Porsche 935/78 "Moby Dick"

The Porsche 935 was introduced in 1976 as the factory racing version of the Porsche 911 turbo prepared for FIA-Group 5 rules, which more or less stated that the racing cars were based on and should resemble production vehicles. The car was more than successful, it was the dominant force in endurance racing in those days.

Powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder boxer, the first generation of the 935 offered approximately 600 horsepower but over the years it evolved into a flame spitting monster with more than 800 horses. Not only the engine but also the aerodynamics were optimized, resulting in different versions of the 935, including one specially modified for a bizarre record attempt with a bike. But one of the most remarkable 935s was the one that Porsche created to enter the 1978 24 hours of Le Mans.

Thanks to a clever interpretation of the FIA rule-book Porsche’s racing engineer Norbert Singer designed a radical long tailed racing car. The rules for Group 5 racing allowed extensive modifications to production based vehicles, but clearly stated that the original body of the car must be retained, just as the roof and doors. Singer realized the rule-book said nothing about the fenders, which were free. So the fenders of the Porsche 911 which served as base were redesigned to accommodate wider tires and to feature ‘additional rear aerodynamic aids’. Simply said, the new Porsche was a 935 with a second skin attached to the original body. At first sight the FIA-inspectors were shocked: “This car couldn’t be legal!” But it was.

Porsche 935/78 Mody Dick

Because of its white color and long tail shape optimized for low drag the Porsche 935/78 was dubbed “Moby Dick” after the whale in the classic novel written by Herman Melville. Quite remarkable was the position of the driver, which was moved over to the right side for better weight distribution and sight in right-hand corners at Le Mans. The gearbox was mounted upside down to reduce the angle of the drive shafts. The 3.2-liter turbocharged six-cylinder boxer provided 750 horsepower, allowing the 1025 kg weighing car to reach a top speed of 365 km/h.

Driven by Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx, Moby Dick emerged victorious in its first race, the 6-hour race at Silverstone. The competition was crushed as the new Martini Porsche finished seven laps ahead of the number two, a customer 935 modified by Kremer.

At Le Mans the car was driven by Manfred Schurti and Rolf Stommelen. The long-tail Porsche was the fastest car on the 6 km long Mulsanne straight, it failed to live up its expectations. Despite a third place on the grid, a number of small issues with engine dropped Mody Dick to an eighth place overall, even behind three regular customer 935s.

Porsche 935/78 Mody Dick

While driving on the first place during the 6 Hours of Vallelunga, and with only seven minutes to go before the checkered flag fell, the car was sadly forced to retire due to engine issues. Its fourth race at the Norisring would also be its last, the brakes of Moby Dick failed after 14 laps.

All in all Moby Dick wasn’t very successful, but it had shown some great potential. The original 935/78 Moby Dick was retired to the museum in 1978. Meanwhile some Porsche 935 cars in private hands were modified into copies of Moby Dick. Made by Kremer and Joest, these descendants of the radical whale-like Porsche raced successfully through the early part of the 1980s, until a new chapter was added to Porsche’s racing history with the 956 and 962. But that is another story.

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