- Photos by contributing photographer Glenn Nuijens
With little time on their hands before the 1964 race season, Porsche set out to develop a new competitor for FIA-GT class racing events. Homologation regulations now required that a specified amount of road legal variants be produced and sold. This eliminated use of the predecessor’s space frame construction as it would be just too expensive and time consuming to produce what would soon be basically a production car. This new car would retain the mid-engine layout and be built from a steel ladder frame and the first of a long line of Porsche race cars with a body made of a glass reinforced plastic (GRP). The body was designed by Ferry ‘Butzi’ Porsche. You might have guessed it, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson. Ferry used styling cues of the Porsche 718 coupe and the result was one of the best looking Porsche sports cars the world had ever seen.
Originally, Porsche’s project the engineering team had planned on using Porsche’s all new two litre flat six engine, poised for the upcoming 911 model. Testing on this engine had not been completed so the decision was made to introduce the newly uprated 180bhp four cylinder engine from 356 Carrera 2. A new five speed gearbox was also developed for the new road car.
Only three prototypes were constructed and each was tested to the extreme throughout fall of 1963. Internally, the new Porsche was known as the 904. When the 904 made it’s public debut in November of 1963 it became known as the Carrera GTS. By April of 1964 enough models had been produced and sold to homologate the Porsche 904 as a GT eligible racer.
The Porsche 904 Carrera GTS was successful from the beginning, winning the prototype class in the Sebring and finished 9th overall. The winning continued, taking class wins at the 24 Hour of Le Mans and showing its versatility by finishing 2nd at the snow covered 1965 Rallye Monte Carlo. As the racing season continued, so did Porsche, developing new performance parts and upgrade to keep the winning pace. In short time a six cylinder engine had made its introduction however too few were produced to be homologated. As a result the six cylinder 904, known better today as the 904/6, only raced in the prototype class. The 904/6 Carrera GTS can be recognized by it’s larger brake ducts for cooling the larger rear brakes. In 1966 the 904/6 was replaced by the 906 prototype.
Whichever name you prefer, the 904 or Carrera GTS, this icon remains one of the finest and most successful Porsches ever constructed. It kick-started a program of racing cars that would eventually result in the all conquering 917. It also holds a unique spot in the manufacturer’s history as the last dual-purpose sportscar Porsche ever built.