Words by Charles Renny; photos by Allan Kerr
Porsche's racing history is replete with cars painted in distinctive and memorable liveries, from psychedelic abstracts to a pink pig. But few are more iconic than the blue and orange Gulf colours of the 917Ks that raced at Le Mans in 1970 and '71.
Wouldn't the modern-day Porsche 918 look good in those colours, thought Canadian auto dealer, Vaughn Wyant, so he decided to find out. Wyant is president of The Wyant Group, which includes the Saskatoon Porsche dealership in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Only in Canada, perhaps, would a dealer have the temerity to ask Porsche AG to build not one but two cars that would commemorate those fabulous Porsche 917 Ks. And to treat the answer, “It is not possible, Porsche is no longer associated with Gulf and does not have permission to use their team livery,” as a starting point to bring the idea to fruition.
Wyant, decided to find out if, in fact, his idea was impossible. When the 918 project was announced and his idea rebuffed he went back and asked Porsche AG if they would they build the cars if he could get permission from Gulf. The answer: a reluctant yes.
Next up for Wyant was to get Quebec-based Gulf Canada on side with the project. It took some convincing but they ultimately approved of the concept and carried Wyant’s request on to Gulf International. After lengthy negotiations, the answer came down as “yes,” within guidelines established by Gulf.
Approval in hand, Wyant established a design team to ensure as exact a replica as possible given the differences between the 917 of 1971 and the 918. Photos of the 917 were analysed so that the correct spacing of the stripes and other identifiers were properly placed. Changes extended to the Interior of the 918, including unique logos embossed in the seat-backs.
Ultimately, Porsche AG approved of the Canadian-based team's design, right down to the logos in the seat-backs, and agreed to build the two cars.
While identical in most respects, the two factory-authorized 918s are slightly different from each other, makingeach one unique in its own right. Details such as the piping in the seats being either orange or blue are obvious, while other differences are much more subtle. Those in the know can tell which one is which at a glance.
Those that have not seen the original 917s may take a bit longer to tell the differences between “the twins”. Here is a hint to help: one of the cars does not have any of the green ghosting used by Porsche to identify the 918 as a hybrid Hypercar.
Porsche Centre Saskatchewan says these two 918s are the only two “Gulf Livery Period Correct” cars of their kind in the world. “Period correct” refers to details of the car specific to Porsche’s historic racing partnership with Gulf Oil in the early 70’s – exacting and meticulous.
There are other Team Gulf liveried 918s in existence – at least one owner purchased a normal 918 and had it painted, then added decals. But these two cars in Canada are the only factory authorized 918 Gulf Porsches in the world with documentation to back up the claim.
Rumor has it one might even be for sale.
Only in Canada you say!