The Federation Internationale de Automobile or FIA, the European governing body of motorsport emerged from the aftermath of WW2, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. In 1950, the FIA reorganized the Grand Prix racing. Now the Formula One was its highest-ranking competition event, followed by the introduction of a new Driver’s World Championship. The second and third tiers of Formula racing were now categorized as Formula Two and Formula Three. The differentiation of Formula categories was solely based on the engine displacement of the cars.
Following the 1957 and 1958 European recession, not many manufacturers could afford to develop cars for their racing trams or for privateers. This results in manufacturers abandoning the Formula One effort. To attract more grid participants, the FIA decided to include the 1500cc displacement Formula two cars into the 2500cc Formula One events.
Porsche being famous in the hands of privateer race car drivers such as Count Carel de Beaufort and Wolfgang Seidel, many had purchased the third-generation Porsche Type 718 RSK Spyders. These cars featured revised suspension and many other mechanical improvements.
The Porsche factory-made a few of these cars with duplicate mounting points for the steering wheel, foot pedals, and driver’s seat in a way that the driver now positioned in the center of the cockpit. This Porsche 718 RSK cars won Formula Two events held in France and Germany.
In 1958, following the FIA ruling to reduce the engine displacement of the Formula One cars to 1500cc with the start of the 1961 season, Ferry Porsche and his racing engineers such as Helmuth Bott, Hans Mezger, and Wilhelm Hild were over the moon.
Soon the development of a new Formula One car began at the Porsche racing department. Early prototypes featuring a cigar-shaped Porsche 718/2 variations came to life and these variations led to a sleeker and better performing Porsche Type 787.
In Zuffenhausen’s workplace, the engine chassis and body design were further developed. Eventually, the engineers settled on an eight-cylinder 1.5-liter engine for a new Formula One car, called the Porsche 804.
Porsche 804 Formula One Racing History
Porsche unveiled the Porsche 804 at the Dutch Grand Prix venue at Zandvoort in late May 1962. Its success was limited and Ferry Porsche ordered his engineers to keep up on further research and development.
The car reemerged at the French Rouen track on July 8 to take the Porsche team driver Dan Gurney to the victory.
At the Solitude track at Stuttgart, the Porsche 804 was driven by Dan Gurney to victory in a non-championship race. Since Stuttgart was the home turf for Porsche, this was an encouragement for the Porsche team as well as the locals who came there to support them.
The Porsche 804 was again used to compete at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring in August, Dan Gurney started from the pole position and he and his fellow Porsche driver Jo Bonnier pressed on to keep their lead while driving in rain. While he was leading on a twisted course, his Porsche 804 car’s battery came loose in the cockpit, forcing him to struggle to brace it with his left knee, losing two positions in the meantime. He finished in third place.
Jo Bonnier finished sixth at the final European Formula One Grand Prix in Monza. Dan Gurney retired without finishing the event. After that race, Porsche decided to give up on Formula One after comparing the cost in their campaigning of two cars during the 1963 season against those of finishing development on the successor of the Porsche 356, finally deciding to abandon Formula One.
Ferry Porsche had to measure the costs of racing Formula One cars against its engineering applications to his sports cars. He was also aware that his company had little to no chance at selling a Formula One car to customers. This was why he decided to not enter Formula One events again.