Ferdinand Piech with his desire to develop more successful race cars as the head of the research and development department wanted to achieve something more potent than the outgoing Porsche 904 racing car.
A series of Porsche 904 cars featuring a shortened 904 platform and bodywork were used to do some hill climb trials. With the shortened bodywork they looked weirdly proportioned and the handling was erratic. Due to these reasons, these cars were nicknamed Kangaroos.
To increase performance in hill climbing events, Ferdinand Piech went into extreme weight reduction techniques. Some of these cars weighed less than 650 kg.
Kangaroos were powered with Porsche Type 771 engines. Type 771 were 2.0-liter flat-eight engines, delivering 260 hp. A Kangaroo was able to finish the 1965 Targa Florio with the second overall place.
It is said that the next-generation Porsche 906 Carrera cars were equipped with recycled 15-inch wheels and tires from the Kangaroos.
Porsche had already planned the second generation of Porsche 904 cars with a limited production run of 100 cars. Ferdinand Piech considered these as ungainly due to the excessive weight, structural rigidity issues causing body flex. Even though the brakes, wheels, tires, and suspension components have been ordered already, Ferry Porsche decided to follow Ferdinand Piech’s instincts.
Porsche 904 was basically a combination of Porsche platform chassis and a fiberglass body.
The Porsche 906 was designed from scratch and now featured a tubular space frame chassis similar to the space frame chassis concept from Porsche 550 Spyder and Porsche 718.
A Type 901/20 flat-six engine delivering 210hp was chosen to power it.
The Porsche 906 received its pressure molded body. This body featured a sleek external shape with the sole purpose of reducing its drag. The windshields were also low and curved along with the body shape, the covers for headlights and indicator lamps were also of Plexiglass construction to save weight. Another significant change was the Kamm-style tail, which is commonly seen on Alfa Romeo track cars. The Kamm tail was also known as the cut-off tail due to its appearance. This design improved the aerodynamic efficiency of the car.
The suspension system now used unequal length wishbones with shock absorbers, anti-roll bars, and coil springs in front and rear.
In Germany, Porsche’s local market, it was legally allowed to use the Porsche 906 on public roads. This meant that the German citizens could purchase a one for $10,700 at the time.
Porsche’s own racing team received a couple of the Porsche 906 cars with Type 771 flat-eight engines delivering 270hp.
Piech and his engineers also developed three long-tail variants of the Porsche 906 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. One Porsche 906 langheck finished the event with fifth overall place and won the Index of Performance as well.
Ferdinand Piech meanwhile figured out the handling issues and structural rigidity issues of the Porsche 904. He took one of the Kangaroos and equipped the Kangaroo with new brakes, and suspension components derived from a Lotus Formula One car. This solved its erratic handling issues. The 15-inch wheels were replaced with 13-inch wheels for better road holding and handling. Armed with this experience he went on to create a new version of the Porsche 906.
Porsche 906 Bergspyder
The new creation was called the Porsche 906 Bergspyder. This car had the tube-frame chassis and suspension components and wheels from the experimental Kangaroo.
A car was hurriedly developed to compete in the Swiss Ollon Villars Hillclimb event. It finished the event with 2nd overall position. It underwent further development and behind the wheels of a more developed Porsche 906 Bergspyder, Porsche team driver Gerhard Mitter won the 1965 driver’s championship.
For the 1966 model year, Porsche revised the car and re-bodied it as a coupe. Now it was called the Porsche 906 Carrera 6.
Porsche 910 Bergspyder
Ferdinand Piech using his experience regarding the development of the Porsche 906 BergSpyder that went on to compete in the Swiss Ollon Villiars hill climb event, developed a new car designated as Porsche 910 BergSpyder.
Porsche 910 featured an ultra-thin fiberglass body shell attached to the tubular frame chassis. It was more like an evolution of the Porsche 906.
However, there were enough mechanical and technical differences to consider this car as a brand-new one.
Instead of the steel wheels of the Porsche 904 and Porsche 906 variants, the Porsche 910 was given 13-inch die-cast magnesium alloy wheels, saving lots of weight.
Porsche 910 BergSpyder also came with an all-new center-lock wheel attachment system. Instead of using several nuts, a single large aluminum nut was used to keep the wheel attached. This system reduced the time it took to replace the tires as well as a saved weight due to its lightweight construction.
The Porsche 906 was equipped with a six-cylinder engine that had a curb weight of 1370 pounds compared to the 1280 pounds of the new Porsche 910 equipped with an all-new fuel-injected 901/21 flat-six engine. The new engine delivered 220hp.
The new car had a wider front track when compared to the Porsche 906, but due to its smaller wheels, it was much lower, and its round fenders allowed more aerodynamic efficiency improving the handling and performance.
Porsche’s factory team raced its Porsche 910 BergSpyder for the 1967 season under the prototype category, but these were equipped with more capable Type 771 flat-eight engines with a maximum power output of 270hp. Soon these cars won many international hill climb events.
The next iteration of the Porsche 900 series was designated as the Porsche 907. It was developed with the help of aerospace scientists to achieve the best aerodynamic efficiency possible. It was often nicknamed the Porsche’s Messerschmidt due to its narrow cockpit and low riding profile.
Ferdinand Piech and his engineers then came with another idea. Since most of the European racetracks organize events to go in a clockwise direction, they repositioned the driver’s seat as well the driver controls to the right side of the cabin to allow better visibility of the inside line through turns.
Some Porsche 907 racers were equipped with Type 771 2.2-liter flat-eight engines.
Porsche 907 Langheck
Long-tail-bodied cars were specially developed for Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance racing.
Porsche unveiled a new variant of the 900 series for the 1968 racing season.
Porsche 909 BergSpyder
The new Porsche 909 BergSpyder had its engine and gearbox in the middle of the car for improved weight distribution. This meant that the driver was sitting almost on the front axle. The Porsche 909 BergSpyder was also equipped with a 2.0-liter variant of Type 771 flat-eight engine.
The curb weight of the car was less than 950 pounds. This was largely thanks to the single-ply fiberglass body panels reinforced with paper-thin gauge bamboo.
For 1968, FIA regulations meant that the prototypes could be equipped with an engine with a maximum displacement of 3.0-liter and 5.0-liter for sports cars.
To take full advantage of this, Porsche developed a new fuel-injected flat-eight engine called Type 908, delivering 350hp. Hence, the new car was called Porsche 908.
The new car was given an aluminum tube frame and the body designed for this car was similar to the Porsche 907, but it was even more aerodynamically efficient. The long tail and short tail variants now featured movable rear flaps to improve road grip and cornering.
The curb weight of the Porsche 908 was measured at 1433 pounds.
Porsche 908 langheck
In the 24 Hours of Le Mans event, authorities pointed out that the movable flaps cannot be allowed due to technical reasons, forcing Porsche to participate in the event with them fixed to stop them moving.
Porsche 908 Flounder
Porsche 908 was developed as a coupe and as an open-top Spyder. Another more powerful purpose-built open-top variant called the Porsche 908 Flounder was also unveiled later.
In the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Porsche 908 Flounder finished with 2nd overall place in the hands of Hans Herrmann, who lost to a Ford GT, which finished the race barely 90 m after the 24 hours.
In 1971, Gerard Larousse and Vic Elford drove a Porsche 908 to win first overall place in the Nürburgring 1000 km endurance race.
Ferdinand Piech was developing the 5.0-liter flat-eight powered new sports car called Porsche 917 as the replacement for the Porsche 908, and some earlier prototypes competed against the Ford GT in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, only to lose. Being a perfectionist, it was impossible to lose.