- Short and anything but sweet. What's not to love?

The Porsche 908/03 was perhaps one of the more intriguing race cars to have emerged from within the bowels of the marques racing skunkworks in Weissach. The roots of the 908 kinda-sorta reach all the way back to the 804 Formula 1 car from 1962. The engine found in the back of that particular model was a aircooled (of course) 1.5l flat 8. Because even back then, Porsche rarely did anything in half measures, a 2.0l cousin was developed in parallel with an eye for endurance racing.

Luftverkühlt? Aber natürlich!

Luftverkühlt? Aber natürlich!

That engine made it's way into the back of a succession of endurance racers - first in the (utterly gorgeous, imo) 904, then the 906, the 910, the 907 and lastly, in the 909 bergspyder (and yes, the numbering sequence is a bit amusing.) When it came to the 908, however, a whole new engine was developed, a 3.0l flat 8, which one could pragmatically described as a 911 engine with a pair of extra cylinders. Otherwise, the original 908 was pretty similar in appearance to it's predecessors.

On the 908/03, the headlights were optional. The (regulation required) spare tire was not. It's cleverly hidden in the area before the rear wheel well.

On the 908/03, the headlights were optional. The (regulation required) spare tire was not. It's cleverly hidden in the area before the rear wheel well.

In the late '60s, while the whole Ford vs. Ferrari thing occupied all the headlines at LeMans, Porsche was busy beavering away right behind the two titans and racking up class wins with it's 2.0l prototypes. However, as the decade came to a close, the 908 emerged as a serious threat for the outright win at LeMans, culminating in the 1969 edition where Jacky Ickx in a Ford GT40 and Hans Herrmann, in a 908/02 LH, swapped the lead twice on the final lap, with Ickx emerging as the winner (his first of six wins.)

On the Nürburgring, this was a pretty common sight.

On the Nürburgring, this was a pretty common sight.

Even then, it was thought that the days of the 908 were numbered. The 917 had been shown off for the first time at the 1969 Geneva Auto Salon and it served notice that henceforth, Porsche would no longer be satisfied with racing for class wins. The rest, as they say, is history. Ferrari decided to reload for one more stab at endurance racing glory with the scintillating 512 S/M and if Ford broke Ferrari's spirit, the Porsche 917 pretty much crushed their will by dominating LeMans from 1970 to 1972. Other than the Dallara 333SP in the late '90s, the Maranbello brand hasn't built a top-tier endurance prototype since.

A 1:43 scale Nürburgring really would be a nice thing to have. And so would be the real estate to house it in...

A 1:43 scale Nürburgring really would be a nice thing to have. And so would be the real estate to house it in...

But what of the 908, one might ask. After all, the 908/03 is the nominal hero of this story.

Well, here is where things get a little bit crazy (in a rather typical Porsche sort of way.) The 908/02 was a very dominant car on the twisty/turny tracks of the Endurance championship and thus, even with the coming of the mighty 917, a role was found for a new evolution of the 908. It was re-invented as shorter lighter open-top racer for a pair of very specific races - the Targa Florio and the 1000km of the Nürburgring. Because why have just one soul-crushingly dominant prototype, when you can have two? Kinda like saying 'Hey, lets have a prototype for the customers (the 935) and one for the works team (the 936.) As i said, Porsche didn't do stuff in half-measures back then.

The 908/03 won three of those four races in 1970 and 1971 and as Porsche began winding down it's normally aspirated prototype racing, the 908s were sold off to customers, who promptly gave the venerable racer one last chapter to write. In 1980, Reinhold Joest, at the time still mostly a driver and not yet a multiple LeMans-winning team owner, contested the Nürburgring 1000km in a 908/80, a car that underneath the sheet metal was more 936 than 908, but on the outside it was still unmistakably the short and stubby 908. This being the Nürburgring and it being a 908, the outcome was pretty much the same as usual: a win.

So yeah, creating a special evolution of a car for the purpose of dominating the 'ring isn't something that started with the 919 Evo. I think it's fair to say that this sort of thinking is part of Porsche's racing DNA.

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