My Car Quest

June 19, 2019

“Butzi’s Baby”: The Porsche 904 GTS

One car I never considered owning, but I rue that I missed ‘em

by Wallace Wyss –

One car that really broke the mold for Porsche was the 904. Why?

Because first of all the way it was made, a frame but with a sheet metal double box chassis with the fiberglass body glued in place. The body incidentally was made by the aircraft company Heinkel.

Porsche 904/6 Carrera GTS

Secondly it was powered by a four cam four cylinder Carrera engine that had been designed more than a decade earlier—rarely done in racing where the latest engine design goes in.

Third it didn’t look like any previous Porsche, not the 356 which was still in production or the new 911 which was being readied.

The designer was Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche, the grandson of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche the firm’s founder.

Presumably being the family member made it difficult for anyone to knock his design. It was a little surprising he would come up with the car because his grandfather and father were engineers and he had no engineering degree he was thought of as purely interested in the styling of a product.

You kind of wonder why the new flat six wasn’t used at first because, after all it had two more cylinders. But others feel, hey, you can justify that decision because the 180-hp Carrera four cam four cylinder had already proven itself.

Porsche 904 GTS

The 904 rolled onto the tarmac at Daytona in February 1964, where it astounded people because it was the only 904 entered and the unproven car finished sixth overall and first in class. Another 2-liter prototype class win was recorded at Sebring soon after that one piloted by Americans, Briggs Cunningham and Lake Underwood who finished ninth overall.

After that they didn’t have to race as prototypes anymore as the necessary 100 units had been produced so it could be homologated.

VICTORY AT THE TARGA

A flat eight version led the Targa Florio for three laps of the 45-mile Piccolo Madonie circuit, only to be put out of the running when the suspension failed.

Porsche 904/6 Carrera GTS for sale

But ironically a 904 with half the cylinders, one driven by the Sicilian Baron Pucci and Colin Davis, son of the famed “Bentley Boy” Sammy Davis, led all the competitors to first place, with yet another 904 finishing second.

That season–1964—saw 904s accruing class wins and overall placings more times, enough to take the two liter GT Championship for Porsche.

Why did the 904 disappear so fast? Well, when the 911 was launched, basically they didn’t need the 904 anymore. They soon built the 911R.

And then Ferdinand Piech, related to the Porsche family, came into the company and touted the Carrera 6 so the 904 was tossed into the dustbin of history.

CARS I MISSED…

I used to see a 904 around on Detroit streets before I decamped to the West in the late ‘60s. It might have been the one “bought” by GM for Bill Mitchell, GM VP in charge of design, to play with.

Porsche 904 Carerra GTS

It was eventually sold by the firm. I am predicting it was sold for under $10,000—GM didn’t try to make a profit on its test cars, just get them out the door.

I also met a Marina del Rey-based Porsche mechanic, Vern Covert, who, back in the Sixties, bought one for $7,000 by walking down pit row at Sebring when the cars were still THE Porsche to own and offering each racer that amount of they made it back at the end of the race with the car in one piece.

One racer who did called him, Vern shelled out, drove it to a muffler shop, welded on mufflers and headed back to his home in California. Last I heard that car–though from some owner later than Vern–sold for a million at auction.

Porsche 904 Carerra GTS

Only last month I was offered one for two million, all set up for vintage racing, but I think the seller, perhaps dazzled by my savoir-faire, didn’t realize when he told me about it that these days I only write about vintage cars, and no longer trade in them.

When I go up to Monterey, I’ll be tapping the shoulders of only the most well heeled Porsche collectors who want to add one to their portfolio.

Principals only, of course.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss tells almost all his secrets in his series of books entitled Incredible Barn Finds available directly from the publisher at (715) 381 9755

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Porsche 904 Carerra GTS

All photos by Mike Gulett.

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“Butzi’s Baby”:  The Porsche 904 GTS
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“Butzi’s Baby”: The Porsche 904 GTS
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The rare and desirable Porsche 904 GTS.
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Comments

  1. Don Meluzio says

    When I went to visit Butzi at Porsche Design in 1985 I asked to see his office. Right behind his desk was a large Bookcase with a model of the 904 right behind his chair. I will always remember that moment They said it was his favorite car that he was involved with.

  2. Bill Cooper says

    Butzi had a 904 which he used as a daily driver, it was fitted with proper lighting for street use in Germany, exhaust muffler and locks for the doors and compartments. I once saw it at a show and was given the description by the then current owner.

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