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Up Close and Personal with Count Rossi’s Street-Legal Porsche 917K

This kind of thing only happens at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Conner GoldenWriter, Photographer

It's good to be royalty. Or in the case of Count Rossi, it was good to be royalty and heir to the massive Martini e Rossi vermouth fortune. If you haven't guessed already, that's the same "Martini" you often see adorning some of history's greatest race cars. Count Rossi was the man behind this prolific sponsorship, and as such, likely had access to some of the greatest roadgoing sportscars of the era.

Of course, pedestrian Lambroghini Miuras and Ferrari Daytonas were not enough for the petrol-obsessed Count. In 1974, the Count rolled up to the Porsche factory and requested a 917K be converted for use on the street. From the sounds of things back then, Porsche's HQ was lousy with spare 917s, so test chassis 030 was rolled out for conversion.

Don't worry-chassis 030 wasn't exactly a Le Mans winning example. Originally built for the 1971 race season, 030 was Porsche's test mule for developing nascent ABS technology in Zuffenhausen. It only made it to the race track during the Austrain 1000 km at Osterrichring, the final round of that year's World Sportscar Championship. It qualified at an impressive 3rd, but was sidelined with a failed suspension component and was sent back to the factory to serve out its days as race tech test mule until it was mothballed into storage in 1972.

Porsche dusted off 030 per Rossi's request, and prepped the full-bore race prototype for street duty. According to records, not much was done aside from removal of aerodynamic fins and the addition of a massive exhaust silencer to muffle that 5.0-liter flat-12. After convincing the state of Alabama to accept registration (under the strict instruction that 917-030 never set wheel in the state), Rossi had the interior done up in fetching tan leather.

He was quite pleased-and confident-in his new 600-hp roadgoing Le Mans weapon. So confident that he drove the car straight from the factory in 1975 to Paris, where the car allegedly remained for many years. To this day, it's still part of the Rossi family.

That's good news, as the Rossi family seems more than willing to show off 917-030. The silver coupe was in attendance at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it ran as part of "The All-Conquering Porsche 917" exhibition group. I was on-hand to capture 030 in the paddocks, and snap some shots of the road-worthy details.

The handlers parked 030 in the 917 paddock area, allowing for cross-reference of a nearby Gulf-liveried 1970 917K that happened to win that year's Daytona. If the legends are true, nothing else was added other than leather, exhaust, and reworked aero, so the fender mirrors, front wiper, lights, and brake lights are all original 917 componentry. Note the expired Texas plates; although it circumvented registration in-period, the car remains track-only in 2019.