Phoenix may seem an unlikely place to find a fully rebuilt piece of motorsport history, but that is where we find an immaculately rebuilt Porsche 906. With Gullwing doors and beautiful 60s aerodynamic bodywork, it epitomises sports car racing of the era.
Its (re)creators at Patrick Motorsport, a Porsche specialist of fifteen years' standing, have clearly put an awful lot of time and effort into rebuilding this car (which will no doubt be reflected in the price), engineering and fabricating the hinges for the doors and replacing the original fuel tanks with slightly less explosive 'fuel cells' (not the hydrogen variety).
The Porsche 906 is not a well-known piece of automotive history. Indeed, I confess never to have heard of it until this story popped into my inbox (
). It was originally developed to be an engine test bed for the (then up and coming) 911 model, a little-known car that, if memory serves, went on to enjoy a modicum of commercial success.
It was also to be a racer, the replacement for the ageing 904 which, after dominating hillclimbing for a good few years was replaced as top hund by the Ferrari Dino, with its powerful engine and lightweight construction making the 904 obsolete.
In one of the many dark recesses of Zuffenhausen, the Porsche research department (headed up by a young engineer by the name of Ferdinand Piech) got to work on the replacement for the 904. With typical German thoruoughness, Piech cancelled his (and everyone else's) August break so that they could work on the new 906.
Binning the 904's ladder frame, they installed a lighter but stronger space frame chassis, encased in a lightweight body along with the new 2.0-litre flat six being tested for the upcoming 911 road car.
The 906 or 'Carrera 6' won its class in its first outing at the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours, finishing sixth overall. Not only did this prove the car's speed but also the reliability of the new engine, despite being in considerably higher tune than the roadgoing version that would find its way into the back of a 911. Before long, fuel injection replaced good ol' carburettors, with Bosch providing the new technology, and combined with a greater capacity of 2.5 litres, the new 906E ('E' for Einspritzung or injection) now produced around 250hp and was even more of a racing success than its carb-fed precursor, dominating the 1967 sports car season and winning at Sebring, Daytona and Watkins Glen.
The 906 led to a string of highly successful racing sports cars, culminating in the 917K which won Le Mans in 1970, just four years after the spaceframe chassis had been debuted in the 906. This was also the first win at Le Mans for Porsche, with the Zuffenhausen outfit going on to win it one or two more times. Or maybe 16. No one really keeps count, do they? This success also saw the indefatigable Dr Piech on the road to becoming the most powerful man in the automotive world. Not bad for a project that began with a four-cylinder, ladder-framed chassis hillclimber...