Whether they’re used for road cars or racing cars, 12-cylinder engines are hard to beat when it comes to performance, emotion, and character.
For the most part, they take the form of V12s, but there is one particularly famous 12-cylinder that isn’t configured in a V-shape: the flat-12 of the Porsche 917 racer.
Porsche introduced the 917K (K for “Kurzheck”, or “short tail”) at the Geneva Motor Show in 1969. The car was based on the 908 and conceived as a way to secure the brand’s first overall victory of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It took 10 months to develop, and to receive homologation, Porsche had to build 25 examples.
The vehicle’s engine consisted of a flat-12 cylinder layout and included twin overhead camshafts. Not only was this the first 12-cylinder engine Porsche had ever produced, but it remains one of just a handful of flat-12 engines ever built. Others include the engine of the Ferrari 1512 F1 car, Alfa Romeo’s 33TT12 and 33SC12 racers, and the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer and Testarossa road cars.
Like any 12-cylinder engine, the flat-12 of the Porsche 917K sounds great. In fact, it sounds so good, it’s hard not to crank that volume rocker up.
The 917K featured is a 1970 model and was the 25th unit built. Filmed racing around Monza, its evocative sound is enough to make you forget about that 919 Hybrid and want to watch Steve McQueen and “Le Mans” once again.