1969 Porsche 908/2 Spy­der Targa Flo­rio Win­ner

Re­solve and Re­vi­sions Bring Re­demp­tion to Stuttgart’s Sports Pro­to­type

Die Cast X - - 34 -

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.

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