The name "Porsche" is synonymous with racing, specifically "overwhelming racing victory." Porsche’s developed a reputation for obsessive pursuit of victory, and has dominated some racing series so thoroughly that the competition all but gave up. So how did a company that started out building cute, bathtub-shaped cars that shared Volkswagen Beetle parts become one of the driving forces in just about every discipline of motorsport? Well, it started with the Porsche 908.

Porsche was involved in sports car racing throughout the 1950s. The Porsche 356 was a decent performer, and Porsche was a regular on the podium. In 1968, Porsche set its sights higher when the FIA announced a new rule change for the Group 6 sports-prototype class with a maximum engine displacement of 3.0 liters. In response, Porsche built the largest engine allowable for the first time. The resulting car was the 908, and it led the transformation of Porsche from a class leader into a race winner.

The 908 even outperformed its successor for a while. The Porsche 917 was introduced in 1969 for the purpose of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 917’s larger-displacement engine put it into a different FIA class, as well as giving it a much higher top speed, but it suffered from teething problems at the same time that the 908 seemed to find its stride. Porsche 908s finished 1-2-3 at the 1969 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch. The car also dominated Monza, the Targa Florio and conquered the Nurburgring with a 1-2-3-4-5 finish. But for a 1969 Ford GT40, a 908 would have won Le Mans in 1969 as well. A year-old 908 was the third-place car in Porsche’s 1-2-3 sweep of Le Mans in 1970. The indomitable 908 remained a fixture on the tracks until the mid-1970s.
Continue reading for my full review of this fantastic Porsche race car.

  • 1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail)
  • Year:
    1969- 1970
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Exterior

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) High Resolution Exterior
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Raced from 1969 to 1976, the 908 went through three distinct design phases. The original cars, later designated 908/01, are teardrop-shaped coupes with wind-swept lines. The “Langheck” (“long-tail”) Coupe was developed for the higher speeds of tracks like Le Mans, Monza and Spa, reducing aerodynamic drag. The rear end tapered back in a long, graceful arc, providing additional lateral stability at high speeds.

In 1969, the 908/02 was introduced. Prompted by a rule change that no longer required a spare tire to be carried, the 908/02 was essentially an open-topped 908. The roof was dramatically and unapologetically shorn. The fiberglass body was extremely thin for maximum weight savings, and Porsche lowered the wheel arches, covered the passenger side of the cockpit and reduced the size of the air intakes as well. The resulting car was extraordinarily flat, hence the nickname “Flunder” (“flounder”). Removing the roof also trimmed 220 pounds from the curb weight, which seemed to improve the reliability. The open-topped long-tail version of the 908/02 was equipped with a pair of tall tail fins at Le Mans to improve lateral stability.

Interior

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) High Resolution Interior
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Not surprisingly, the interior of the 908/02 was all business. Underneath the aerodynamic cockpit cover, bare metal and a contoured one-piece racing seat lined up in front of a basic unadorned racing wheel. The aluminum space frame chassis was visible on the floor, and a three-gauge instrument cluster rode under a bump in the cowl directly ahead of the driver. The open-topped 908/03 had a thumbnail-clipping of a windshield and an exposed roll bar for the driver, and made no pretense at creature comforts.

Drivetrain

Thanks to Porsche’s decision to max out the available displacement, the 908 got a significant jump in horsepower compared to its immediate predecessor. The 3.0 liter horizontally opposed eight-cylinder produced 350 horsepower. Porsche kept things intentionally simple, with air cooling and a two-valve-per-cylinder head, notable as many of the 908’s competitors were using four-valve engines. Chain-driven cams and belt-driven accessories made the engine quick and easy to rebuild. In endurance races, the durable design fared well. The same couldn’t be said for early versions of the car, unfortunately, which were all but shaken to pieces by the engine’s vibration. The six-speed transmission used in 1968 was also a weak point.

For 1969 Porsche’s engineers solved the vibration problem and added a lighter and more robust five-speed transmission. The chassis was also toughened up, and the 908 shone from that point onward.

Prices

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) High Resolution Exterior
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The 908/02 was a purpose-built race car from the start, so there was no official “factory” price. Thanks to Porsche’s habit of scrapping, recycling and re-using its racing chassis, some cars shared serial numbers. A rough estimate of 908 production is all that’s readily available: evidence suggests that Porsche built between 20 and 31 of the 908/01 and 908/02 cars. Additionally, Porsches are a known hot commodity at the moment, commanding ridiculous prices. 908/02 Langheck Flunder models, as distinctive and unique Le Mans cars, tend to bring much higher prices at auction; one sold for $3.4 million at the Bonhams Bond Street sale in 2014.

Competition

Ford P68/P69

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) Exterior
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Ford’s entrant in Group 6 was the P68, and in 1969 the roof was removed, creating the P69. The sophisticated 3.0 liter Cosworth V-8 was based on Ford’s Formula One engine, and aerodynamics improved the P68’s performance even more. The car proved to be unstable at high speed, however, and the open-top P69 wasn’t ready in time for its intended debut. Jack Brabham famously refused to drive the poor-handling vehicle, and Ford’s Group 6 cars were fast but not race-finishers.

Ferrari 312P Spyder

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) Exterior
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Upset that the three-liter engine displacement rule made the four-liter 330 P4 ineligible to race, Ferrari sat out the 1968 season. The 312P was ready the next year, however, with a three-liter boxer V12. The 450-horse engine enabled it to be a frontrunner, and it was known to be an agile handler, sharing many components with Ferrari’s Formula One car. A lack of factory support in 1969 and 1970 kept it from greater success.

Conclusion

1969 - 1970 Porsche 908/02 Flunder Langheck (Long Tail) High Resolution
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Porsche’s reputation for on-track dominance effectively started with the 908. Though it would go on to build substantially more powerful and unstoppable racers, the 908 lit the way, so to speak. Designed for effective competition in endurance racing, this lightweight and aerodynamic beast pulled no punches in its quest for victory.

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