After withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the 1962 season, Porsche refocused its attention on the track to sports cars, where the company originally made a name for itself. The car they developed to tackle the FIA-GT class was the mid-engine Porsche 904, which debuted on this day in 1963. It is officially called the Carerra GTS due to a naming rights issue, similar to why the Porsche 901 became the Porsche 911.
The 904 was Porsche’s first vehicle to use a ladder chassis and a fiberglass body. Its engine was inherited from its predecessor, the 718, which was the factory’s leading race car at the time. The 1,966 cc, four-cam flat four made 180 hp and pushed the car to 160 miles per hour when red lined in fifth gear.
The car made its racing debut at Sebring in 1964 where it suffered clutch trouble. Its problems would be resolved and it would go on to see some wonderful finishes. It took first over all at that years Targa Florio, third at Nurburgring and a five of six cars entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans finished. In the same race a 904 set a 2-liter lap record and won its class.
Production of the Porsche 904 ended in 1965 and was succeeded by the Porsche 906. Cover photo: Porsche 904/8 during training for the 1,000km race at the Nürburgring in 1964. By Lothar Spurzem – Spurzem, CC BY-SA 2.0 de.