Porsche 917/10 Can-Am Spyder prototype tipped for £4M+ at Retromobile

31st January 2017
Bob Murray

Porsches Can-Am success in the 1970s began with this car – its the prototype 917/10 from 1970. You may recognise it from the 917 40th anniversary party at the Festival of Speed in 2009. Well, its for sale.


The 917/10 is not the most powerful, successful or famous version of what is one of, if not the greatest racing car of the 20th century. But as the prototype from which Porsche developed its ’72 Can-Am championship-dominating machines – and the progenitor of the monstrous 1100bhp 917/30 – it has a unique place in Porsche’s racing history.

Besides, how many other 917s with chassis number 001 are there in private hands? The answer to that is none. The very first Can-Am Spyder and one of just 13 chassis built, the car in RM Sotheby’s Retromobile sale at Place Vauban on February 8th has had only four private owners since 1972.

Porsche took its assault on the anything-goes Can-Am series of the early 1970s deadly seriously. Regulation changes meant the 917’s days of domination in Europe were over, but the Le Mans winner’s chances Stateside looked rosy. 


The first Can-Am prototype 917/10-001 was completed in 1970 and immediately started development and testing: from the wind tunnel to the Weissach test track, where it endured 23 days’ consecutive pounding. Flat-12 engines both normally-aspirated and turbocharged were fitted, and five different bodies were tried. In the hands of drivers such as Jo Siffert, Mark Donohue and factory chief test pilot Herrman Mimler, 917/10-001 was tested for 16 months at Hockenheim and the Nürburgring.

While all this effort didn’t lead to immediate success – in normally-aspirated, 5.0-litre, 630bhp form the Can-Am 917 couldn’t stop McLaren winning the title in 1971 – it certainly came good in turbocharged 800bhp form a year later, winning that year’s drivers’ championship and setting the scene for the total domination to come.

One of its last outings before being put into storage by its then owner Willi Kauhsen in 1974 was in the Nürburgring 300km where Emerson Fittipaldi qualified it on pole. The car remained in storage until 1997 when it was restored to original 1971 “shovel nose” spec ahead of appearing at many historic race events, including Goodwood. 


Today RM Sotheby’s says Porsche’s US racing icon is just as it would have been in 1971 with its original tube frame and fitted with the #18 Gulf-liveried Le Mans nose, though the yellow Bosch livery shovel nose and matching rear bonnet come with the car. As does a report on it from Jürgen Barth and a current FIA Historic Technical Passport.

All of which means we hopefully will be seeing a lot more of this wonderful machine in action in years to come. So what price the first Porsche 917 Can-Am Spyder? RM Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate is €4.6-5.5 million, or about £3.9-4.6 million. 

Images courtesy of RM Sotheby's

  • Porsche

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