Alfred's Motor Report
Short bits and bytes from motoring's past, present and future
The Porsche 908/3
"Porsche's Secret Racing Weapon..."
The Porsche 908/3 reflects the zeal with which Porsche pursued the world championship in 1970 and 1971.
It was designed to win just two races: the Targa Florio and the Nürburgring, both of which were twisty, tough tracks where the 917's size and strength were a disadvantage.
The Predecessor 908s were available as coupes or spyder's, with the latter developing a smooth flat shape that gained it the nickname "Flounder" from the fish.
The 908/3 was only made as a spyder, and the Italians called it the "miracle Porsche."
The engine was the only thing that remained the same, and it gave up at least 65 horsepower to the rival three-liter Ferrari 312PB.
Piëch’s engineers used their mastery of featherweight construction to build a car that was almost supernatural in its weight savings, arriving at the grid at a mere 540kg.
Despite the fact that the 908/2 was already the lightest car in its class, the 3 was even lighter thanks to the extensive use of titanium.
Its space frame weighed just 48 pounds, while the majority of the body was made of plastic and foam and weighed another 26.5 pounds.
Just 13 908/3s were built: eleven in 1969-70 and two in 1971.
Racing experts expected widespread structural failures due to their extreme lightness. The experts were absolutely wrong. A one-two finish in both the Targa and the Nürburgring in 1970 ensured it; after a driver error-plagued crash out in the 1971 Targa, a three-car sweep of the Ring put the final event back on the track.
The only two 908/3s that broke occurred in 1971, and only because their frames were not made to specification.
Despite a bent chassis, Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver entered the three-car Porsche sweep at the 1971 Nürburgring, nursing this car over the finish line to second position.
The win rate of the 908/3 was an amazing 75%. What's even more remarkable is how long the car's basic design has stayed competitive.
Piëch and company stepped away from the 910 design-of-the-month days with the 908/3. This Porsche, like the Delage Grand Prix car of 1927, was so beautifully successful that it stayed competitive for over a decade.
In 1980, a 908/3 configuration from 1971 won the final World Championship race at Silverstone, England.