For Sale: 1970 Porsche 908/3
In a period of almost 20 years, Porsche had worked itself up the motor sport ladder.
From the early 1950s the Stuttgart based company slowly progressed through sports car racing with increasingly sophisticated racers, and many class-victories in the process. After a brief spell in single-seater racing, their focus turned completely to prototype racing. This cumulated in the Le Mans winning Porsche 917, whose success extinguished the limelight of another great racer from the same stable, the 908/3.
The 917 was specifically designed for high speed tracks like Le Mans, whereas the 908/3 was designed specifically for the twisty Targa Florio and Nürburgring tracks. More than anything, superior handling is essential on tracks like the Nürburgring. In turn, weight is one of the most decisive factors when it comes to attaining that necessary handling. Porsche therefore had weight reduction at the top of their priorities with the 908/3 design. Usually chassis ri¬gidity suffers from weight saving, but the aluminium-alloy spaceframe designed for the 908/3 Porsche found the perfect balance.
Installed directly behind the driver was a fully air-cooled flat 8-cylinder engine. With its 3-litre displacement, the twin-spark engine exploited the regulations to the maximum, something Porsche often chose not to do with previous designs. Although it was far from being the most sophisticated 3-litre racing engine available, the 360 bhp delivered an incredible power to weight ratio; each horse having to propel a mere 1.56 kg. That power was transferred to the wheels through a five-speed gearbox, bolted directly onto the rear of the engine.
To make the 908/3 as nimble as possible, the front and rear overhang were kept minimal. With the engine being cooled strictly by air, there was no need for a big radiator to interfere the airflow over the body. The result was a very simple and clean design. Over the years minor modifications were carried out, including two fins on each side of the rear bodywork for 1971. Although the body is all-enveloping, its weight is little over 12 kg; adding next to nothing to the overall weight.
In its debut year of 1970, the Porsche 908/3 scored victories in the two races it was designed for; the Targa Florio and the 1000 km Nürburgring race. Unfortunately these fine results were left in the dust, behind the racing headlines that Porsche finally won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In the next season the 908/3 faced stiff competition from Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Their racers featured Formula 1 inspired four valve per cylinder engines, which were far more advanced than the Porsche’s eight cylinder.
Porsche was clearly down on power, but the 908/3′s exceptional low weight meant it could stay on pace with its heavier competitors. At the Targa Florio, the entered 908/3s suffered from bad luck, leaving an easy victory for one of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3s. Porsche scored a 1-2-3 finish on the Nürburgring after the more powerful Ferraris and Alfa Romeos failed under pressure. Again the 917′s results pushed the Porsche 908/3′s victories into the margins of the history books.
The racing career of the 908/3 seemed to be over in the mid 1970s; however some of the lightweight racers were campaigned until 1980. One of the most successful of these was the chassis modified by Joest. It featured a turbo¬charged 2.1 litre 6 cylinder, producing over 200 bhp more than the original 8 cylinder unit. The lightweight chassis coped with the added power surprisingly well. Porsche applied the lessons Joest learned with the turbocharged 908/3 when designing 936, which would score three 24 Hours of Le Mans victories.
Like many Porsche race car designs, the 908/3 did what it was designed for; win. The 908/3 was a well balanced package, unlike the 917, whose chassis could barely match its engine’s power. Long after its original challengers were retired from active racing, the 908/3 remained competitive, underlining the great design that the 908/3 is.
A total amount of 11 cars were built (chassis number 003 -013).
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