I got this shot walking through the paddock at a Rennsport Reunion a number of years ago. There it was, a 917/30, all opened up and ready to be admired, the absolute monarch among the merely incredible peers of the automotive realm that surrounded it. The preparation of the engine had been meticulous; washes of anodized blue were complimented by the shades of gold of the fan housing and fittings as well as the red-brown of the huge distributor caps. The light was not too bad, even in those days of unforgiving transparency film, and it would have been an affront to the photographic and automotive gods not to have made the image.
I’ve always liked the shot, but it does raise some interesting questions. I don’t recall ever seeing an engine that looked this good back in the days when the various 917s were the weapons of choice of the talented cadre of drivers that employed their power to such good effect. So how should an old race car and its engine be restored?
We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I particularly recall a red 906 from some years ago; the car had been air conditioned (!) with the compressor painted bright red, as was the transmission housing; the coil-overs, rear sway bar, heads, and even the starter motor were chromed as a counterpoint to the glossy black fan shroud. I seem to remember some carpeting in the cockpit too, but by then my eyes were burning a little too much for me to be sure.
Across the abyss is the other type of old Porsche racer, which sees intermittent wipe-downs of the engine with a mineral-spirit soaked paper towel, and has many crevices featuring grease-dirt that is just a bit too hard to get out. Black spray paint is periodically used to cover up engine shroud rust and minor chassis component rust, and available funds are used to keep it running. Now that I think of it, I used to have one of those.
I’d be interested to know how you think an old race car should be restored (or not)? Right now, I’d come down with the type of work done on the 917 in the image above; maybe it never looked that good when it was racing, but it was tastefully presented at that Rennsport and was basically faithful to its past. What do you think?