Porsche 917 PA Spyder #0 – Spark

917 PA
1969 Porsche 917 PA Spyder #0
Pilots: M. Minter
Team: Vasek Polak Racing
Race: 5th overall at Road Atlanta (Can-Am) in 1971
Spark – US160 (resin)

Published 02/26/24

In the 1960s, the Annex J of the FIA rule book, regulated Group 7 racing. Basically, the car had to have closed wheels and two places and could use whatever engine that ran on regular fuel. In a nutshell, Group 7 racing was a free-for-all with almost no restrictions. With Group 7 regulations in mind, in 1966 started the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, with races in the US and Canada. For the time, Can-Am had an aggressive promotion model, with hefty prize purses. With that, by the late 60s it was very popular, and attracted the attention of mostly American manufacturers. Concurrently, Stuttgart wanted to expand their presence in the US, and Can-Am looked like good publicity. Therefore, the Porsche & Audi Division of Volkswagen of America started a rather timid Can-Am program, with a 908/2 Flounder. The car was reliable, yet hopelessly underpowered compared to the rest of the grid.

917 PA
In the late 60s, Porsche had a partnership with Audi to help them in distribution throughtout North America.

The 908 just couldn’t stand up to the huge engines of the McLarens and Lolas. Porsche needed something new and more powerful – something like the new 917. So, in 1969 Porsche began developing the 917 PA Spyder (PA for Porsche-Audi) specifically for Can-Am. Basically, the project consisted in chopping off the roof of a 917 and using a body inspired by the 908/2. Zuffenhausen built two cars, one a prototype for testing and the second one (chassis #917-028) for actual racing. Powering the 917 PA was a fuel injected 4494 cm³ flat-12 that delivered 427 kW (580) hp at 8400 rpm. Piloted by Jo Siffert, the car debuted at Mid-Ohio in August, and finished in fourth place. Despite the auspicious start, the 917 PA’s best result was only a third place in Bridgehampton in September. Even so, Siffert managed a fourth place in the 1969 Can-Am.

Though a dependable racing machine, the 917 PA’s 4.5 engine was not enough to face off the big-block Chevy engines.

The 917 PA had the reliability for endurance, however, weighing 777 kg, it was underpowered to face the Chevy engines. Porsche realized that they needed turbocharging, and in 1970 began development of the 917/10. With the new project, Porsche retired the 917 PA. In 1971 Vasek Polak bought chassis #917-028 from Porsche, to race it again in Can-Am, though with a 4.9-liter engine. With Milt Minter at the wheel, Vasek Polak Racing debuted the 917 PA Spyder #0 at Mosport, in June. Unfortunately though, the car’s ginormous cooling fan broke on warm-up and he DNS. Not fazed, two weeks later, at Mont-Tremblant, Minter finished in eight place. And then, at Road Atlanta in July 11th, 917 PA #0 finished in fifth place overall. Polak continued racing the 917 PA, and incrementally improving the car’s aerodynamics. By 1973, it looked almost like a 917/10 variant.

Chassis #917-028 still exists, and was restored to 1969 specs.

The 917 PA Spyder is a very unique car. It proved to Porsche that they could be competitive in Can-Am, paving the way for the 917/10, and subsequently, 917/30. Far from successful, yet very interesting for the 917 fanboy. Like me 😁. As a model, it’s a normal Sparktastic good model, with beautiful details. Spark designates it with that weird serial number, that I think they use for limited series’ models. This is only conjecture on my part, however models with these serial numbers usually disappear fast from eBay. Consequently, there’s a big chance for this one to become rare in the future. So, don’t snooze.

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