Owning a Porsche race car is simply awesome. Honestly, who would not want a 917 sitting in your garage waiting to be thrashed on a track? But what if you could take your 917 out on to public roads? Now I am sure that is what heaven will feel like, and it seems some owners had successfully managed to make it a reality.
Claudio Roddaro’s 917K
This might be one of the most ‘authentic’ 917s ever built. Also known by the chassis number 917-037, Roddaro’s 917 was actually never finished by Porsche. The remaining parts and shells of the 917 were bought by Bauer(It is not a typo. Bauer and Dauer are different companies) in the late ‘70s. Some were sold to an American collector, then later assembled. As the car never suffered an accident and was built with 95% Porsche parts, it is the most ‘cleanest’ 917s actually in existence.
Roddaro’s 917K produces around 600hp from its iconic flat-12 engine and only weighs about 800kg. Although a race car that is lower than a typical lowrider sounds very un-road-legal, Roddaro managed to convince the authorities to give this car a license plate thanks to the 917’s history. The 037 was not the first 917 to actually be road legal.
There were two more road-legal Porsche 917s, the 021 and Count Rossi’s 030 which we are later going to talk about. The 021 crashed in Le Mans by Mike Hailwood and was rebuilt using 012 chassis. The badly damaged chassis and the bodywork were sold to Manfred Freisinger, a Porsche spares dealer without an engine. It was later restored and converted to be road legal. Thanks to these two cars that were road-legal, Roddaro’s 917 was able to obtain a Monaco license plate.
Mansour Ojjeh’s 935 Street
The Porsche 935 was an absolute beast. It spat fire out from its exhausts, and its sound will give you chills down the spine. Mansour Ojjeh’s 935 Street is the best Porsche Exclusive car ever built and is one of the most interesting road-legal racers here. Mansour Ojjeh is the co-owner of TAG(Techniques d’Avant Garde) which has long relations with Porsche. Tag Heuer clocks were added on early Porsche vehicles, and there was also the Porsche TAG TTE P01 engine that powered McLaren Formula 1 cars.
Mansour Ojjeh was also a fan of Porsche vehicles. He once owned a customer 935 racing car and was greatly impressed by it, which made him commission a new project known as 935 Street. As the name suggests, the 935 Street was a street-legal 935 with all the pops and bangs of a 935 race car with all the luxury features. A brand new flat nose 930 shell was modified with race components from the 935, while a modified 934 engine that produced 375hp was added to it. Suspension and underbody components were taken from 935 race cars, but the interior was finished with cream leather and wood veneer.
A total of 550 modifications were done from a base 930 slant nose, which resulted in an invoice that was 17 pages long and a price estimate of more than three times the base slant nose. Therefore, technically speaking, this car is more of a 930 tuned to a 935. But when remembering the fact that 935s were based on 930s as they competed in the ‘Silhouette Class’ and this is the only official factory road-legal 935, the value of this car is huge. There are 935 conversions done by Kremer which is known to be 98% accurate to the Le Mans 935 K3, but this 935 Street managed to find a balance between race car performance and luxury, which makes it stand out from all those modified 935s out on the market.
Mystery Swiss Enthusiast’s 956
While some publicly open their priceless collections, others tend to disclose their personal information and this Swiss enthusiast is a good example. Nevertheless, this Swissman also known as Mr. B has a splendid road-legal Porsche 956 which has quite an interesting history, including being driven by Keke Rosberg.
Keke Rosberg was a legendary F1 racer with a championship win in 1982, 5 wins, and 17 podiums. His best result with the 956 was in the 1983 Nurburgring 1000km. The race was intense as it would be the last for the Nurburgring 1000km to be included in the WSC calender. Jacky Ickx wanted to win for the last time, Derek Bell challenged to gain his first win at the Ring, and even Vic Elford came out of retirement for a nostalgic run. However, Rosberg was actually not happy about his 956 due to its turbo lag. He stated, "When I get on the accelerator, I'm a million miles too late!" Still, he managed to finish third with a car that was less competitive than others.
Not much about the car is known, but for now, it seems that it is the only road-legal 956 in the whole world. Some changes were made to make it legal, including indicators, wing mirrors, a handbrake, but the hardest part was fitting a catalytic converter. Garage Moderne did the whole job of transforming this racer into a street-legal car, and it took them 3 years due to the complexity of the work needed. However, the results are rewarding, as Mr. B now becomes the lucky guy who can enjoy the 650hp flat-six race engine on the wonderful roads of Switzerland.
Takeshi Moroi’s Schuppan 962
Japanese are quite famous for their ‘otaku’ characteristics. Although otaku originally means people who are obsessed with anime and manga, it is also used as a general term to describe people who are deep into certain areas. And in this case, Mr. Moroi is a car-otaku for sure. He owns a vast collection of cars including a GTO, 7 Toyota 2000GTs, 190E DTM car, AMG Hammer, a Taisan 962 JGTC car, a 787B, and most of all, a roadgoing 962.
Schuppan 962 CR. Later versions of the Schuppan 962 were very different from 962s, at least in terms of exterior design. Image from GT Planet
There are a total of three roadgoing 962s in Japan and some more around the world. However, quite a lot of cases are usually cars that only share the bodywork or a well-built replica using non-Porsche parts, and for now, there is no ‘real’ werks 962 registered for the road. Although Mr. Moroi’s 962 is not a werks 962, it is a customer car, built by Vern Schuppan, a 1983 Porsche Le Mans winner. Vern Schuppan got his hands on factory 962 parts and built 5(some say 6, but it has never been confirmed) Schuppan 962s.
Schuppan 962s have a slight difference with the werks 962. Firstly, it boasts a carbon fibre monocoque chassis instead of the factory aluminum one. The new chassis makes the car significantly lighter and agile. The suspension is also from a 956, and the Schuppan 962s have a different bodywork. However, Mr. Moroi’s 962 was fitted with a prototype bodywork which has the same long-tail carbon-Kevlar body of the werks car. The twin-turbocharged flat-six engine from a 935/82 produces 630hp, which is not a lot for a race car, but enough for a road car. Other features like indicators, conventional fuel cap, and a key-start system makes the car more daily usable and of course, street-legal.
So how does this beast drive? Despite looking a bit too big and powerful for small Japanese rural roads, Mr. Moroi states that the car is surprisingly stable and planted to the ground. He adds, “One of my greatest experiences behind the wheel is feeling the downforce in my 962s” It was the tremendous downforce that made his 962 feel stable even on fast speeds. However, Mr. Moroi states, “But scary, and that’s what I love.” He says the car keeps ‘urging’ the driver to drive it to the extreme, despite requiring both guts and the skills to do so. Remember, the car easily clocks 200mph on an empty highway, but it is always ready to slam the driver into a wall only with a slight mistake.
Count Rossi’s 917K Straßenversion
For those who know who Count Rossi is, you will definitely gasp out a short ‘ahh’ or ‘wow’. Why? Because Count Gregorio Rossi di Montelera is the heir to the Martini & Rossi fortune. And if you somehow recalled the name from a James Bond film, Martini Racing, or if you have one on your island bartop right now, you are correct. Count Rossi is the guy behind Martini and their numerous sponsorship to racing from Formula 1 to rallying. Numerous cars had worn the Martini livery, the Lancia 037, Lotus 79&80, Porsche 935/78, Ford Escort Cosworth, and the list goes on. Among them all, Martini Racing was deeply related with Porsche, as it sponsored numerous racers including the Le Mans-winning 917-053 and that actually made Count Rossi achieve his dream.
It is likely that this mogul would have had some ‘backdoor’ access to Porsche’s 917s although there are no official records. It is only known that Count Rossi requested a 917K to be converted for the street, and that is when this 917-30 started its second phase of life. The 917-30 was previously a test mule for developing ABS technology. It briefly raced in Zeltweg 1000km in Austria, but unfortunately retired due to a suspension problem despite qualifying third. Since then, the car was shelved in Porsche’s storage facilities until Count Rossi commissioned Porsche to build a street-legal Porsche for him.
This 917 is actually the most ‘purest’ 917 actually on the roads. The 917-21 was subsequently converted for race use, while the 917-037 was not assembled by Porsche. Only a small amount of modifications were done, such as deletion of the rear fin, the addition of an exhaust silencer, and tan leather interior. Therefore, it meant that this 917 had all the genuine Porsche race parts including the flat-12 that is known to produce 620hp in this car.
However, it was not easy to register this car for road use. Count Rossi first tried Germany, which they had no chance of passing the regulations. They went to France, but a crash-test was required, which meant Count Rossi would have to crash his 917. Even Italy refused to register the car, despite the fact that it was during the days when the police would stop Ferrari drivers for driving too slowly. In the end, the car was taken to Alabama and was registered as an ‘antique’ vehicle with the condition that the car should never come close to the state border.
Count Rossi enjoyed his 917 a lot. He not only drove the car in Alabama but took his car to Europe where there are records of his 917 driving around in Alabama license plates. It took only 75,000 DM for Count Rossi to buy this 917, which was not a small sum of money at that time, but when because there were purchase offers that exceeded the record-breaking price of the 250 GTO, it was a bargain for the Rossi family. Count Rossi’s son currently owns the car, and the car now has a Texas license plate which needs to be re-registered. All we can hope is that we will be able to see this car on the road, free and wild once again.
Mr. Moroi's garage. I can see a 962, a Ford GT40, an AMG Hammer, and... wait, is that a van? Image from The Drive
At the end of the day…
Driving a Porsche race car will definitely be an unforgettable experience for anyone. However, race cars had always been ‘caged’ by regulations requiring them to travel on trucks and only to be driven on the track. Even the Mulsanne straight is only 6km long, and with cars like those, it is just too small for them. These cars were born to race, but they have the capabilities to crush continents on a single leap. I would like to thank these wonderful owners and enthusiasts who actually drive their race cars in the first place, and further legalizing them. Most of us will never be able to drive one, especially on the road, but as a petrolhead, the existence of these wonderful beasts are still enough for me.
As a side note, if anyone knows more information about Mr. B’s 956, I would be extremely grateful to hear more about it via direct message or email. I have found some questionable but interesting aspects of the car which I could not answer with existing information on 956 chassis and history on databases, forums, and even publications. Please contact me if you know more about the car and are willing to talk about it. Thank you.
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