Porsche 917/30 was the dreamboat that absolutely aced the Can-Am series. Now, Canepa's shop in Scotts Valley, California has just finished rebuilding its 5.4-liter flat-12 turbo engine by getting help from its original engineers: Valentin Schaeffer and Gustav Nietzsche. And it is a sight to behold.
Its recent history is as it goes: Motorsports restoration mega-specialist Bruce Canepa found it and sold it to Rob Kauffman, who wanted Canepa to restore it back to its glory days. This means that we now have the chance to see Porsche 917/30's engine out of its shell.
The amount of engineering that went into making the engine is just astonishing. German engineers only had their brains, pencils, and a slide rule to make the engine possible.
Canepa says, "What's amazing is when you go back, now you're talking about the early '70s; when you look at the brainpower of those guys between (Hans) Mezger and Valentin Schaeffer and the guys building the engine, they didn't have computers telling them, there wasn't a program on how to build an engine. I mean, this is all in their heads," Autoweek reports.
"And to build that big an engine—and it's a big engine, its size, it's a big thing—to build that thing and have it run 8,000 rpm, which is a lot for a big engine, and make that kind of power boosted and reliable. I mean, that engine would run for 25, 30 hours without them touching it. Those guys were geniuses, period.”
The team was able to take the engine apart and put it back together masterfully.
According to Canepa, they’ve done “seven or eight” rebuilds on 917 engines in the last three years.
He recalls them fondly by saying, “Those engines were incredible. And when you see them all apart and you look at the pieces, and you just study the design of it, even if you don't even know what you're looking at, you're just impressed. Just in all the detail and all the things they were paying attention to.”
It truly is a masterpiece. The 917/30 was the fastest car in the world back in the day, and its "big engine" shows it is not just the size that matters.