Words: Kerry Morse
Photography: Bruce Benedict
Anyone visiting the Porsche Experience Center in the Los Angeles area should be sure not to miss the added bonus of watching the daily operations of Porsche Motorsport North America. Simply stroll up to the floor-to-ceiling glass that separates the showroom lobby from the motorsport facility and take a look.
There is always something going on of interest even for the most knowledgeable enthusiast. The motion and flow of keeping the current crop of GT3 and GT4 racecars performing at the highest level all starts at PMNA — from the spotless, well-lit workshop, where technicians rebuild engines and transmissions, to the large, fully stocked warehouse of spare parts flown in weekly from Weissach. Motorsport is always about deadlines, and the staff of nineteen is fully committed to meeting them, handling new racecar sales, research and development and engineering, all serenaded by the mechanical hum of the dyno testing a motor before delivery.
While it is the present and future that occupies most activities at PMNA, the center also attends to legendary vintage and historic competition cars, which are constantly being rotated in and out for everything from minor services to full mechanical rebuilds.
PMNA recently received a commission from the REVS Institute in Florida to rebuild the engine and transmission of one of the most important 917s ever built, the prototype Can-Am 917, chassis 917-028. The car made its U.S. debut in August 1969 and was driven by the great Jo Siffert, and it also has the distinction of being the only 917 to have competed in the Can-Am series from 1969 through 1973.
The assembly of the mechanical components of a 917 requires patience and experience. Fortunately, PMNA has the talents of Alwin Springer and Dieter Inzenhoffer available for such projects, and the job was scheduled. A suggestion was made that the rebuild be documented and the work space be arranged so the public would to be able to watch the assembly process. In addition to assisting in the rebuild, PMNA technicians Eric Bloss and Derek Denzel also set up the benches and stands that allowed the work to be viewed and photographed.
All of the parts were laid out in a surgical style reminiscent of photographs of the original assembly decades ago in the race shops in Zuffenhausen. Handwritten notes in German from a well-worn notebook were consulted often as the components took on recognizable shapes. The big air-cooled 4.5-liter flat-twelve engine appeared to hold court as fascinated enthusiasts followed the methodical assembly.
The transmission was a spectacle of its own, the beautifully machined magnesium housing and table full of gears, bearings, forks, and gaskets awaiting their turn in the forming of a complete unit. With Inzenhoffer handling the transmission and Springer managing the engine, onlookers were treated to a pair of veteran professionals doing what they know and do so well.
Upon completion, the engine was given a test run on the PMNA dyno before being crated along with the transmission and returned to Florida to be reunited with 917-028.