917 Exhibition - A 12-cylinder powerhouse
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917 Exhibition - A 12-cylinder powerhouse

1969 marked a watershed in the history of the German firm. This was the year that engineer Hans Mezger, under the supervision of Ferdinand Piëch, designed the marque’s first 12-cylinder engine for the 917. It was an extension of a concept already applied on the 911’s 6-cylinder engine six years earlier: a 180° flat layout with an air-cooling fan mounted between two banks of six cylinders.

The 917 engine was also characterised by significant use of lightweight materials (aluminium, magnesium and titanium) for a mass of just 240 kg. Its capacity evolved over the seasons: 4409 cm³ in 1969, 4907 in 1970 and 4998 in 1971. In 1970, Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann opened Porsche’s account at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the 4.5-litre engine while, a year later, the 917 K of winners Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep was powered by the 4907 cm³ version.

A turbocharger was added in 1972 when Porsche switched from the World Sportscar Championship to the Can-Am Challenge Cup. Bored out to 5 litres in 1972, the capacity was increased further to 5.4 litres in 1973, developing over 1000 horsepower. It even reached 1100 hp for the world speed record set on the Talladega oval (USA) in 1975 by the 917/30, the final embodiment that had dominated the Can-Am series two years earlier.

The '917, made for Le Mans' exhibition tells the story of one of the greatest machines ever built to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Authentic 917s can be admired in an outstanding setting at the Museum until 10 January 2021.