaged car required repair and did not attend the following month’s race at Nürburgring. Just a few weeks later, however, the 907 returned to action in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the Porsche found further success, reaching 7th overall and 1st in Class. This was no small feat given the heavily contested top prototype category with the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512.
The following year, 907-005 again participated in testing at Le Mans, and won its class at the 1000 Kilometers of Monza in April, achieving 4th overall. That summer, the Porsche returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for its fourth time. Finishing 18th overall, the now four-year-old prototype placed 2nd in Class. The car’s final race came in 1973 at Grand Prix de la Corniche where Wicky took the checkered flag.
After a lengthy career, 907-005 was retired from international racing; but in a short five years, the car had won outright victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 4th overall at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, four other class victories, and competed in a total of seven 12- and 24-hour endurance events.
The Porsche then passed to Sepp Greger of Germany and, in 1981, to Sten Hillgard of Sweden. No racing record for 907-005 remains from either Greger’s or Hillgard’s ownership, although they were both noted Porsche enthusiasts and actively competed in hill climbs of the era. Later in 907-005’s life, Spyder doors were found with the chassis number marked inside, indicating that the car at one point may have been run as an open car – a common occurrence with 1960s prototype Porsches. Regardless, photos exist of a very complete, yet disassembled, car when purchased from Hillgard by American enthusiast Henry Payne.
Soon after his acquisition of the car, Payne entrusted Willison Werkstatt of Lake Park, Florida, to completely restore the 907 to active use. Significant attention was paid to retaining as much originality as possible and sourcing proper replacement parts where needed. Intending to race the 907 in historic events, a six-cylinder powerplant was sourced in lieu of the much rarer eight cylinder. Other minor changes were made to uphold reliability and safety on contemporary circuits, yet it was paramount that all changes could be easily reverted to original specification.
During Payne’s ownership of 907-005, it was actively raced along the East Coast’s most historic venues. Payne even wrote to Jürgen Barth at Porsche in 1997 to seek aid in applying for entry into the 1998 24 Hours of Daytona, arguing that the car’s performance in 1968 matched contemporary figures. It was not until 2007, when his health kept him from racing, that the Porsche was retired from use. After nearly 20 years of single ownership and dutiful care, the 907 was purchased in 2010 by a noted collector of significant Porsches. After acquiring the historic car, the new owner set out to rectify any inaccuracies in the car’s specification or presentation. Of greatest importance was the sourcing of a scarce, original Type 771 eight-cylinder engine, internal no. 11, and a proper transaxle (822-019), that remained in Vasek Polak and, later, in Freisinger stock. Brought to original mechanical order, the 907 also received minor cosmetic work to ensure its appearance was accurate in detail to the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona configuration.
In the past few years, 907-005 has attended the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded the Judge North Trophy for the Most Historically Significant Race Car; the Daytona 50th Anniversary celebration in 2012, where Vic Elford was reunited with the winning car; the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded The Porsche Trophy for the Most Historically Significant Porsche; and the Classics at the Castle at Castle Hedingham, where it was honored with the Richard Attwood Choice award.
Without question, 907-005 remains one of the most important and historic examples of the legendary Porsche endurance prototypes. As the marque’s first car to ever win a 24-hour race, 907-005 played a pivotal role in the dawning of the Porsche era. Well documented, exceptionally presented, and monumentally significant, the presence of 907-005 at auction is surely an opportunity of note, for an occasion to acquire a car of this caliber is not to be missed.