Is this a Porsche 917 replica that actually makes sense?

Photography by Dirk de Jager unless otherwise credited

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the May 2019 issue of Classic Motorsports. Prices have been left how they originally appeared in print.]

Hit start.

Yes, this is a replica, but one that makes an awful lot of sense. It’s probably the closest most mere mortals will ever come to driving a 917, but without having to worry about the original’s famously fragile flat-12 engine. Plus, it costs peanuts compared to the real thing. 

And just as we did during our outing, you can pull this car to the track on a small trailer, press the start button, and take off to live your dreams of being Steve McQueen–or, in this case, Richard Attwood.

Team Salzburg

This Porsche is as much a poster car as the one wearing the iconic Gulf colors: No. 23, was the Team Salzburg 917K that won the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours with Attwood and Hans Hermann driving. 

1970 was a high point for the 917. Up until then the car had been a bit of a troublesome kid in Weissach, requiring a lot of effort to achieve dynamic stability at high speeds and under braking. But once this was sorted out, the 917K variant took off like a steam train. It would have blitzed the opposition for years to come if the ACO hadn’t written a set of new rules effectively banning the 917 from Le Mans in 1972. Before the rule change, though, the 917K scored one more overall win at la Sarthe. 

Despite its short run at the top, the car has been immortalized. Credit Hollywood for the extra help there. 

Photograph Courtesy Porsche

For the average moviegoer, McQueen’s “Le Mans” is a little tough to swallow. Not much plot, not much dialog, not much direction. 

But for gearheads, it helped further define the 917 as an automotive icon. Never before had race cars been shown so dramatically on the big screen. In “Le Mans,” the 917 seemed to waltz above the audience. 

Today, the Porsche 917 remains one of the most iconic race cars of all time–and also one of the most notoriously difficult to run. Not only does a real 917 cost millions to buy, but its flat-12 boxer is also prone to breaking at any given moment. As a result, these cars are scarce, delicate, and best left alone if you don’t have the equivalent of Hungary’s health care budget in your bank account to keep it running. 

That is precisely where this look-alike comes in. Are you one of the few to already own a real 917K? Then run this one and preserve the genuine article in the garage. Really passionate about the 917 but don’t have the budget? This one is attainable–well, more attainable than a real 917 in any case.

Modern Take

This is not the only 917 clone ever offered, but a very interesting take nonetheless. It comes from Bailey Cars, an outfit started in 2003 by South African brothers Peter and Greg Bailey. Their first replica was based on the GT40.

The Bailey Cars 917 uses a chassis that combines a carbon-fiber tub with tube-chassis elements. The body is formed in fiberglass. In total, the car weighs about 110 pounds more than the genuine article, a downside that is offset by better handling and, according to its builders, improved safety. It’s also about 4 inches longer, rides on larger 17-inch wheels, and sports a modern Bilstein suspension. 

“The idea was to have a much more driveable car, making the 917 more accessible to common enthusiasts,” explains Olivier Bosio, the European distributor for Bailey Cars through his company, Racing Legend Car. Bailey Cars North America represents Bailey Cars in the U.S.

“We receive the finished cars without drivetrain,” Bosio continues. “It is no longer possible to receive this car as a DIY kit due to quality issues that have risen in the past.” 

Now for the really interesting part–and why it’s possible to spend more on a new Porsche 911 or S-Class Mercedes: Instead of that insanely expensive and impossible-to-source 12-cylinder Porsche engine, Bailey Cars has developed this one to use the air-cooled flat-six found in the 911.

The car featured here, for example, has the 3.6-liter engine used in the 964, the 911 produced between 1989 and 1994. It has been bored out to 3.8 litres of displacement and produces about 350 horsepower, roughly a hundred more than stock. Factor in the 1875-pound dry weight, and things quickly get quick. 

Also like the original, supply for the replica will be limited. “Bailey Cars said they will only make six 917s per year, since they only have limited capacity and other models to produce as well,” Bosio explains. “All liveries are possible, with most demands for a Gulf-themed car of course.” 

Of course.


Racing Legend Car has the exclusive rights for distribution in Europe and the UAE. In the U.S., Bailey Cars is represented through Bailey Cars North America (Now Gallo Competition Cars):

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GLK New Reader
5/31/19 9:03 p.m.

Nice replica. Despite some noses in the air there are a few replicas and dare I say, kit cars that are quite legit and deserve respect. A few that come to mind in no particular order, Devin, Caterham 7, Ariel Atom, Meyers Manx, Superlite SLC, Nobel    GTM, Superformance, Factory 5, & Kirkham AC Cobras and Daytona Coupes. Beck and Intermeccanica made nice Porsche Speedster and 550 Spyders, too.

Don2001l New Reader
6/1/19 3:03 p.m.

Beautiful !!!

but still a lot of buttons to save, for a regular Cheap guy.

GLK New Reader
6/3/19 6:27 p.m.

In reply to Don2001l : True. I often wonder who the authors are speaking to when they point out an original collector car is worth seven figures but you can have the replica for only the low six figures. A deal comparatively, but still the price of a suburban home or summer cottage in most areas of the country.


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