The Carrera 6 succeeded the 904, yet it also heralded a completely new era. With the 904, Porsche had effectively retained its iron grip on the under-two-liter GT class. As potential for further development remained, why the change?
Several reasons obtained. First, Ferrari threatened to break that grip with the new, dangerously fast V-6 Dino. Second, a return to tubular space frame technology was desirable since repairing the 904’s chassis/body was a bugbear and, with use, the old bonding technique had made for wild variations in chassis rigidity. Third, the requirement to build a street/race car that had dictated the design of the 904’s box section frame no longer applied. GT regulations for 1966 now required 50 and not 100 unit production, a sales quota Porsche’s marketing men were confident could be reached with purpose-built racing cars.
But perhaps more significant was the entrance on the scene of another of Dr. Porsche’s grandsons: 28-year-old Ferdinand Piëch, the new head of Porsche R&D. Clearly, he was not about to accept his predecessor’s concept, both because it was not the best way to go and because he was a new broom.
The new Carrera’s flat-six engine, derived from the production 911 and originally intended for the 904, would henceforth power numerous racing Porsches. Carerra 6 layout followed the 904 pattern. Unlike its predecessor, however, the 906’s slippery new shape (c/d .35) was designed in the wind tunnel. Some call the styling beautiful; others called it bizarre.
Yet, after the car’s debut at Daytona in early ‘66, everyone called the Carrera 6 a success. It finished 6th overall and won the two-liter prototype class. The first showdown with Ferrari’s new Dino was at Sebring seven weeks later. The Carrera 6 won. History would demonstrate such a result was not atypical. The Dino might be quicker, but the Carrera 6 was tougher.
More importantly, with the advent of the Carrera 6, Piëch launched an era of unparalleled progress at Porsche, designing at least seven new cars, several new engines, all in a period of five years. Many of these cars are on display here.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham imported the first Ferrari to race in the US and you can see it in the museum. Learn more