1971 Porsche 917/20 “Pink Pig” #23 Pilots: R. Joest, W. Kauhsen Team: Martini Racing Team Race: DNF (S 5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1971 Spark - S1896 (resin)
By 1971, the Porsche 917 had proved itself. Even so, the engineering department at Stuttgart had a few more ideas for the car. In late 1970 they asked SERA, a French aerospace consultancy agency, to design a new 917. They wanted a car that combined the down force and stability generated by the 917K bodywork and a drag figure that was close to what the 917LH offered.
The result of that combination was the 917/20. However, with its bloated form it was a far cry from the slim & elegant 917K. Well, in all honesty it looked fat – at Zuffenhausen it was even called “Big Bertha”. As legend goes, Martini Team’s management found it so ugly that they refused to race it in the traditional Martini colors. They even disallowed any mention to Martini in the whole car. Because of that, Porsche designer Richard Soderberg (also responsible for the Hippie 917), just for giggles, had an idea. He decided to paint it pink as a pig and label body parts according to butcher-style pork cuts. That day the world met the famous Pink Pig (aka “le Cochon Rose” or “Der Trüffeljäger von Zuffenhausen”).
Designed specifically for La Sarthe, the car’s troubles began even before the race. The thing was so wide that it didn’t fit in Porsche’s current transporters, the Mercedes MB O317. The regular 917 was 198 cm wide, while the 917/20 was 221 cm wide. So to get to France a regular flatbed truck hauled it (rumors say it was an Army truck). The engine was Porsche’s new flat-12 with 4907 cm³, DOHC and 24 valves that produced 600 hp. The car was REALLY fast, with an official top speed of 368 km/h at the Mulsanne, and that was a problem. The “enhanced” aerodynamics, unbeknownst to the pit crews, over-stressed the brakes. In other words, the car was too fast for its brakes. With that, around 11 hours into the race, while in fifth position, brakes failed and it crashed out at Arnage and retired.
The Pink Pig is painfully ugly and did half of only one race in its entire career. Even so, it is MUCH more notorious than the sleek 917K that won that race. It’s so iconic that even regular motorsports fans recognize it. To the point that, in 2018, Porsche painted a 991 RSR in the same historic livery. And that one won its class! To me the Pink Pig’s story is one of those idiosyncratic legends that make Le Mans so great and interesting. So without a doubt it’s a grail model for my collection.
This model is an upgrade. Four years ago I posted the review of my Pink Pig from Minichamps. At the time, I couldn’t find the Spark version of the car, so I went for the Minichamps one. And Minichamps makes a very fine Pink Pig. However, Spark takes the effort a mile further. On the Spark version details are more crisp, and they recreated the car as it was on race day. The biggest difference is that black tape around the “passenger” door and engine cowl. Maybe the door wasn’t closing properly 😅? Regardless of why the tape is there, the car raced with tape, and it’s absent on the Minichamps. Therefore, with the Pink Pig being such a grail model, I decided to upgrade. Was it worth it? Totally 🥰.
Oink oink 🐷.