The Story Of The Street-Legal 917

‘What’s the story behind the silver 917? It almost looks like it could be street driven?’

It started with a comment on one of my stories from this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, that sent me well and truly down the rabbit hole researching the history of this rather plain, but curious-looking 917.

It turns out, it is, or rather was, or maybe still is street-legal, and has quite an interesting backstory.


The reason that this car exists is because heir to the Martini & Rossi distilling fortune, and the man behind Martini’s now legendary racing partnership with Porsche, Count Rossi di Montelera decided that he fancied his own Porsche 917, but with a twist – he wanted it to be road legal.

Convincing a manufacturer to create a one-off road-legal version of its most famous race car is something that you can’t really do unless you have 1. a lot of money, and 2. a lot of clout. Thankfully, for the Count and for all of us, he had plenty of both. So, following a visit to Porsche in Stuttgart in 1974, the wheels were set in motion.


Porsche pulled chassis 917-030 off the shelf and set about doing everything necessary to legalise it, which it turns out wasn’t very much at all. Chassis 030 was painted silver, had a couple of aerodynamic fins removed and was fitted with additional exhaust silencers.


You might also notice the all-tan leather interior, which isn’t a feature on other track-bound 917s. The Count had this added after finding the ‘OEM’ finishings a bit harsh.


The car itself has a pretty interesting history prior to the Count’s acquisition – chassis 030 only ever found its way onto a racetrack once prior to its conversion, qualifying third in the 1971 Austrian 1000km before suffering a suspension fault, putting it out of the race from what was a very competitive position.


The car was then returned to Stuttgart where it became the test mule for Porsche’s early experiments with ABS. After testing it was retired into storage, until the Count’s request a couple of years later.


It turned out that converting the race car to road-legal specification was the relatively easy part. Actually registering it to be used on the road was the real test. The Count’s efforts in Europe were rebuffed – he didn’t stand a chance of getting the 917 past Germany’s strict regulations, and France wanted to crash-test the car before it would agree to register it, which obviously wasn’t possible.


The solution came from an unexpected location – the U.S. state of Alabama agreed to register the 917 on the strict condition that the car would never turn a wheel within, or anywhere near, the state.

An odd accordance, but one that worked.


The Count was then able to use the Porsche’s now road-legal status to legalise the car in Europe and, legend has it, drove the car all the way from Stuttgart back to Paris. Since the Count’s passing in 2003, the car has remained in Europe under the custody of his son, although it now bears Texas plates as the Alabama registration has since expired.


The car is rolled out on occasion for special events, but hasn’t been used on the road in recent times. I’d like to think it will return to the road at some point in the future – can you imagine seeing this come past you in the outside lane at full pelt?

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters



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It actually cant return to the road with American plates in Europe. Best bet is SVA testing in the UK. Main reason it can't drive over here is no front plate, and the headlights are to low. And since it has american approval it most likely has sealed beam lights, which as far as I know aren't legal anywhere in Europe. And it has no front blinkers. The above needs to be changed before it can drive here legally. Can't say if that wass the case back then, but it is now. My best guess is that even back then it wasn't legal to drive European roads, although I can't be certain, since as far as I can tell those rules apply since 1976 for imported cars. But the best telltale sign is the license plate itself. For it to permanently drive on European roads you can have a foreign license plate, but after a couple of years it needs to converted to a license plate from within the country the car is at.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Maybe this is the reason why the car is now never driven on the streets, as the article said.


Its a porsche 917. It goes wherever it wants


Tell that to judge when the car gets impounded....


There are loop-holes in every legislation. For example people have been able to import usdm cars with no modifications to Finland if they have been working in US for certain amount of time and have earned the money for the car whilst there. So if you are a rich count you most likely are able to hire a lawyer that can find a loop-hole that allows you to register almost anything in a EU country. Historic cars also have quite lax rules in many countries so the car being road-legal somewhere at some point is probably enough.


That is how it works on a road car. But we are not talking about a road car. Importing any car is fairly straightforward as long as the car has a pink slip or something equivalent. So an American road car has to abide bij a minimum height for lights as well. This cars roof is actually no more then 940mm high. Which means headlights are no higher then 30cm high (at best).

A 917 is running 15" tires, and the centre of the headlight is roughly 5cm above the centre lock. Diameter of that wheel is itself is 38,1 cm excluding the tire. Even back in the day thats to low to register anything in the EU.

Finland actually became a member since 1999, so that country isn''t relevant at all....


Actually it was 1995 but that isn't relevant. What's relevant is that an EU-country that has very strict rules on registering cars has allowed registering usdm cars without any modifications. I'm not sure how it is now but only a few years ago you were able to bring a car with you after working abroad and didn't have to change anything in it. If you just go and import something it's a totally different thing and you'd have to make the car EU-compliant.

I'm sure a multimillionaire would find a way. I mean you can go and buy EU-passport from Malta no matter where you're from . And apparently someone registered 917 in Monaco


Its actually quite relevant: because the count is lives in France. If it was imported to finland, and registered, it still couldn't be registered in the EU. Thats why I mentioned it.

Registering a racecar isn't as hard as most think, as long are emissions are kept within bounds on a newer one, a minimum ground clearance is used of 120mm and a minimum headlight height of 500mm and a maximum height of 1200mm. As well as blinkers a front licence plate, and a heater to de-fog the windshield with. And a horn. Otherwise you simple cant register it. But lets say it did get registered bij offering someone bucketloads of money. You still would be pulled over all the same, and the car will get impounded all the same. Because lets face it, you have to pay every policeman for it to be really road legal. We like to believe in fairy tales, but it just isn't possible without not modifying the car.

So you could register it, but you need to move the lights up further in the fenders, as well as all the other lights like blinkers, and a rear license plate light. etc.

As for the other 917 in Monaco: Thats modified....

Daniel Summerill

Great story. I can't think of any good reason why Alabama would register the car but insist it wasn't drove in the state?


When things don't make sense the answer is usually 'money'


Holy sh**! When can he take me off a ride? I will get a ticket and fly down to Texas tomorrow! What is the other guy talking about Alabama for? The car has Texas plates! Did he live in Alabama or just try and register it there? We Ned the back story Butters! Get on it! Porsche for life here!


I mean the answers are all actually there. You really need to read.


Dude, read.


My mom was a school teacher for 35 years butthead! Don't need anyone to tell me to read anything! The article said Alabama allowed car to be registered as long as he didn't drive it in the state. So how the hell did he register it in Texas? Alabama and Texas are not the same state low I.Q.! Maybe you should RE-READ it!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

"... the U.S. state of Alabama agreed to register the 917 on the strict condition that the car would never turn a wheel within, or anywhere near, the state.

An odd accordance, but one that worked. The Count was then able to use the Porsche’s now road-legal status to legalise the car in Europe..."

In other words, the Count had the car registered for street use in Alabama, which then allows the 917 to be recognized as street legal in Europe. The Count never lived in America, so the was no issue for him to "never turn a wheel within, or anywhere near, the state."

I guess the Texas registration now is just to keep the car street legal.


Lets say the above part is true? He could fly it over to europe and drive the car with an American plate. But only for a while and certainly not legally. Since it isn't and was't road legal over here. Thats also why the rest of the world laughs at the words "Road Legal" from the states, as it doens't mean anything over here....

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Perhaps the law back then aren't like they are today...


Not likely, as the car was built in Germany. It would have gotten a European plate from the start. Every car driven on EU soil is submitted to the same rules. Once its accepted though, rules differ from country to country.


The car never had a European registration. But, I'd imagine that there was a loophole that allowed you to drive overseas-registered cars for a short period of time.
Much like nowadays I can take my UK-registered car to, say, Norway, and drive it for up to two years, at which point it needs to be registered in Norway.


Yep, That would be my most likely guess as well. That being said though, you are still at the mercy of local law reenforcement. Although the rules say you can drive it for up to x period, it still needs to be road compliant.


obviously you didn't take after her. good job on putting your idiocy on display for everyone
"although it now bears Texas plates as the Alabama registration has since expired"


So smartass if the car was registered in Bama where was the guy living? Since you know everything. The only way you can register a car/vehicle in another state in THIS country is if you have a CDL! Did you know that asshole? I have a CDL and I worked in DC for 17 years. Also had 12 security clearances and I'm pretty sure my I.Q. is WAY higher than yours! People act all tough on the internet sitting at their computers. Spewing all their bullshit but I doubt you'd be all tough in person! I got two letters for you: HK. Google it moron. Go back to elementary school whqere you belong and stay out of conversations that require thought. Dolt!


The guy was living in Paris (it says this). However the year was 1976, the guy was the owner of Martini, a pretty well-known celebrity and his wallet was stacked. It doesn't take a genius to realise that someone in a DMV office in Alabama got paid.


Let's all feed the troll.. :)


People with high I.Q. rarely shout about it and are usually capable of civilized debate.


Dude,'re getting too wound up. Besides, your mom is going to hear all of that racket comin' from the basement and have to go down there. You don't want that.


Thank you Jordan! Very interesting car. I could only imagine how cool it would be to make the drive from Houston to El Paso in a real 917. I’d probably never be released from jail....if they could catch me.


They probably would catch you either a) at the next gas station or b) just anywhere because this isn't GTA and going through a paint 'n spray doesn't change anything - i think people would remember a silver (or any color) 917 going down the road. :D


Laughing my ass off at this. Alabama agreed to legalize a car that it didn't want on its own roads? the car wearing Texas plates? that's amazing. Very stunning car, excellent history piece. just wish it saw more road usage.


And there's also Claudio Roddaro's 917...


There is a wonderful picture of this car in traffic, which I wish I could post, but it gives you some perspective of how insane this car was compared to anything else on the road. 0-60 in 2.3 seconds when the 72' 911 was 7.6 and the E-type was 6.7


A non-liveried race car(especially a road-going example) is always FASCINATING.


Wait, so a guy with a bunch of money and "clout" built a road going version of a race car that is no longer road legal?

Pretty cool car, but funny to see how time undoes all that effort. I bet a modern car for $50,000 on the right tires gives this car a solid run for the money. Comical.


I don't think you've quite caught the point there fella.

☠ moi discutant avec des A.I.

A solid run to a 917 for 50k$ ? No way.
It runs the nordschleiffe in 7.2x and for that sort of performance you should go on a Z06 Z07 or 911 GT3.

If you only put modern disc, pads and tires on the 917 (because the original are past their dates) you're gonna be well below 7mn with no pain for pocket money considering the price of the 917. Don't forget it runs on slicks.

And then you can go crazy on factory upgrades until you have a 917/30 which can't be beaten but normal road cars unless they are some crazy ultra-hypercar we don't know again.

Or for the same price of a 917 you can have the next big one, the 962 and that my lord is almost unbeatable unless you drive a top-end modern racecar.

And the 917 or 962 can achieve those numbers 24h long, no modern car can do this at this pace.
You know ... #becauseracecar

Don't mess with real top of the line race cars with a street car, even 50 years old ones ;)


The stuff of legends! I would love to see this car sent to Canepa for a full restoration and modernization a la their 959 SC program.