After arriving at the factory, 917/30-004 was refinished in the iconic blue, yellow and red Sunoco livery made famous by Roger Penske’s all-conquering 1973 Can-Am cars. In July 1992, Porsche AG completed an FIA Historic Vehicle Identity Form for 917/30-004 in anticipation of entering the car in historic events. The following month, Porsche AG entered the 917/30 in the AvD Oldtimer Grand Prix at Nürburgring, where former Porsche works driver Günter Steckkoeing was entrusted with the powerful Can-Am Spyder.
In January 1994, noted Porsche collector David Morse of Campbell, California, made an agreement with Porsche AG to purchase 917/30-004. Before the Can-Am Spyder was shipped to the US, Porsche rebuilt the engine using the last remaining 5.4-liter case, which had been sourced from Vasek Polak’s extensive holdings of original racing parts.
After being shipped to Germany and rebuilt, the engine was tested on a dyno. With a conservative boost of 1.2 bar, the engine recorded 983 bhp at 8,400 rpm. According to Porsche, the engine was capable of producing an estimated 1,200 bhp at just 1.4 bar.
By the end of that year, 917/30-004 had arrived in California, where it was completely disassembled and meticulously restored by Morspeed. Given the rarity and significance of the car, a tremendous effort was made to ensure an accurate, period-correct presentation throughout, while still producing a track-ready machine.
Once disassembled, the bare frame and suspension components were crack checked and repaired as necessary, using original materials wherever possible. For a consistent, high-quality finish, fiberglass panels were fashioned using the originals to form the mold. Throughout the process, period photos were used to guide the restoration and the correct color codes were obtained from the Penske team so that the Sunoco livery could be faithfully prepared.
The freshly restored 917/30 made its debut at the 1998 Monterey Historics, where the 50th anniversary of Porsche was celebrated. As would be expected, 917/30-004 took part in the festivities, racing in the Can-Am category. Driven by Porsche’s own Olaf Lang, the 917/30 won the race, defeating a field of McLarens and Shadows. It was like 1973 all over again.
In 2001, Matthew Drendel purchased 917/30-004. For the young collector, the acquisition of the most famous turbocharged Porsche of all time was seen as a major coup. To celebrate, 917/30-004 – and its proud new owner – participated in the first Rennsport Reunion at Lime Rock Park. There, 004 was joined by Porche’s 917/30-002, the car that served as Penske’s back-up car for the 1973 Can-Am season, as well as Roger Penske himself. After Porsche’s car experienced some mechanical difficulty, Mr. Penske enjoyed some time behind the wheel of 917/30-004, taking the car out for several hot laps.
In 2004, 917/30-004 won the 917 class at the Rennsport Reunion II Concours and the following year it was exhibited at the Porsche Club of America 50th Anniversary Porsche Parade in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In 2006, the Porsche was displayed at the 100 Motor Cars of Radnor Hunt, as well as the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where it was displayed in the “Cars of the Can-Am Series” class. Given its prominence in the Porsche community, it is no surprise that the Drendel family’s 917/30 was invited to take part in the famed “Family Tree” commercial, which featured some of the most important examples of the marque.
Beyond its success on the track and the concours lawn, 917/30-004 was featured in Pete Lyons’ book Can-Am Cars in Detail. In the 917/30 section, Mr. Drendel gives a visceral account of the dynamic qualities of his Can-Am Spyder:
“It’s like a Learjet on takeoff. It feels like it’s never running out of power and it feels like that in every gear. It feels like you’re being pushed by the hand of God. One time I floored it in second gear and the front wheels came off the ground! I got it out on a 15,000-foot runway and went to 8,000 rpm in high gear. I figure that was over 200 miles an hour, way over. My hands are starting to sweat just thinking of it.”
Despite its otherworldly performance, 917/30-004 would be a welcome entrant into a wide variety of leading historic events. In recent years, 917/10s and 917/30s have been seen participating in a number of major venues, from Rennsport Reunion to the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Although the 917/30 Can-Am Spyder commands a great deal of respect from its driver, it is ultimately a very highly evolved 917, one of the most respected and revered of historic racing machines. In the hands of its former owners and current custodian, 917/30-004 has been enjoyed as originally intended – on the track. For those interested in campaigning the car in historic events, it should be noted that the sale includes a full set of body molds, an important consideration when operating a car of such immense performance.
A strong testament to the historical significance and popularity of these spectacular racing machines, all six 917/30s are accounted for today. Chassis 001 – known as the variable- wheelbase car – and 002 are part of the Porsche Museum Collection in Stuttgart; 003 is currently owned by a private collector in France. Chassis 005 and 006 also remain in private hands.
Although 917/30-004 never had the opportunity to compete in the Can-Am series, its sheltered life in the hands of appreciative caretakers has ensured that this car remains in exceptional condition. Given its distinguished ownership chain, award-winning restoration, authentic specification and inherent rarity, 917/30-004 is an automobile of immense appeal and presence.
Almost four decades have passed since the introduction of the 917/30, yet it remains one of the most iconic racing cars of all time, a monumental work of automotive engineering and the ultimate test of a racing driver. It is undoubtedly one of Porsche’s most magnificent creations.
Lot # 57 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder; S/N 917/30-004; Blue, yellow, red/Blue; Estimate $3,250,000 – $4,000,000; Competition restoration, 1 condition; Hammered Sold at $4,000,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $4,400,000 — RHD. 5374cc/983hp (at 1.2 bar) twin turbocharged flat 12, 4-speed,center lock wheels, front splitter, huge rear wing, racing slicks, Sunoco Porsche Audi livery, 1 of 6 built. Paint, bodywork and preparation are over-the-top perfect. No flaws or signs of use anywhere. No race history at all. Sold to the Australian Porsche importer at the end of the 1973 season and displayed in his showroom. Later reacquired by Porsche and completely restored and painted in the Penske/Donohue colors from the 1973 season and given FIA papers before being demonstrated at the Nürburgring. Subsequently re-restored in the U.S. and impeccable. Drendel Family Collection. The audience erupted into applause when this car drove like a thunderstorm into the Gooding tent. With just six built, it’s rare to see a 917-30 in person and rarer still to witness its public sale. The price was no small sum, but lot 57 was a special opportunity to purchase a car of incredible stature and condition. What this price means for the raced Can-Am cars is yet to be seen.