Canepa’s Gulf Porsche 917 restoration to Monterey

Porsche 917s often appear on the market dressed in the iconic blue-and-orange Gulf Oil livery made famous by J.W. Automotive Engineering in the early Seventies however, it is unusual to find one that truly has provenance as an ex-John Wyer-run car.

This is why Bruce Canepa’s eponymous Porsche specialists extraordinaire showed such an interest in buying and restoring chassis number 017/004 after a meeting with a fellow Porsche enthusiast at the 2011 Rennsport Reunion meeting.

Now, after a painstaking restoration (unusually for Canepa, not carried out in-house due to a lack of capacity) this 1969 Porsche 917K will see the light of day once again as it goes on show this week at the Monterey Classic Car festival.

Porsche 917K side

Chassis 017/004 started life as one of the original 25 cars built to satisfy the 917’s homologation and, after retiring from its first race at Spa, the car became the first 917 to complete a full race distance at the 1969 Nürburgring 1000km in the hands of David Piper and Frank Gardner.

After JWA signed as the factory Porsche team for 1970 and 1971, 017/004 was converted to 917K specification, with the car making its debut in Gulf colours at the 1970 BOAC 1000km at Brands Hatch.

During this legendary, rain-filled race, Jo Siffert in 017/004 and Pedro Rodriguez in the sister 017/016 machine duelled side-by-side before Chris Amon’s Ferrari damaged the former late in the race with Brian Redman at the wheel.

Porsche 917K rear

The resulting damage was not enough to write 017/004 off but the decision was made to return it to Zuffenhausen where its chassis plate was given to the car previously known as 017/017.

This prematurely ended ‘004’s’ professional racing career though the car has seen action over the last 25 years in various historic arenas before Bruce Canepa purchased the car and handed it over to Florida’s Gunnar Racing for a ground-up rebuild.

The result (after an engine rebuild to 5.0-litre spec by Ed Pink Racing Engines) is a true Gulf Porsche 917K restored as probably the most accurate 917 currently in existence. If you’re going to Pebble Beach this week, it’s well worth a visit amongst all the gorgeous Porsche machinery.

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