1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS
Rare matching-numbers example, fitted with Type 587/3 180 PS ‘Sport’ Fuhrmann four-cam engine, Sebring race exhaust system
Long-term, 53-year single, southern California ownership
Includes owner’s manual, sales brochure, and a digital copy of Kardex
Highly eligible for display in all manner of events throughout Porsche’s 75th anniversary and beyond
Chassis No. 904 044
Engine No. 99035
Transmission No. 904042
Much like Janus, the ancient Roman god of transitions, the Porsche Carrera GTS (904) marked a number of beginnings and endings for Porsche and their racing customers. The 904 featured lightweight and innovative fiberglass body construction from Heinkel Flugzeugbau placed on top of and bonded to a steel box frame – the first of the so-called ‘plastic Porsches.’ With the Carrera 6 (906) to follow, it marked the end of the classic road/race Porsche born in the 1950s – think 550 Spyder, 356 Carrera GT, and even the RS Spyders. It marked the new six-cylinder, Type 901 engine’s introduction to racing and it featured the final racing application of the legendary Fuhrmann Carrera four-cam engine that powered all manner of Porsche race and high-end road cars since 1953. While the 904 Carrera GTS was part of a remarkable transitional period at Porsche – even the venerable 356 was replaced by the 901 on the production floor at the time – it was an outstanding race car as well. The overall winner of the 1964 Targa Florio, the 904 was highly competitive over two racing seasons with additional class wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Nürburgring 1000 Kms, and 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to the classic endurance races, the 904 was even more successful in regional circuit races and hillclimbs, especially popular throughout Europe.
According to a copy of its Kardex, Porsche 904 044 was ordered by Italian entrepreneur and racer Ernesto Prinoth with additional information indicating this was through Ernst Strähle KG Schorndorf via Hahn Motorfahrzeuge GmbH Volkswagen. Interestingly, it was part of a group of three 904s (the other two being 074 and 077) ordered together and delivered Verkauft von Werk or ‘sold from the factory.’ Finished in the classic 904 colors of 6206 Silver Metallic over Blue velour seating material, Prinoth’s Carrera GTS was notable for being ordered with a 180 PS Type 587/3 four-cam engine with a Sebring race exhaust system. Porsche produced two variants of the 587/3 engine for the 904, the 155 PS Strasse (street) engine and the 180 PS Sport engine. Licensed with German plate number ‘WN-R45,’ Prinoth quickly put his new sport-engined 904 to good use, entering the Bolzano-Mendola Hill Climb and other regional events over the coming years. Research indicates that Prinoth later sold his 904 to a gentleman named Berger before being exported to the United States in 1968, landing in southern California with Joseph Pfister. Like Berger before him, Pfister did not own 904 044 for long, before finding a long-term caretaker later that year in newly minted PCA member, Leslie ‘Les’ Gunnarson. Gunnarson purchased 904 044 in August of 1968, beginning a more than 50-year ownership with his special Porsche.
Gunnarson quickly began a restoration of the former hillclimb car as he had a personal deadline to meet. Porsche Club of America’s 14th annual Porsche Parade would be located in Irvine Ranch, California that summer, and as a new PCA member, he likely knew he would make a splash by entering his freshly restored 904, now painted red with an interior focused on road use comfort, in the annual national concours competition. Make a splash he did, earning a First in Class for his efforts, and then, unlike many who may be too afraid to enjoy their prize-winning possession, Gunnarson put his example of Porsche’s final road/race car back on the street, regularly enjoying it for the next two decades. At a point in the mid-to-late 1980s, 904 044 was placed into secure storage, and with Gunnarson’s passing in 2020, this unique 904 was quietly sold in 2021, with the new owner focused on returning it to the road without altering its patinated exterior condition thereby wiping away the story it so uniquely carried to the present day.
Southern California suffers no lack of knowledgeable Porsche repair and restoration shops and even the very best of those would be fortunate to be tasked with properly returning 904 044 to the road. Most interesting is that while discussing the potential purchase and mechanical restoration with Rod Emory, it emerged that, in his youth, Rod himself had seen and sat in 904 044 on multiple occasions! Wary of the southern California fire season, Gunnarson had stored his 904 with Rod’s father, Gary Emory at Parts Obsolete, the legendary Orange Country Porsche parts business. With the stars aligned, Emory Motorsports of North Hollywood, California began a thorough, complete systems check involving both its mechanicals and cosmetics. While the original, numbers-matching Type 587/3 four-cam sport engine was removed and sent to Ed Pink Racing Engines for the delicate rebuild, the suspension, fuel, oil, and electrical systems were evaluated and restored at Emory. The body, paint, and interior were also evaluated and improved – with an eye on the preservation of the existing finishes from 1968, rather than a complete restoration. At the same time, Black Swan Racing mechanically restored the matching numbers, five-speed transmission.
After two years of thoughtful and careful work at Emory Motorsports, 904 044 made its third public debut at none other than Luftgekühlt 8 at the Port of Los Angeles. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the show for many, 904 044 reemerged to the delight of those in attendance not far from where Les Gunnarson’s work made its debut at the 19th annual Porsche Parade over 50 years before. Since Luft 8, 904 044 has been enjoyed in very much the same way Les Gunnarson intended; light but regular road use, preservation, and above all an emphasis placed on enjoyment derived from the sound and feeling emanating from the type of dual-use car that could only emerge from such an exciting period of Porsche’s history.
|Year of construction:||1964|
|Model:||904 Carrera GTS|
|Cylinder capacity:||2 Liter|
|New / used:||Used car|
|Ready to drive:||yes|