GRR

This 911 started Porsche's motorsport story

13th July 2018
Andrew Willis

You may have noticed that we celebrated 70 years of Porsche at the 2018 Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard. What with the towering central feature, daily celebrations in front of the house, firework displays, and a paddock full of iconic German machines, it was hard to miss. 

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One particularly lovely example of Porsche’s rich motoring heritage which may have slipped under the radar is a red 911 brought along by owner Rob Russell. At first glance, it might not be the most eye-catching, but once you look a little closer, it suddenly becomes very special indeed.

This was the car which one of the world’s most versatile drivers – the legendary ‘Quick Vic’ Elford – kick-started his racing career in. From rally to Formula One, Elford, like the Porsche cars he drove and loved, was quick, reliable and adaptable.

For five years ‘Quick Vic’ raced with Porsche and took lap records at Targa Florio, Nurburgring, Daytona, Sebring, Laguna Seca and Le Mans. He also became the first driver to lap at over 150mph in the Porsche long-tail 917 in 1970. An impressive CV, and one which keeps his name closely-associated with the Stuttgart outfit to this day. 

Speaking to owner Rob Russell, he’s only too happy to oblige when we ask him how Elford first found himself in a 911.

“In 1967, Vic had recently changed from being a works Ford driver and a works BMC rally driver after having a fall out with Ford”.

It was a change which saw Vic seek out a Porsche 911 from Baron Huschke von Hanstein, Porsche’s then-competition director. Despite having no rally budget, no rally department, no rally team, Vic was convinced by what he’d seen of the 911, and that it was a potential rally winning car. Porsche obliged, and lent Vic the car for events in Corsica and Monte Carlo, where he finished 3rd in both, followed by the Geneva Rally, where he took the win, finally convincing Porsche to take Rallying seriously. With the eventual works support, Vic would go on to become the European Rally Champion. 

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Vic would find himself driving the number 17 911 stood before us in the February of ’67.

“He heard of a new event which was coming called rally cross. No-one really knew what it was about, but he managed to get himself an invitation to drive, so now he needed to find a car.”

“He went back to the German guys and got in touch with von Hanstein but he couldn’t give Vic a car, so suggested to go and talk to the AFN who had previously imported one of the very early righth-hand-drives. They were the concessionaires for Porsche at the time, and used it as their demonstrator.”

Not knowing what they were letting themselves in for, the AFN agreed to lend Vic the car, blissfully unaware of the punishment it was about to endure at the inaugural, and televised, rally cross event.

“It got completely bashed up. He was up against the works Fords, who he had previously fallen out with, so it was a bit of an argy-bargy match. The car got bashed and crashed around all over the place. He ended up winning it by 0.4 of a second”. The racing was compelling, and the TV audiences snapped it up, meaning Vic and the 911 lit the spark which would see rally cross continue to grow.

“The owner of AFN John Adlington had been watching the race on TV, watching his immaculate demonstrator getting bashed around. When Elford got home, his wife told him that John had been on the phone and wanted to know why his car was getting smashed up and what Elford was going to do about it?”

Understandably a little sheepish, Vic returned the car the next morning. By the time he arrived, the AFN had received hundreds of enquiries about sales. “It was a proper race on Sunday and sell on Monday type job,” smiles Rob Russell.

It was such a success for the AFN, they suggested converting the demonstrator into a full-time competition car. It was perfect timing for Elford who was wanting to transition from rallying to racing, so using his seemingly boundless persuasion skills, Elford got the AFN and Porsche to convert it from rally cross winner, to a competition ready race car.

It returned from Stuttgart in March ’67 ready to go.

“When it came back it was eligible for the British Saloon Car Championships which they were running under relaxed group 5 rules. Because of the two little rear seats they said it was a Saloon car before being reclassified later as a sports car”.

“He raced it and won the 2-litre class, it was used all the way through ’67. I’ve got fantastic pictures of it racing against Graham Hill and Paul Hawkins in a Lotus Cortina, Jacky Ickx and all sorts. That was a super successful first year”.

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The love affair between Elford and this 911 continued into ’68, all be it in a slightly un-orthodox manner.

“In ’68 they wanted it to look like a new car, so they made up a new number plate to turn it into an F registration. They didn’t re-register it.  BEM 911F was completely made up. The B relating to Bill Bradley who was sponsoring the car, E was for Elford, and M was a guy called Chris Molten who was the race engineer. There was a whole ’68 history I didn’t know it had”.

At the beginning of ’68 they ran the ‘new’ 911 in the 500-mile European Saloon Car Championship race at Snetterton, so it had an endurance fuel tank fitted in the front and had the rear wheel arches flared and wider wheels fitted which can be seen on the car today.

It would be turn out to be an incredible year for Elford. He won Daytona, he won the Monte Carlo Rally, and then went on to start his Formula One career in that year too, again proving to Porsche, and the world, what a flexible, fast and driven competitor he was.

“He was a busy boy. He only raced this car up until Easter. He doesn’t regret that step, but it’s lovely that he has fond memories of this car. It took him into his racing career. He would end up winning lots of races, and he won rally championships, but this remains the only car he won a race championship in, so it’s a bit special”.

It certainly is, and what a treat to see it head up the hill as part of the Porsche 70th birthday celebrations this weekend as a reminder of one of Porsche’s most successful and talented drivers.

Photography by Tom Shaxson

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