In 1970, it was Martini Racing’s Hans-Dieter Dechent who offered his factory 917-043 for Porsche’s recently appointed designer, Anatole Lapine, to decorate.
Departing from the planned white-with-red ‘script’, Lapine penned the swirling ‘hippie’ design, first laying purple and then matt fluorescent green on factory-fresh white Porsche paintwork. The work was completed over the Le Mans week, using some 1,500 spray cans.
In 1975 Vasek Polak, with his unique connections, bought this car from the factory, the only complete 917L ever sold by Porsche.
It was sold as chassis 917-044, reportedly the car crashed by Kurt Ahrens in pre-Le Mans tests at the VW test track in 1970 and never subsequently raced.
However, in the process of a complete rebuild after purchase from the Polak foundation by the present owner the aluminum tube chassis showed clear evidence of a long racing history … but absolutely no sign of any crash damage.
By process of elimination it has been deduced and verified by independent experts’ examination that this is 917-043, the famous psychedelic “Hippie Car” of 1970.
That this confusion arose is not surprising; Porsche frequently swapped chassis numbers to satisfy the needs of customs documentation and race entries, making a clear and unbroken chassis history more the exception than the rule.
On the debut of the 917 in 1969, the long-tail (917L) models proved to be nearly uncontrollable as there was so little down force. In fact, they generated aerodynamic lift at the highest speeds. For 1970, an improved version was raced by the factory (although the John Wyer team still preferred the security of the 917K) and for 1971, after very significant development in the wind tunnel, the definitive 917L was raced by both factory and JW. These cars were so stable that the drivers could take their hands off the steering wheel at speeds which reached 246 mph.
In order to compete with the Porsche 917 which already had several races under its belt, yet no successes, Enzo Ferrari sold half of his personal stock in his company to FIAT in June 1969 and used some of that money to build 25 cars powered by a 5-litre V12 the Ferrari 512, it was introduced for the 1970 season.
By the end of 1970, Porsche had convincingly dominated the championship, winning 9 of the 10 races in the championship (plus some other non-championship events), with the 917K winning 7 of 8 events it was entered in; and the 908/03 winning at the Targa Florio and the Nürburgring.
Still having some of their 25 cars remaining unsold, Ferrari offered them to customers at a bargain price - a move that had hardly been imaginable less than two years previously. For Porsche, the original production series of 25 917s could not satisfy demand. Over 50 chassis were built in total. An underdog for 20 years, Porsche had turned itself into the new leader of sports car racing with the 917.