1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks
What you get if you work hard at improving the 550 Spyderby Michael Fira, on
How often do you see an ex-works Porsche race car hit the auction block? It rarely happens and this is one of the few that were sold publicly in recent history. This is a 1960 Porsche 718 RS 60, member of the 718 RS family of open-top sports cars built and raced by Zuffenhausen for half a decade beginning with the RSK in 1957. The RS 60 appeared at a time when sports car manufacturers started realizing that mounting the engine behind the cockpit might be beneficial to the performance of the car after witnessing Jack Brabham muscling his way to the title in F1 in 1959. Porsche was already doing it and had been doing it for years, beginning with the 550 Spyder, a car infamous for having an important part to play in actor James Dean’s death but one that was, more importantly, a successful car in road racing.
The RS 60 Spyder raced everywhere around the world, following the trek of the World Endurance Championship and, along the way, ticking starts at Le Mans, the Nurburgring, and Targa Florio. Only 18 were built in period and the factory kept for its own use a mere four examples and this, according to RM Sotheby’s, was "the only to likely become available". Powered by a four-cam engine - first a 1.6-liter mill and, in 1961, a 2.0-liter one - the car you see in the pictures, chassis #044, doesn’t boast with the most enviable of racing records having retired out of both the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans race and all of the three major races it contested in 1961: the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 1,000-kilometer race at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife and the Targa Florio in Sicily. Having said that, it must be said that the car was fast, taking pole position outright in the Italian road race before being raced extensively by Bob Holbert, father of Porsche legend Al Holbert, an amazing driver in his own right - both behind the wheel of Porsches and, later, Cobras. It is, then, no wonder that chassis #044 sold for over $5.0 million back in mid-August during the Monterey sale. That’s one expensive aluminum Spyder!
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks Exterior
- Aluminum bodywork made by Karosserie Wendler
- Chiseled nose for better aerodynamics
- Fog lights incorporated in nose section
- Single hump molded into rear lid
- Presented in Targa Florio livery
- 15-inch rims all around as part of RS 60 update package
- Lower than the 550 RS Spyder
Porsche introduced its first mid-engined thoroughbred race car, the 550 Spyder, in 1953 when it won its class in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana. Four years down the road, Porsche launched the 550’s replacement named 718 RSK, the ’K’ not referring to the short-tail bodywork but to the torsion bar suspension that was used then for the first time on Porsche’s aluminum open-top sports cars. The developmental work continued, however, and the 718 was updated a number of times over the next five years with the 718 W/RS still raced by the factory as late as 1964 by which team the 904 had already been introduced.
The RS 60 you can see in these images benefits from all of the updates made by Porsche to the original 550 Spyder design.
In fact, very few details remind one of the RS 60’s roots as the front end is more aerodynamic with incorporated headlights and fog lights in the lower bumper and also a lower profile and rounded tail section. But, for all it’s worth, the 718s still featured a pair of air vents protected by grilles in the back, just like the 550 did on its sloping rear deck.
In the front, the Wilhelm Hild-penned racer (Hild designed the original 718 RSK but much of the design cues have been carried over to the RS 60 with the W/RS of 1961 debuting a more straight-cut appearance with boxier arches) features a face that only broadly resembles that of your usual Porsche 356. That’s because the fenders don’t rise high up leaving the hood behind to curve down towards the bumper. Instead, the whole frontal surface is almost level with the fenders only minimally curving upwards to make room for the larger rims that were fitted to improve the car’s stability.
Between this RS 60's headlights, there's a large yellow roundel although the racing number in black font is actually placed above on the front lid that conceals the fuel tank.
Just below this roundel, the two extra light clusters protrude forward. There’s a rectangular air inlet placed horizontally in between them as well as two smaller inlets located outboard. Only the four cars (chassis #041 through to chassis #044) destined to be used by the factory team came with the additional lights in the nose while privateers had to make do with only the two headlamps in the fenders. This was, most likely, insufficient given the headlight technology available in the early ’60s and the fact that most road courses were poorly lit or not lit at all (minus the start/finish straight) during the night in round-the-clock events meaning that you’d find yourself relying on muscle memory to brake and turn when the eyes failed to notice things in front due to the lack of lighting.
The front lid is held in place via two leather straps. From the side, you’ll notice the rather lengthy front overhangs (compared to the much more stubby 550 Spyder) that flatten towards the leading edge of the car, making it more slippery as it travels at speed through the air. Aft of the front wheel arches you can see the name ’Camoradi’ that you’d rather associate with the legendary Maserati Tipo 61 ’Birdcage.’ Camoradi, which is an abbreviation of ’Casner Motor Racing Division’ was the racing team formed by Lloyd ’Lucky’ Casner in 1959 to race at Le Mans with Maserati’s Tipo 61, a tube-framed sports racer that had been built by Alfieri Maserati although the company was near bankruptcy.
Camoradi took over as the de facto works team for 1960 and famously won the Nurburgring 1,000-kilometer race with Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss doing the driving.
The car carried the Camoradi name as it was entered by Casner’s outfit but prepped by Porsche mechanics in what you may consider a very early form of sponsorship. Camoradi itself can be considered the first American race team to be backed by the industry receiving funds from Dow Chemicals to race as Camoradi International in the 1961 season.
The racing number can also be seen on the handle-free doors and on the engine hood. The RS 60’s profile is simplicity in itself with little to point out besides the added vents placed just behind the doors atop the rear fenders. The vents actually face towards the rear. The rear wheel arches are actually flattened with a part of the rear wheels being hidden by the rear bodywork. The car features one D-Type-esque hump (but without the wing-like element that made the D-Type famous) for the driver. It’s not a roll bar in reality as most often the driver’s head and helmet would surpass the height of the hump and, as such, we consider it to be more of headrest rather than a safety feature - this is backed by the fact that the hump is padded just like the seats.
From the back, the Porsche sports two tiny taillights placed at a distance from the rectangular cut-outs in the rear bodywork covered by grilles with vertical, chromed bars (and one horizontal bar towards the top for rigidity). These two vents with curved edges are placed below the engine’s lid. This example features a single muffler that exits just below the rear bodywork (in fact, two pipes of the exhaust system come together into one tip).
By today’s standards, the 718 RS 60 is a lilliputian machine with an overall length of just 145.7 inches, just as much as the 550 Spyder although the wheelbase differs. In fact, the RS 60’s wheelbase is four inches longer than that of the 718 RSK. To put things into perspective, a 2019 Mazda Miata measures from end to end 154.1 inches. A Fiat 500 is only six inches shorter and the 718 Cayman, the modern namesake of the 718 RS 60 measures 172 inches and still is the most compact two-door sports car currently on sale from Porsche.
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks Interior
- Spartan with two bucket seats
- Metal bar structure exposed inside
- Simple dash lacks odometer
- Features both a mirror on the dash and one attached to windshield frame
- Luggage space in the back as mandated by the FIA
- Gorgeous wooden-rimmed steering wheels
- Modern safety harnesses added
- More room inside than in a 550 RS Spyder
- Exposed fuse box on passenger’s side
The interior of the 718 RS 60 is so bare and spartan that in the fact, the works cars that featured a flat black dashboard was considered an 'extra' over the body panel-colored dashes of privateer examples.
You can spot this minimalistic thinking everywhere in the cockpit, including the caved-in doors that only feature a tiny lever to help you open them from the inside. True, Porsche also outfitted other racing cars with a strap for you to close and open the door with so, in this context, an actual lever may seem like a luxury feature but, still, the whole thing is straight to the point: the roll cage is exposed, black bars intricately snaking their way along the aluminum floor and around the doors, and even the fuse box is in plain sight for quick fixing when needed.
Jump in the bucket seat meant for the driver and you’re confronted with a beautiful steering wheel, almost too pretty to manhandle as you would this being a racing car. Then again, all steering wheels tended to be good looking back in those days but you can’t talk about the 718 RS 60’s cabin without mentioning the wheel with its elegant metal spokes, hollowed in the middle, and the narrow, but not frail, wooden rim with a black contour. It’s up for debate if this wheel is better looking than what you’d find in a 250 Testa Rossa and we’re letting you choose the winner for yourself.
Behind the wheel you’ll find three gauges - all with green lettering over a black background - and a trifecta of so-called "idiot lights", the lights that flicker when there’s something wrong with the car or, for instance, when you have to upshift so that you save yourself the misery of over-revving what is, otherwise, a very expensive engine to repair and service.
On the left-hand side, you've got your tachometer and, truth be told, the light for upshifting is useful since there's no redline on the dial itself but max power does come at 7,800 rpm so that's roughly where you should be with your shifts.
To the right, there are two more, much smaller, gauges for temperature/pressure that are barely big enough to read.
Back on the left-hand side, you can also find the ignition switch, the toggle for the wipers and, believe it or not, the horn. As a car that would be driven on public roads with live traffic around it (the practice runs at Targa Florio, for instance), it actually needed one - it’s not just to please those at the FIA writing seemingly senseless rules. There are four more white knobs on the center of the dash and, on the passenger’s side, there’s the fuse box covered by a removable see-through plastic cover.
You’ll be not-so-pleased to discover, in the rare scenario that you get to drive it, that the pedals are offset to the center of the footwell as is the case in other ’50s and ’60s sports cars (like Aston Martin’s only Le Mans winner, the DBR1/300, whose ergonomics were described as awful by Frank Gardner). The order is the standard one, however, with the pedals bolted to the firewall and the gas pedal painted black and different in design to allow for a different ’touch’. The long shifter erects right from the floor and ends with a white knob. It’s placed a bit more to the right than your arm may be used to going and that’s because there are two more levers towards the driver, on the floor.
Overall, the interior doesn't leave room for second-guessing this car's purpose.
While it is a two-seater because that’s what the rules asked out of the manufacturers, it was never really meant to carry a passenger so you’d imagine the balance could be off if you take your buddy for a spin. Having said this, there’s padding all across the back of the cockpit below the also padded hump/headrest which means there’s minimal comfort for the back of the passenger too. There’s also some red padding on the top of the doors.
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks Drivetrain
- Powered by 547/4 four-cam Carrera engine
- 160 horsepower at 7,800 rpm with 1.6-liter unit
- Stiffer than the 718 RSK
- Also raced with a torquey 2.0-liter Type 587 flat-four
- Featured separate front torsion bars unlike privateer cars
- Top speed of over 140 mph with the 1.6-liter engine
- Weighs in at under 1,300 pounds
The Porsche 718 RS 60 was an evolution of the existing 718 RSK which, in itself, was made after lessons were learned racing the 550 RS Spyder (and its experimental brother, the 645 Spyder that was lost in a fiery crash at Avus near Berlin on that infamous banked turn that also claimed the life of Jean Behra).
Porsche didn’t update the RSK because it wanted to as the car was doing well enough on the race tracks towards the tail end of the ’50s but the FIA basically drafted a new set of rules for 1960 that pushed manufacturers to design safer and, generally, larger sports cars for 1960.
These cars now had to have bigger windshields, bigger doors for easier ingress and egress, and a larger cockpit altogether for two people to (more comfortably) fit in.
Porsche’s Head of Motorsports at the time, Baron Huschke von Hanstein, first applied these modifications (as well as a trunk area placed behind the engine and a ’functional’ top, according to Porsche) to a 718 RSK chassis and realized that the car had to be widened to meet the cabin-related criteria.
Thus, a whole batch of new cars was built, all underpinned by a tubular space frame chassis (the 550s featured floor pan construction that was less rigid and, as such, prone to flexing). However, time was at a premium and Porsche built the first cars in only half a year to be ready for the beginning of the 1960 World Endurance Championship. Unlike the RSK, that initially came with torsion bar suspension at both ends, the RS 60 was fitted with double wishbones in the back with Koni shock absorbers and coil springs and independent torsion bars in the front with the same shock and coil spring arrangement as in the back. This improved handling and made the 718 RS 60 quicker through the twisty bits helping it conquer the Targa Florio in 1960, the second year on the trot that Porsche had won in Sicily (the Germans first won the Targa Florio outright back in 1956).
In the engine department, there was a flurry of activity just like over in Maranello. Porsche too tried fitting a variety of engines on its tube-framed sports cars.
Initially, the tried and tested 1.5-liter four-cam Fuhrmann unit straight from the 550 A Spyder was equipped to the RSK and grandfathered onto the RS 60. But the car mostly competed with the bigger 1.6-liter unit (Type 547/4, the 1.5-liter one is known as the Type 547/3) and the 1.7-liter one - both allowing the RS 60 to compete in the secondary prototype division, Sports 2.0-liter. The biggest sports cars of the time such as Ferrari’s 250 Testa Rossa and Aston Martin’s DBR1/300 raced in the 3.0-liter category and, although more powerful, were often trumped on track by the nimbler and lighter RS 60 making it Porsche’s first true ’giant killer’.
This was in spite of the fact that, on paper, the 718 RS 60 was a bit heavier than the 718 RSK due to the widened chassis and addition of a trunk, and windscreen. Still, the extra power and fitment of lightweight magnesium drum brakes on all four corners aided in keeping the weight down compared to the 3.0-liter cars and this meant that a 300-horsepower Ferrari could barely shake off a pursuing 1.6-liter Porsche at the Nordschleife, for instance. But it wasn’t only on twisty tracks that the 718 RS 60 excelled. Due to its reliability, it also won in the gruelling 12 Hours of Sebring. A 1.6-liter RS 60 pulled it off as we’ll detail below and this was in front of a 3.0-liter Ferrari Dino that ought to have been miles on pace given the superior top speed but the Ferraris was more fragile as were the other big sports cars.
The output of the engines fitted to the RS 60 varied.
The 1.5-liter four-came flat-four was rated at 150 PS or 148 horsepower while the 1.6-liter mill cranked out 160 horsepower. The big 2.0-liter engine Type 578 was near the 200 horsepower mark. This was a lot, even for the 15-inch wheels of the RS 60 and, especially, for the drum brakes that Porsche still utilized a whopping six years after Jaguar debuted disc brakes in sports car endurance racing on the C-Types in 1954. Steering was by worm & nut and the rear wheels received the oomph from the rear mid-engine via a five-speed synchromesh Porsche transmission. Top speed was said to be in excess of 140 mph for the 1.6-liter models. It may not seem like much in a world where the fastest road-legal cars can now surpass 300 mph but, looking at the numbers, the 718 RS 60 is impressive to this day with 258.18 horsepower per tonne.
|Engine||A number of naturally-aspirated, four-cam flat-fours including the Type 547/4 1.6-liter, DOHC, eight-valve unit|
|Fuel feed||Twin Weber 46 IDM1 Carburetors|
|Output||160 horsepower at 7,800 rpm|
|Suspension||Independent all around with torsion bars, trailing arms, Koni shock absorbers, and coil springs in the front and double-wishbone with Koni shock absorbers, and coil springs in the back|
|Brakes||Ventilated magnesium drums|
|Steering||Worm & nut|
|Top speed||over 142 mph|
|Weight||Under 1,280 pounds for the works cars|
Porsche started developing a revised version of the 550 Spyder as early as 1956 when the 645 prototype was built. It featured a longer, flatter, and more aero-efficient nose section and also lower profile and tail. Beyond the changes to the body panels (with fixed front and rear sections), it featured the traditional four-cam engine and torsion bar suspension. It was driven in competition that year by Richard von Frankenberg, a semi-professional driver that’d driven for the works a number of times in the early days and editor of a prominent Porsche magazine. The only example built was binned in the crash at Avus that nearly claimed von Frankenberg’s life (the car somehow veered off the brick-laid banked turn and flew off, crashing down on the street below next to two parked 300 SL ’Gullwing’ Mercedes cars. Richard was actually saved by the lack of safety features in the Porsche - with no seatbelt in place, he was catapulted out of the car as it tumbled through the air and landed on some soft trees.
In 1957, the general cues of the 645 were carried over to the 718 RSK that was a successful car in both long-distance endurance races and hill climbs.
Its first victory came in a hill climb event (after Maglioli and Barth crashed out at Le Mans through no fault of Maglioli who couldn't avoid an out-of-control Aston Martin during the darkness hours).
The RSK debuted with a pair of fins fitted to the rear bodywork that proved useless. The RSK, unusually, was a car designed with single-seater racing in mind too. The chassis was designed so as to allow for the seat to be moved in the middle of the cockpit as well as the steering and the gear lever. This allowed Porsche to enter the 718 RSK in Formula 2 (not to be confused with the open-wheeled 718 F2 race car that also raced at the time and that was a genuine F2 car in that it lacked bodywork around the wheels, although the two cars would end up sharing some elements of the suspension).
Edgar Barth won the RSK’s first major title in 1958 by snatching the European Hill Climb crown from under the noses of competitors fielding more powerful Maseratis and Ferraris. Another title came in 1959 in the same championship and this began a trend for Porsche that dominated in 1960 and 1961 as well. In ’58, Porsche also started building RSKs for privateers but these examples lacked some of the feature found on the works cars, naturally. In 1959, a fleet of RSKs was shipped to Florida to partake in the 12 Hours of Sebring where the German silver bullets finished third, fourth, and fifth overall, being beaten by two works-entered Ferrari 250 TR-59s powered by the muscular 3.0-liter V-12 engine. Staying in Florida, two RSKs finished first and second overall in the 1,000-kilometer endurance race on the Daytona road course.
That year, Porsche dominated at the Targa Florio but all the works cars retired at Le Mans (in '58, an RSK shared by Jean Behra and Hans Herrmann came home third overall winning its class).
Sadly, Behra himself would lose his life in 1959 after crashing out on the same banking that caught out von Frankenberg three years earlier. Porsche dominated that sports car race but there was no joy displayed on the rostrum on August 1st, 1959, a day before the German GP was held.
The RS 60 debuted in 1960 with all of the modifications mandated by the FIA. It did so at Sebring where it went two places better than the RSK had done in ’59, winning in the hands of Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien better known as one half of the ultra-successful Gendebien/Hill duo at Le Mans (in Ferraris, no less). Another RS 60 came home second, the Brumos-entered Holbert/Schecter/Fowler car that was nine laps behind the works RS 60 and one lap ahead of the third-placed Ferrari 250 TR-59 that won the 3.0-liter class. It has to be said, however, that no works 3.0-liter Ferraris were present with Porsche initially battling the Camoradi-entered Maserati Tipo 61s before they all fell by the wayside with mechanical failures.
Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien again teamed up for the Targa Florio to finish third that same year.
What’s more impressive is that Herrmann also drove the winning car, sharing it with Joakim Bonnier who’d retired at Sebring A Ferrari split the two factory-backed RS 60s. At Le Mans, only the 1.5-liter-engined RS 60s saw the checker with the works cars, all fitted with the 1.6-liter mill, failed to finish in another disappointing showing. Still, Porsche won the European Hill Climb Championship and, between "May and September 1960, the 718 scored more than 100 podium finishes including more than 50 victories! Most of the medals were collected in America, but also in Europe." The car was a force to be reckoned with in the SCCA divisional races with Roger Penske taking the crown in the SCCA E Modified class nad Bob Holbert becoming champion in the SCCA F Modified category.
The chassis sold by RM Sotheby’s during the Monterey Car Week this year is chassis #044, the last of four RS 60s destined to be used by the factory team. It debuted at the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside two other 718s and a Carrera Abarth GTL. Designed from the get-go to be able to run with the 2.0-liter Type 587 engine, this particular car sported large-diameter chassis tubes but, at Le Mans, it ran with the Type 547/4 1.6-liter mill. It started from the back of the pack but, by Sunday morning, it ran within the top 15 overall after some dedicated stints by Joakim Bonnier and Graham Hill. Sadly, a gasket blew with six hours to go and the car. At Le Mans, the car raced with tall side windows and windscreen as well as an elevated rear deck that helped the car be about 10 mph quicker than the privateer RS 60s.
After the disappointing Le Mans outing, Porsche sent #044 back to base to be repaired and never used it again during the 1960 season.
However, the car was back in business towards the end of 1960 being loaned by Bob Holbert to race in the Nassau Speed Week races. Holbert finished third (and first in the E division) in the Governor’s Trophy, second in the Porsche and Austin-Healey race, and sixth overall in the Nassau Trophy race. The factory team then updated chassis #044 to RS 61 specification for the 1961 season and it was freighted to Sebring, Florida. There, Edgar Barth, father of Jurgen Barth (a factory Porsche driver and Porsche Motorsport boss for a while in his own right), and Hans Herrmann for the first seven hours before the car was taken over by Dan Gurney and Joakim Bonnier. The camshaft broke after just an hour and a half and the American-Swedish duo finally called it quits (it was the second car that they drove that retired during the event after initially piloting chassis #043).
A month and a bit later, on April 30th, 1961, the car was back in action in Sicily, this time with Camoradi written on the sides and a big roundel on the nose. Camoradi regular for that year, Sir Stirling Moss, and Graham Hill shared the car. In his autobiography, Moss wrote that, on the morning of the race, after posting the fastest time in practice (a full three minutes quicker than Wolfgang Berge Von Trips’ Ferrari), he got up and said to himself, "For today’s race you’ve got the ideal car..."
For the race, the RS 61 was fitted for the first time with the Type 587 2.0-liter engine. 'Mr. Motoracing' took over the lead at the start and built a one-minute cushion after just four laps of the Circuito Picollo delle Madonie.
Then he pitted to give way to Hill who, visibly slower, lost the lead to Von Trips’ Ferrari. But, once Moss was back behind the wheel of the car, Von Trips days in the lead were numbered and the re-passed the German en-route to what should’ve been a prodigious victory. Only it wasn’t. With eight kilometers (five miles) to go, the differential seized and it was all over. After the race, Moss was congratulated by race winner Von Trips who passed the winner’s trophy to him during the post-race festive dinner as a sign of respect towards the Briton who’d write in his autobiography that the 1960 Targa Florio was one of his finest drives - although he also won there five years earlier driving for Mercedes-Benz.
In May, the car (driven by Barth and Herrmann and equipped with the 1.7-liter engine) qualified sixth overall in the 1,000-kilometer race in the Eifel Mountains near Nuerburg but retired early.
This was the last time chassis #044 was entered in a race by Porsche A.G. Subsequently, it raced in North America. First off, Joakim Bonnier wheeled it in the prestigious Player’s 200 race at Mosport Park in Ontario, Canada. After that, Bernhard Vihl purchased the car with the intention to give it to Bob Holbert to compete in SCCA and elsewhere. Vihl was Holbert’s main backer during his early years as a professional driver before joining Shelby American. While Holbert drove a number of 718 RS spyders at the time, it’s believed that chassis #044 carried him to two wins during the 1961 Bahamas Speed Week (the Preliminary Governor’s Trophy 2.0-liter race and the Porsche-only race) and also might’ve been the car that he drove to victory in the Six Hours of Marlboro. Holbert won the 1961 SCCA E Division title again mainly racing this car but he didn’t drive it in 1962 when Vihl sold it on. That marked the end of the car’s racing career in period and, since then, it has passed through a few notable collections in the half-decade that followed.
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks Prices
Porsche built about 100 550 Spyders in the ’50s and you still need to fork out a few million dollars if you want a genuine one to park in your garage. It is, then, no wonder that this 718 RS 60 Spyder that’s a lot rarer (only 14 built) sold for $5.12 million. What’s interesting, however, is that, the previous time chassis #044 was up for grabs, in 2015, it sold for $5.4 million. It wore a different livery at the time and it became the most expensive RS 60 ever sold by Gooding & Co. The same auction house also managed the sale of chassis #060, a privateer example that traded hands for $3.46 million in 2012.
Still, it’s not that much when you consider the hammer price of another star of the auction, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB tipped to sell for as much as $10 million that found a new owner willing to pay $8.14 million for it. As a reference point, Gooding & Co. sold a 550 Spyder for $3.68 million seven years ago.
The 718 is, beyond the numbers, a highly revered model in Porsche’s history, be it one that’s not as well-known as the 550 Spyder. Porsche brought the nameplate back first in 2008 when it launched a special edition Boxster called ’RS 60 Spyder". Only 1,960 units were built and it was almost $7,000 more expensive than a run-of-the-mill Boxster S at the time. It was merely a stylistic exercise with added silver in the cabin (with red leather as you see on this RS 60) and a sports exhaust for added aural pleasure on top of sizeable 19-inch rims and two-stage suspension.
Eight years down the line, the whole Boxster/Cayman lineup was at the receiving end of the 718 nameplate. Basically, the fourth-gen 982 models were all renamed ’718 Cayman’ and ’718 Boxster’. The switch wasn’t made purely because Porsche wanted to utilize the cachet of its storied racing history, but because both the Boxster and the Cayman now featured flat-four engines instead of the naturally aspirated flat-sixes of the third-gen models. Granted, we expect at least some of the owners of fourth-gen Boxsters and Cayman to be oblivious to the significance of the 718 but that’s not too important. What matters is that Porsche hasn’t forgotten its giant-killer.
1960 Porsche 718 RS 60 Werks Competition
The Ferrari 196 S was the first sports car built by Ferrari to bear the ’Dino’ name as it was powered by the so-called Dino V-6, an engine that was, originally, co-created by Enzo Ferrari’s son, Alfredo ’Dino’ Ferrari, and Chief Engineer Vittorio Jano. The Dino V-6-engined 196 S first raced in 1958 and, with three 42DCN Webers, the DOHC unit put out 192 horsepower. It was all sent to the back wheels connected via a live axle. In the front, the suspension was independent. The first two cars built ran with slightly different engines (same displacement and bore, and stroke, but different angle of the vee) but Fantuzzi was responsible for the bodywork every time.
With a tubular chassis, the 196 S resembled the 250 TR-59 although it was smaller in size. The car was powerful at a time when Porsche’s 1.6-liter engines were down 30 horsepower (Porsche did, eventually, extract almost 180 horsepower out of the 1.6-liter unit but not while the 196 S was around). Ricardo Rodriguez ran well aboard the second 196 S built in the Nassau Speed Week in 1959 and, then, in 1960, the car finished seventh overall (third in class behind two RS 60s) in the Targa Florio. That time, it was driven by both Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez and entered by Luigi Chinetti’s N.A.R.T.
Looking at its design philosophy, it can be considered outdated next to the RS 60. For starters, the engine is in the front and there’s no clever wishbone suspension, nor the stiffer steel rims used by Porsche, Ferrari obviously going the way of Borrani wires. It was still the days of reliance on big power outputs in Maranello but Porsche showed that this isn’t the way with less power and more maneuverability being the key.
Read our full review on the 1959 Ferrari Dino 196 S
1959 Maserati Tipo 60
While everybody knows and has seen the Tipo 61 ’Birdcage’, Maserati also built in 1959 the Tipo 60 that, likewise, featured a ’Birdcage’ spaceframe chassis and almost identical bodywork with the swooping, tall front fenders and boxy tail section. The chassis of the Tipo 60 as designed by Giulio Alfieri was made up of about 200 small-section tubes, arranged in triangular formations and reinforced in high-stress areas. Suspension was independent in the front with a De Dion axle in the back where you’d also find the transaxle a-la 250F. The engine, placed almost below the windshield, was tilted at a 45-degree angle and, unlike Porsche, Maserati made use of both disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering.
The Tipo 60’s dry-sumped four-pot put out 200 horsepower - quite a feat considering the bigger, 3.0-liter version used in the Tipo 61 only offered 50 more ponies. In spite of all of the innovations, the Tipo 60 was never a prominent race winner, mainly because of Maserati’s financial struggles. It did win the Grand Prix of Rouen (for sports cars) of 1959 in the hands of Sir Stirling Moss as well as winning the EM category one year later in the prestigious Road America 500 Miles race (driven by John Fitch and Bill Kimberly). It also came first in class in the Riverside 200 Miles in the hands of Walt Hansgen and, in 1961, a Briggs Cunningham-entered Tipo 60 with a long tail setup came home in eighth place overall at Le Mans - third in class behind two RS 61s. Amazingly, in 1964, a Tipo 60 won in the Sports 2.0-liter class in the Targa Florio proving that the car was still competitive at a time when most other sports cars dumped the front-engine layout.
The Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder is proof that you don’t need the biggest engine you can get your hands on or the most impressive output to battle for outright victories. Porsche was accustomed to racking up class wins with the 550 Spyder but the RS 60 was the first sports car that showed the world what Zuffenhausen can do in long-distance endurance racing as far as the battle for overall honors goes. Sure, it took another decade for Porsche to finally win the French twice-around-the-clock race with the 917K but the intention was, arguably, first made clear with the introduction of the 1.6-liter-engined 718 RS 60 Spyder and the 2.0-liter versions that could do more than just be a pain in the backside of V-12 Ferraris.
While it may not be as pretty as a 196 S Dino with its sleek Fantuzzi cues or the quirky Tipo 60 ’Birdcage’, the 718 RS 60 is the most successful out of this trio and it’s not hard to see why: it incorporates cutting-edge technical solutions blended in the same package with other that were tried and tested by then to end up with a car that, as Moss put it, "was the most nervous car in the way it would move and it was controllable, as well as being very fast, of course, but really agile is the best word for it."
Read our full review on the 1955 - 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder.
Source: RM Sotheby’s