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History of the 935/78 "Moby Dick"

The story of the "Moby Dick" begins in the mid '70s when Porsche first created the 935. The 935 was a silhouette car based on the 911 production vehicle but modified for racing to the prevailing Group 5 regulations. The 2.1 litre engined car dominated the 1976 and 1977 world championship for makes in the hands of the works team and customer teams such as Kremer and Joest.

In the latter part of 1977 Norbert Singer - the creator of the cars, was present at an FIA meeting. BMW were asking the FIA if they could be permitted to cut the side panels of their front-engined car to allow the exhaust through. After some discussion, it was agreed that an amendment could be made to allow this. Singer realised at that moment that this amendment had created a potential "loophole" that could be exploited for their 1978 car. They were already planning a lighter aluminium-framed "Baby" with a more powerful 3.2 four valve six cylinder engine. If it was now permissable to cut the panels to allow the exhuast through, the car could be made lower by 8 or 10 cm. This would create a car perfect for the high speed straights at Le Mans.

When the car was finally built, it was a radical departue from the other 935s. The car was indeed lower which made it look somewhat wider. All new body work was developed to take advantage of the car's lower profile, for improved aerodynamics, and the tail had been extended much farther beyond the rear wheels. Other new features included were larger brakes and an "upside down" transmission. The upside down transmission was used to reduce the severe angle of the rear drive axles created by lowering the car as much as they had with the larger diameter 19 inch wheels and tyres.

In it's now classic Martini racing colours, the car was stunning. On first sight, Porsche bosses were concerned at the look of the car. Singer remembers, "There was a little bit of concern for them because they see that we spend a lot of money and then if we come to the races and they say it's illegal. Of course, this is quite a big fear that they had. But I was quite sure this was legal because I was at the meeting and I knew what they mean and I knew what they wrote. So their meaning
might have been for making a hole for exhaust pipe for front engined cars like the BMW but what they (the FIA) put on paper was quite a lot of other things which we did."

The FIA were also suprised. "This was the amazing thing, he (Paul Frere) came to Weissach with President Schild from the FIA commission to make a pre-examination of the car. And I explained to him what it was, I explained to him what was the letter of the meeting. And at the end he said, yes okay, you are right. But what concerns him much more was the double door, this normal production door with add on piece which makes the door much wider. So we showed him you can take off the outer skin and then you had the original door. And then I got the passport which was signed by Paul Frere with the FIA stamp on it and they left. "Then the FIA working crew came together and they found, this is not legal. But Frere and Schild had said it was legal. And then we got a telex from the head of the American group and they said, it's not legal what you are doing. So that's why in Silverstone the
door was cut in the first half so you could see from the outside the original door. And the front part of the door, which this was the most important aerodynamic part. The rear part was not so important.

So that's why they raced in Silverstone and Le Mans with the front extension which covers the front part of the door. Then after that, the formal president of the FIA Commission, Pierre Ugeux, we received a telex from him. And he said, when the commission was presented by Paul Frere and he decided it was legal and we got the permission to run like this, then the working crew cannot turn it around. So afterwards, we got permission to have the original doors legal".

The car was first raced at Silverstone in the 6 hours World Manufacturer's Championships in May 1978. It was driven to victory by Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx. The car stunned the crowd and fellow competitors alike, taking pole with a time less than 2 seconds slower than required to make the grid for the previous summer's British Grand Prix at the same track. The car would, in fact, have outqualified some of the F1 back markers.

Porsche then took "Moby Dick" to Le Mans along with their Group 6 prototype, the 936. The calculations had been correct and "Moby" was the fastest car on the circuit, recording a top speed of 365 kph on the Mulsanne Straight. But as we all know, Le Mans is not just about speed. The Stommelen/Schurti driven 935/78 was classified only 8th overall in the race which was won by the Group 6 works Renault. Singer offers this simple explaination , "The problem was, the bigger engine
had a fuel consumption problem and we were refuelling, I think, every 35 minutes. I think we had, I don't know how many, 39 or 38 pit stops. Far too many. Also the Group 6 prototypes were carrying more fuel."

The few other races that the official works 935-78 competed in were also dissapointing. The car
would break down whilst leading. A 935-79 was planned, improving on the basic principles of the "Moby Dick" but incorporating ground effects which had come to the fore in F1 in 1978. A 5th scale wind tunnel model was built but the project was canned when Martini withdrew it's sponsorship at the end of the '78 season. Singer still believes that the car could have won Le Mans the following year.

Moby Dick was retired to the Porsche museum at the end of 1978. But this was not quite the
end of the classic Moby Dick shape. .....

The famous Kremer and Joest teams both requested customer 935-78's but were turned down by Porsche. The Joest team then negotiated to build their own cars under license from Porsche but with air cooled engines. Being typically defensive about their design and reputation, Porsche sent both the plans and engineers necessary to construct the new cars.

These cars were raced successfully through the early part of the 1980s in rounds of the WMC, IMSA, Deutcsher Rennsport Meisterschaft and even Le Mans.

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