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The 1969 Porsche 917PA Spyder

Photos and story by Harry Kennison

What has 12 cylinders, 4.5 liters, nearly 600 horsepower, and weighs less than 1800 pounds? If you said the 1969 Porsche 917PA Spyder, you'd be right! Most Porsche racing fans remember Porsche's dominant performances in the CanAm in 1972 with their all-conquering 917/10K's and in 1973 with the nearly unbeatable 917/30KL with Mark Donohue at the wheel. But many may not remember how or when Porsche's entrance into North America's premier sports-car racing series began.

Back in 1969 while Porsche's 917 coupes were poised to win Le Mans outright, Porsche was also keen to establish its performance image in America. What better way than to cut off a 917's top and put the new 917 Spyder in the hands of a top F-1 driver, Jo Siffert. The car proved to be a success right out of the box, finishing 4th in its first outing at Mid-Ohio and at season's end finished 4th overall in the CanAm points standings. Although, in its non-turbocharged configuration, it lacked the horsepower of the aluminum Chevy-powered McLarens, the 917PA Spyder with Siffert at the wheel served notice that it would one day be a dominant force in the CanAm.


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Mechanics prepare the Porsche 917PA Spyder in the paddock at the 1969 CanAm round at Elkhart Lake's Road America.

Jo Siffert at the helm of the 917PA Spyder.

Jo Siffert takes a break on the pit wall at Elkhart Lake at the 1969 CanAm race.

The Porsche 917PA thunders down the Moraine Sweep at over 185 mph en route to a 4th overall in the 1969 CanAm Championship.