The 1970 Porsche 917K is a legendary race car from a less technologically advanced time, so starting it involves a lot more than just turning a key. This video from RM Sotheby’s shows how it’s done, using a car that will cross the block at the company’s Monterey auction, scheduled for Aug. 13-14.
First off, if it’s a cool day, you need to heat the oil to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, current custodian Paul Lanzante advises. This car has a heating pad under its oil tank, which needs to be plugged into an external power source.
Next, flip the two master switches. One is located on the side of the car, just ahead of the oil tank, the other is in the cockpit. The car does have an onboard battery, but Lanzante using a jump box to help it when starting. Once that’s set up, you must flip a few dashboard switches to turn on the fuel pumps and ignition. Only then can you turn the key.
When cold-starting the 917K’s flat-12 engine, it’s important not to exceed 2,500 rpm, which can be done by holding the throttle linkage in place, Lanzante said. Revs need to be kept low until the oil is up to temperature.
Like most carbureted cars, the 917K has a choke, but Lanzante doesn’t recommend using it for cold starting because it can foul the plugs. Instead, he sprays brake fluid down the intake trumpets. Give each one a spritz to help the fuel fire, crank the ignition, and you’re ready to go.
The 917 was one of Porsche’s most successful race cars, dominating European sports-car racing and the North American Can-Am Series in various forms. The “K” denotes versions with shortened rear bodywork, which proved more aerodynamically stable than the earlier long-tail version. A 917K gave Porsche its first overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 1970.
This car—chassis 026—also raced at Le Mans in 1970, but was crashed on the 50th lap and failed to complete the race. It was also featured heavily in the 1971 Steve McQueen film “Le Mans.”
It’s not the only Steve McQueen “Le Mans” 917K, though. Another car used for filming sold for $14 million at auction in 2017. We’ll see how much this one goes for during Monterey Car Week.