Icon Engineering Porsche 917 K meets racing royalty at famous hotel de France
Icon Engineering founder, Dave Eaton, is a hugely experienced automotive contract design engineer, with time served for major manufacturers, including Ford, Jaguar, Mazda, Hyundai and even a spell developing modified Bentleys for the Sultan of Brunei. His business partner is supercar specialist, John Hartland, who spent many years at Le Mans as a mechanical engineer for various teams, before founding John Hartland Motorsport, specialising in the restoration of classic Lamborghinis. The pair’s obsession with the 917 was forged at the 1,000km of Brands Hatch in 1970, a race won by Mexican F1 hero, Pedro Rodriguez, who was driving a Wyer-run 917 K. “I wanted a 917 there and then,” laughs Dave. “Pedro’s performance was a pivotal moment in the eyes of many of us old enough to remember the 917 racing in period, but the chances of owning one of the original cars is virtually zero, not least because so few were built and the cost of buying and maintaining an original 917 is prohibitively expensive. Even back then, it was clear the only way to own a 917 was to build your own. This is, of course, easier said than done.”
Fast-forward forty years and the opportunity to buy a 917 shell unexpectedly presented itself. “It was formed from moulds taken from David Piper’s five-litre 917, which he bought from Porsche in 1969, the same year he was drafted in to take on the 1,000km of Nürburgring by the works team,” Dave confirms. Offered by Graham Turner, who worked for Piper many moons ago, the panels soon found their way to Dave’s workshop, whereupon he began the arduous task of studying every engineering diagram, blueprint, book, video, photograph and film relating to each of the 917s assembled.
“With moulds from a genuine 917, I was keen to construct an accurate recreation of the original car,” he continues. “I didn’t want a 917 silhouette over a decidedly non-917 chassis. There could be no compromise. I was adamant the finished car should be able to accommodate a flat-twelve and be accurate to within ten millimetres of Porsche’s original design. I’m delighted to say that goal has been achieved.”
ORIGINAL 917 DRIVER, DEREK BELL, WAS ON HAND TO INSPECT THE CAR AT THE FAMOUS SITE
John’s input was essential when it came to chassis preparation. “He has huge experience working with different materials. It was John who proposed T45 tube as an extremely strong metal perfect for the task at hand, as demonstrated by the same steel’s use in the construction of World War II aircraft, including the Spitfire engine frame.” This extraordinarily robust material, coupled with Dave’s precise CAD models, meant the 2,300mm wheelbase on each side of the Icon 917 K was accurate within four millimetres the very first time the front and rear suspension was dropped into place.
Serving as something of a ‘line in the sand’ moment for man and machine after ten years developing the car from scratch, Dave drove the finished Icon 917 K from his home in the UK to this year’s Le Mans Classic and back again. He also visited the Hotel de France in Le Mans town, where the Gulf-liveried 917s were displayed more than fifty years ago. Original 917 driver, Derek Bell, was on hand to inspect Dave’s creation following its arrival at the famous site. “It’s very much like an original 917, but with a handy extra — this one wears a number plate!”
Icon Engineering is manufacturing (to order) a limited quantity of its custom 917 short-tails. For further information, visit icon917k.com.