Friday, August 23, 2013

Piech's First Race Car

The 906 in its natural habitat: the Targa Florio.  (It won class victories everywhere.)  The Typ 901 engine had an
integral oil cooler, and the 906 got by without an external front-mounted one.

This is the second of three Porsche posts in a row.  Sorry about that--it just worked out that way.  And here's a good in-car video of two laps at LeMans in a vintage event:

The 906 was Porsche's first race car designed under the supervision of Ferdinand Piech.  It laid down the principles that would typify Porsche designs through the 917: coupes with light, semi-triangulated space frames and fiberglass bodies.  Even though 50 examples were built in 1966, making it eligible for the 2-liter GT class, and even though it was theoretically streetable, it took the company's racing program in the direction of "pure" race cars and away from the GT racer Piech's cousin Butzi Porsche had designed, the 904.

But Piech did not yet have a completely free hand.  The engine was a race-tuned version of the Typ 901 production engine that powered the 911.  His Uncle Ferry insisted that surplus sets of suspension units ordered for the 904 be used.  They included 15-inch alloy disc wheels fastened with lug nuts and heavier steel parts than Piech would otherwise have specified.  The 904 suspension arms compromised geometry.  The wheels gave the car its signature look: high front fender lines.  (By mid-season in 1966, Piech introduced the 910: a lightened and "prototype-ized" 906 with an eight cylinder 4-cam racing engine and 13-inch center-lock wheels.  After the 906 would come the Piech line of 2, 3, and 5 liter prototypes.)

The 906 was successful in the GT class in Europe in '66 and '67, and was raced Stateside by lots of people then and thereafter.  Mike Rahal, Bobby's father, raced one.  I recall seeing a 906 easily take the measure of a Ford GT 40 at a Connellsville, PA, SCCA Regional in '67--as long as it continued to rain.

A signature feature, besides its high front fender line, was its clamshell doors (abandoned on later Porsche racing cars.)
A 6'-2" guy I know sold his example because he couldn't fit into it and the doors would sometimes fly open at speed.
Although the 906 had Porsche's first "true" space frame, it was not as rigid as the later race cars.

The "stock" engine was a 2.0 liter carbureted Typ 901 (from the 911).  A few 906's ran fuel injection.  Porsche also
experimented with 2.2 liter sixes and eight-cylinder engines when they ran the car as a Prototype.  The grey box
is the "trunk," required by FIA GT rules at the time. 

One of the most successful 906 drivers in the States was Joe Buzetta.  He raced an RSK Spyder successfully in '62 and '63
which got him some factory support in '65 and '66, when he raced this 906.  He spent '67 and '68 in Europe for Porsche
where his best finish was a class win in the Nurburgring 1000 Km with Udo Schutz in a 910.  The 906 was Porsche's
first wind tunnel-tested car.

No comments:

Post a Comment