Porsche 908-04 Concept: The Return of the Longtail
It seems like every month there is a fresh and wild hypercar concept floating around the forums and blogosphere. A high percentage of them will clearly never be produced in any form, their unsuitability for both production in numbers and public roads being obvious from the start. That doesn’t stop us from wanting to get a look at what might one day materialize. Concept cars have always meant to explore design possibilities and, more importantly, generate desire.
The Porsche 908-04 Vision GT hits every visual cue and tugs on every heartstring of anyone who loves motor racing and car culture. It’s retro and it's modern, high-tech and primitive.
Looking ready for both the highway and the speedway, elements of the current 918 Supercar and the Le Mans dominating 919 blend seamlessly with the classic endurance racing longtail design in the '60s and early '70s that Porsche utilized to beat arch-enemies Ford and Ferrari on the classic high speed circuits of Europe. The Porsche 908-04 is a concept that demands to be put into production. The desire factor is strong in this one.
But let’s get something straight up front.
As much as everyone wants this to be the next-generation 918, the 908-04 is not an official Porsche AG concept car. Created independently by five industry design professionals and one expert retoucher – Alan Derosier (Exterior Designer), Marcos Beltrao (ExteriorModeler / Rendering), Martin Peng (Component Modeler), Guillermo Mignot (Interior Designer), Hasan (Interior Modeler) and Tom Wheatley (Image Retoucher) – the Vision GT is the result of inspired thinking and deep enthusiasm for raw driving and racing heritage. Their motivation was to fuse “an advanced look with a truly mechanical soul.”
The 908: A Driver's Car
Porsche had been building prototypes throughout the '60s to contest the World Championship of Makes, eventually refining their less-powerful air-cooled cars into nimble contenders capable of taking on Ferrari and Ford’s dominant GT40s on the tighter, slower circuits like the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio. The smaller German engines didn’t fare so well on the high-speed courses like Spa, Daytona and Le Mans. (Read about Ford GT's return to Le Mans 2016.)
In 1968, they unleashed the 908 with a larger engine and advanced aerodynamics with the intention of an outright victory at Le Mans. The longtail bodywork was engineered for stability on the long 3.5-mile Mulsanne Straight. This was years before Spa and Le Mans were neutered with chicanes to slow things down.
It should be noted that only a couple of years later, in 1970, the ferocious 917 longtails would touch 240mph on the Mulsanne Straight. For 24 hours.
While the 917 is permanently burned into the consciousness of any race fan, many Porsche enthusiasts consider the 908s to be better-looking cars. They would eventually take a triumphant 1-2-3 finish at Daytona, win many other races and stay competitive well into the 1970s.
The 908 is the perfect example of a driver’s car to inspire a modern reboot. The team of six designers consider themselves “car guys” and “piston heads.” They were trying to trigger a feeling that touched on the racer in everyone. The designers wanted to create “a car that would give you goose bumps just by imagining yourself driving it.”
A Labor of Love
It was important that the concept 908-04 be true in proportion and architecture. It needed to be a viable possibility, something that could be put into production if such decisions could be made. The Gran Turismo gaming juggernaut has triggered more than a few of their fantasy supercars to take physical form. Porsche has always been locked out of the GT games due to legal complications, making this project truly a labor of love for the designers.
It was important to give the 908-04 a real stick shift instead of the more common paddle set-ups on modern supercars. They designed in a top fan just like the old racers. The overhead styling is as lovely and purposeful as every other angle and the mash-up of 908/918/919 flows beautifully, without odd wing devices and splitters bulging out everywhere.
A Timeless, Modern Classic
The discipline exercised in not overdesigning it is what makes the 908-04 a timeless beauty. Supercars like the new Aston Martin AM-RB 001 are spectacular in their performance and stunning in their shape. But the F1-derived origami body styling will probably not stand the test of time. Eventually the flash will wear off and it will look odd, like the side-grating on 1980s Testarossas. The clean, classic-era racing-inspired lines of the 908-04 will always look right.
Tom Wheatley must be given extra recognition for the quality of these renderings. Compared to many – including those released by major manufacturers – these images capture a quality of reality that just serves to make us want this car even more. And just for a little extra racing love, the team rendered their masterpiece in 1970s Martini livery.
Will someone please build this car and get it on a racetrack! Porsche? Are you listening? We want this. All of us want this. Please.
How do you say "JUST DO IT" in German?
Photos courtesy of Porsche
Ooh and aah over more stunning renderings of the Vision GT in the gallery below, and check out a Porsche concept that has already gotten the green light for production – the Mission E.