Porsche 936

Triumphant return to Le Mans

Launched in 1976, the Porsche 936 took over from its predecessor 917 in the World Sports Car Championship and would regularly establish itself in this discipline for five seasons.

Dans l’évocation cinématographique de cette course prestigieuse, la réalité et la fiction se croisent sans cesse et les séquences réalisées à bord d’une voiture qui a réellement participé à la course apportent vraiment un réalisme incomparable à l’histoire qui est racontée à l’écran. Une impression renforcée par le fait que Steve McQueen, qui interprète le héros du film, est un pilote chevronné et talentueux.

After its fabulous Endurance run from 1976 to 1981, the Porsche 936 will shine in the German DRM Touring Championship for three more seasons. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

The 936 was one of the most successful of all competition cars designed by Porsche at the time. Despite fierce competition, the 936 was able to take three victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most prestigious endurance race. In 1976, twenty-five years after Porsche made its debut in this event, the 936 was also the first turbocharged car to win this race.

After two consecutive victories in 1970 and 1971 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Porsche team withdrew from the World Sports Car Championship due to a change in the FIA regulations from 1972 onwards. As the engines were limited to 3 liters, the powerful Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 M are not able to participate any longer in this race. Porsche then turned to the North American Can-Am Championship, while a few private teams continued to race the three-liter 908 / 3s. But their flat eight cylinders don't match the high speeds of the powerful V12 engines fitted to the Manta, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. In 1976 the regulations were changed again and Porsche decided to enter its Spyder 936 in Group VI (two-seater racing category), as well as 934 and 935, respectively in Group IV (Grand Touring) and V (Special Productions).

At the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours, the Essex Porsche 936 (chassis No. 001),  driven by Bob Wolleck and Hurley Haywood, quit in the 19th hour (engine). © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

New from old  

Given the very short lead times available to the engineers, the Porsche 936 was designed using the best mechanical solutions of the racing models available to Porsche at the time. The press calls it a construction using "parts off-the-shelf" ... It is a colorful assembly, yet remarkably effective,; 935 + 917 + 908 = 936! Among the various elements we find the turbo engine of the 935, a chassis based on those of the 908/3 and the 917 and a body inspired by the 917/10 and 917/30 previously entered in the Can-Am championship. The design of the new 936 was launched in September 1975 and the first tests took place in February 1976. The christening on the track took place on April 4, at the Nürburgring where Rolf Stommelen finished 5th. From the outset,  the Porsche 936 has been equally competitive against its main rivals Alfa Romeo and Renault; but above all it turns out to be many times more reliable. So much that it will dominate the first season (5 wins, plus Le Mans).

The body design of the Porsche 936 is very similar to the 917/10 and 917/30 models previously entered in Can-Am. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

Proven and economical solutions 

For its chassis, the 936 uses a single tubular aluminum frame on which is mounted a body consisting of three elements in polyester and fiberglass: the front with integrated headlights, the central cell with the two doors and finally the rear, with 2 vertical fins at the end, supporting a huge rear wing while the prominent air box covers the engine compartment behind the cockpit. On the 936, the driver's seat has shifted slightly to the right from the center of the car. Both the front and rear suspension have double wishbones, anti-roll bar, variable rate coil springs and Bilstein telescopic shock absorbers. Braking is via a double hydraulic circuit, with adjustable divider, which works on ventilated discs and aluminum calipers. The fuel tank, with a capacity of 160 liters, is arranged in two parts on either side of the driver to balance the mass at the level of the transverse axle.

Belgian driver Jacky Ickx is one of the main architects of the success of the Porsche 936, notably with its three Le Mans victories in 1976, 1977 and 1981. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

The turbo advantage 

The 6-cylinder turbo engine of 2,142 cm3 is the most important asset of the Porsche 936. It comes from the engine used in both the 1974 911 Turbo RSR and the 935. The cylinders and cylinder heads are made of aluminium and the crankcase is made of an aluminium magnesium alloy. As with all Porsches that have been produced so far, this one is also air-cooled. The gearbox / differential coming from the Can-Am 917 is mated to a Borg & Beck dry tri-plate clutch. In 1977 the power increased to 540 hp and the single KKK turbo was replaced by two smaller ones. Thanks to double camshafts per cylinder head and four valves per cylinder, the engine now developed 620 hp,. This configuration required the installation of a water cooling system for the cylinder heads. After being in storage for two seasons, the 936 returned to service in 1981 with a new 2,650cc engine producing 630 hp at 8,300 rpm.

Technical data sheet

Porsche 936 Spyder (1977)

•  Engine: 6 opposed flat cylinders, rear 

Displacement: 2,142 cm3 

Bore x stroke: 83 mm x 66 mm 

Power: 520 hp at 8,000 rpm 

Fuel supply: Bosch mechanical injection, 2 KKK turbos 

Ignition: Bosch double distributor

Distribution: 1 overhead camshaft per bank, 2 valves per cylinder 

Transmission: to the rear wheels, 5 gears + reverse 

Tires: Dunlop 265/565 x 15 (front) 340/600 x 15 (rear) 

Brakes: ventilated discs (front and rear) 

Length: 496 cm 

Width: 192 cm 

Height: 127 cm 

Wheelbase: 241 cm 

Front track: 154 cm 

Rear track: 151.5 cm 

Weight (empty): 700 kg 

Maximum speed: 350 km / h 

Three victories at Le Mans

The Porsche 936 is part of the very special club of cars that have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans at least three times. The first victory came in the 1976 edition thanks to the Jacky Ickx / Gijs Van Lennep team, with chassis number 002. In 1977 Ickx won again at Le Mans, this time with Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood with chassis No. 001. It was not until 1981 (Sarthe) that the Porsche 936 found its way back to success thanks to the talented Belgian champion Jacky Ickx, who shared this car's third victory with Derek Bell (chassis no. 003). In the meantime, the 936 still ranks 2nd and 3rd in 1978 as well as 2nd in 1980!

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