With 50 years having passed since Porsche looked to broaden its appeal with a more practical model, Drive-My remembers the unique B17. Written by Chris Randall. Photography courtesy Porsche Archive.
HISTORICAL SNAPSHOT FOUR-DOOR PORSCHE B17
Remembering the time Porsche tested a four-door Neunelfer.
For those wanting a Porsche whose styling echoed the 911 but with four usable seats and a healthier dose of practicality, then the Panamera launched in 2009 should do very nicely indeed. But this was far from Porsche’s first attempt at giving buyers a sports car with broader family appeal, the company having investigated a four-seater model as far back as 1961. That car was the 754 t7, a prototype based on the 356 that featured four seats and would essentially morph into the 911, albeit with sleeker rear-end styling. Porsche would have another go in the late-1980s with the 989 project, a four-door model featuring a front-mounted V8 engine and styling by Harm Lagaay that gave a taste of the 996 to come, but it was canned in 1991, with Ferry Porsche reportedly disliking the whole idea.
The car we are interested in here remains unique, and was commissioned by Porsche back in 1969. The design of the B17 was the work of legendary Italian styling house Pininfarina, and the aim was to produce a car that provided more room for rear passengers without sacrificing any of the Neunelfer’s sporting ability. It was a tough ask, and the end result wasn’t entirely successful – neither from an aesthetic point of view nor in terms of performance and handling. A Porsche 901/911 with chassis number 320020 was chosen, and the additional space was created by adding 7.6 inches of new metal aft of the B-pillar, stretching the wheelbase from 2,268 to 2,460mm. Painted in dark blue, the interior benefitted from leather upholstery throughout. The engine and transmission were unaltered, meaning the prototype was fitted with the 180hp 2.2-litre flat six from the contemporary 911s, although the suspension was uprated.
Boge Hydromat dampers were itted along with 15mm diameter anti-roll bars, and the car rode on 185 profile Michelin tyres and Fuchs wheels. The mechanical specification was sound enough, but naturally there were downsides to the exercise; one of those was weight. The additional bodywork meant the B17 weighed in at 1,135kg, more than 100kg above a normal 911s, while the weight distribution was a not-entirely-favourable 39 per cent front and 61 per cent rear. The effect that both would have had on performance or handling isn’t recorded, but it’s fair to say that Porsche itself wasn’t entirely enamoured by the result. Ultimately the project would proceed no further, and the one-of design was reportedly sold to a private buyer in Sweden. It seems that it later underwent an overhaul that included a lurid green paintjob, larger wheels and tyres and fitment of a 2.7-litre, 210hp engine.
Today it remains a fascinating look at what could have been, although for 911 enthusiasts like us perhaps it was for the best that Porsche stuck firmly to its sporting ethos and left the idea of a practical model for another four decades.