1969 Porsche 908/2 Spyder Targa Florio Winner
Resolve and Revisions Bring Redemption to Stuttgart’s Sports Prototype
By the mid-1960s, Porsche had made its name building light, nimble production-based sports racers and they were among the very best in the world at it. It was the dominant marque in the small-displacement classes, but it was often forced to compete against big V-8s and V-12s with twice the horsepower.
As luck would have it, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) reworked its rules for 1966, carving out a new Group 4 (G4) Sports
Car category to fall between the production GT class (now Group 3) and the Group 6 (G6) Prototypes. Ferdinand Piëch was installed as head of Porsche research and development, and tasked with building a new car specifically to G4 rules: the 906. It won the 2-liter division handily but could rarely compete for overall victories against the bigdisplacement Fords and Ferraris.
The FIA announced more rules changes for 1968. Alarmed by the escalating speeds (and costs) brought on by the epic battle between Ford’s GT40 and Ferrari’s 330 P4, the FIA imposed a 3-liter limit on G6 Prototypes and a 5-liter limit on G4 Sports Cars, effectively outlawing both the Ford GT40 and Ferrari P4. Ferrari quit the class in protest, and Ford handed off its GT40 program to the Gulf Racing team of privateer John Wyer. That left the Prototype class wide open for Porsche, and Piëch went to work designing another new car to leverage the new G6 rules.
The 908 would be Porsche’s first purebred prototype, and it was built around a 3-liter version of its flat-8 engine making 350hp in order to more effectively challenge for overall wins.
Such was the plan, anyway. The 908 ran six of the 10 races in ’68, but it was outpaced four times by teammates in older 906s and 907s! The 908 won two outings—at Zeltweg and the Nürburgring—so it wasn’t all bad news. But the 908’s inconsistency motivated Piëch to start work on the now legendary 917 for G4, especially after the production requirement was halved from 50 to 25 cars. Group 6 regulations were relaxed as well. The minimum weight was lowered, prompting Piëch to remove the roof and shorten the tail, cutting weight by 220 pounds and creating the 908/2 Spyder. It had more aero drag than the 908 Langheck (“long-tail”) coupe (aka LH), limiting it on high-speed circuits, but on tighter tracks the 908/2 was much quicker. With both in the stable, the team would choose which to run based on the track. By season’s end, the 908 LH had won Spa and Monza, and finished a narrow second to the GT40 at Le Mans. The 908/2 scored four victories, including the Targa Florio, the winner of which is the subject of this review. The 917 even got its first win at the season-ender at Zeltweg. Together, those seven wins in 10 races were enough to take the title—the first time Porsche had claimed the top Prototype class win.
The 908/2 is part of Minichamps’ First Class
Collection of upscale 1:18 resin models, and “First Class” is an appropriate moniker when it comes to the packaging. The model comes in a beautiful padded display box; the model itself is mounted to a sturdy base wrapped in cardstock printed with a cobblestone pattern, and features a stainless-steel ID placard etched with the car identifier, the drivers’ names, the race, and an individual serial number in the 500-piece limited edition. Normally, I’m indifferent to display bases, but I like the cobblestone look (even if it is just on paper). What I’m not remotely indifferent about are late-’60s sports prototypes like the 908/2. It has a deceptively simple shape, but the sweep of the nose, the swell of the wheel arches, and the way it pinches back down in the door area just so make it look fast and fluid just sitting there. But it’s a subtle thing, because the 908/2 Flunder straightened that taper out and it didn’t look half as good! Since flunder means “flounder” in German, I guess I’m not the only one who thought it was not an improvement aesthetically.
Minichamps revels in the subtleties with this model. Look at the slimness of the simulated door hinges. Even better, look at the fuel cap from side on and see how the twist tab in its center is a piece of photo-etched metal inset into the cap, and it’s actually drilled out. The grille opening is so tiny you might never notice the fine mesh inside, but it’s there anyway. As mentioned, this car is a sealedbody resin piece, but because it’s a Spyder, both the cockpit and the air-cooled flat-8 engine are open to the air—and to the eye. Getting a viewing angle on the instrument cluster in its little binnacle sandwiched between the dash and the low-slung yellow-tinted windscreen is tricky, but when you do, the gauges are perfectly legible. The red fabric lining in the racing seats has texture that knocks down the shine to a convincing matte. Etched metal buckles on the harness are a tad two-dimensional, but otherwise, the cockpit is aces.
The 908/2 is from that wonderful period before aerodynamics ruined aesthetics. Minichamps delivers the graceful curves of the body with admirable finesse.