As captured in Steve McQueen’s fantastic film Le Mans, the Porsche 917 is one of the great race cars of the 1970s. While the exterior is a beautiful example of form following function, a new video from Canepa reveals that its flat-12 engine is a fabulous piece of engineering sculpture, too. Watch as the company’s ace mechanics rip the powerplant apart, and then put the restored parts back together. Stay to the end to listen to the mill fire up again.
Over its years of competition, Porsche increased the flat-12’s displacement and even had a twin-turbocharged variant that made in excess of 1,500 horsepower (1,119 kilowatts). It’s not clear which variant of the engine that Canepa is rebuilding in this clip. There’s a 917/30 Can-Am at the end of the video, but this mill doesn’t appear to have forced induction during the rebuild or start-up process.
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Set to the famous William Tell Overture, Canepa’s technicians tear apart the engine in barely three minutes thanks to the helpful aid of time-lapse video. It’s an amazing process, especially seeing the engine’s compactness. Something so relatively small was able to propel the 917 to victories around the world in a variety of series, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Putting a 917 onto the track today is quite an expensive proposition. Canepa's laborious rebuild is surely a costly process. Plus, the cars themselves now command millions of dollars during the rare occasion that they go up for sale. For example, Jerry Seinfeld's 917/30 Can-Am Spyder sold for $3 million in 2016, and RM Sotheby's expected a 917/10 to go for $5 million to $6 million.