Porsche Archive Find: Going for Broke

Redman and SiffertSometimes it pays to dig around the archives of sportscar manufacturer’s web sites. The other day I spent some time sifting through the depths of porsche.com. Porsche does more than most to inform contemporary car buyers about the history of the marque’s many glories on the track. Their Targa Florio multimedia experience of a few years back is among the best example of using racing heritage to sell contemporary road cars that I’ve seen in recent years.

Despite this, even Porsche could do more to bring their archives to the public. In the digital era, access to Porsche’s (or any other similar maker’s) archives could be easily opened up to the public through the web at minimal cost to the manufacturer. This is particularly true in Porsche’s case, as they already manage a very extensive archives available not only as an internal resource, but also to outside journalists, scientists, and researchers. This archive, part of the new Porsche museum, catalogs the entire history of the company and the Porsche family and includes: 2.5 million images, more than 1,000 hours of video, and 3,000 volumes of text. And that’s just one manufacturer’s history! What I wouldn’t give for manufacturing blueprints for the 4-cam 547 engine and a skilled machinist.

Behold! The Porsche archives

Behold! The Porsche archives

We’re not quite there yet. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not completely without vintage archival information. Porsche has posted “Going for Broke”, a wonderful article about the 1969 World Sportscar Championship season from the Porsche customer magazine, Cristophorus. While the arrival of the 917 in 1970 sealed the deal for Porsche’s Le Mans dream, the 908 of the previous year was a tremendous car that has been sadly overshadowed by its younger brother. This is, after all, a car that clinched the manufacturer’s championship at the hands of Porsche’s talented pool of drivers frequently led by Brian Redman and Jo Siffert.

The article tells an extraordinary tale of openness. After celebrating the championship, race engineer Peter Falk invited the sporting press to examine the broken parts that cost Porsche dearly: The shredded camshaft gear teeth that cost them the 24 Hours of Daytona, The cracked chassis that forced Redman/Siffert out of the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 917’s failed clutch from LeMans. While most manufacturers would hide these failed parts away, if not destroy them, Falk and the Porsche team viewed these apparent failures as the very reason for eventual success. Through these experiments and missteps, progress is made, and that should be shared with the wider world. Incredible. Ah, the age before the PR department. This spirit of openness is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about in this call to further open up historic archives of this type.

The complete article is fantastic, read it here.

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