Throughout its 82-year history, Porsche has been synonymous with both style and performance. They race not to sell their brand but to test their limits, and their style emerges not from deliberate self-invention but from a spirit of innovation and progress — an effortless cool. When the Porsche 917 debuted at the 1970 Le Mans, it quite literally blew away the competition. Housed in an ultra-lightweight (93-pound) chassis, its 12-cylinder engine and state-of-the-art materials made it both the most formidable and most dangerous car on the road. Topping out at speeds near 250 miles per hour, the 917 was both precariously designed (the engine and front wheels sat behind the driver’s feet) and immensely difficult to drive.
It would supply Porsche with its first victory at Le Mans and help grow the brand into an icon of automotive excellence. This short documentary, put together by the North Carolina Museum of Art, pays tribute to the 917 and its makers. Their story, we discover, reveals something about that unquenchable drive fueling all innovators: an unreasonable desire to be just a little bit better, a little bit lighter, a little bit stronger. Or, in the apt words of Dan Neil, “Porsche races because it’s the air they breathe”.