There are few historic racing cars that are as well-preserved in their originality as the Porsche 917 LH from the 1971 Le Mans 24-hour. This ‘long-tail’ machine (or langheck in German) was originally entered into the 1970 Le Mans endurance in Gulf livery before being painted over in Martini colours for the following year. Straight after that race it was wheeled into a museum and there it stayed for 40 years.
The car was gifted to the ACO by Porsche to be exhibited in the Le Mans museum. In 2011, it was brought back to life by one of the mechanics who worked on the car in period. Incredibly all that was required was a change of fluids and a new set of spark plugs and the engine was able to record its original power figure on a dyno.
As far as possible, originality has been retained. Hints of the Gulf colours are visible when body panels are opened and the rubber marks remain inside the wheelarch, a scar from the suspension collapse in the 24-hour race. Where new parts have had to be fabricated, they have been created by an original mechanic, but more often original parts have been repaired.
While events like Goodwood thrive on old racers being engaged in wheel-to-wheel battle, there is space in the world for some historic machines to be preserved as museum pieces. This 917 is destined for a life of demonstration runs only, such as that taking place this weekend, and that seems wholly appropriate for one so well preserved.