The intensity with which Porsche pursued the world championship in 1970 and 1971 is indicated by
the 908/3. It was produced to win but two races: the Targa Florio and Nürburgring, twisty, difficult tracks
where the 917’s size and power were a handicap.
Predecessor 908s had been built as coupes or spyders, the latter evolving into a smooth flat shape
that earned the fishy nickname “Flounder.” The 908/3 was produced only as a spyder, and would be dubbed
the “miracle Porsche” by the Italians.
Only the engine remained the same, and it gave away at least 65hp to the rival three-liter 312PB
Ferrari. Relying on their mastery of featherweight design, Piëch’s engineers produced a car virtually
supernatural in its weight saving, coming to the grid at a mere 540kg. Though the 908/2 had been easily the
lightest car in its class, the 3 was lighter yet by a full 100 pounds through the extensive use of titanium. Its
space frame weighed but 48 pounds; its plastic and foam body another 26.5.
Just 13 908/3s were produced: eleven in ’69-’70, two in ’71. Because of their extraordinary
lightness, racing pundits predicted widespread structural failures. The pundits were wrong. A one-two finish
in both the Targa and Nürburgring in 1970 saw to that; although the ’71 Targa was a driver error fraught
crash out, a three car sweep of the `Ring put the final event back on the track.
The only 908/3 breakages occurred in the two cars built in 1971 and only because their frames had
not been built to specification. The display car was one of them. Still, at the 1971 Nürburgring, Pedro
Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver joined in the three-car Porsche sweep, nursing this car across the finish line to
second place despite a broken chassis.
The 908/3’s win rate was an astounding 75%. Even more astounding is how long the car’s basic
design remained competitive. With the 908/3, Piëch and company moved far from the 910 design-of-themonth
days. Like the 1927 Delage Grand Prix car, this Porsche was so brilliantly effective that it remained
competitive for more than a decade. A 1971 configuration 908/3 won its last World Championship race at
Silverstone, England in 1980.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
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