The 1979 LeMans winner
Beginning in 1963, Porsche built and sold the rear-mounted air-cooled flat-six powered 911 model until 1998 and many were raced. In 1976, the racing governing body the FIA opened up the rules for Group 5 sports car, In response Porsche introduced the ultimate 911 race car, the 935, a development of the 1974 Carrera RSR turbo. The FIA rules required only the race car’s roof, door and hood remain stock, so the 935 with its tube-frame was a silhouette of a 911 passenger car.
In addition to 935s built by Porsche, independent builders such as Joest Racing and Kremer Brothers Racing built their own developed versions of the 935. Kremer, based in Cologne Germany run by brothers Erwin and Manfred developed their own series of 935 “K” variants with the K3 introduced for the 1979 racing season.
This 935 K3, chassis serial number 009 00015, was entered for the 1979 24 hours of LeMans as race number #41 by the Kremer Brothers with their lead driver German Klaus Ludwig. Little known at the time was the fact the $200,000 racer was owned by a pair of American brothers, Reginald “Don” and William “Bill” Whittington who would co-drive in the race.
The 935 K3 featured a wider track and advanced aerodynamics with power supplied by a twin-turbocharged intercooled Porsche 3.0 liter (183 cubic inch) air-cooled flat-six engine. The engine could develop up to 800 horsepower in qualifying trim and pushed the 935 K3 to a trap speed of 217 miles per hour (MPH) on the 3-1/2 mile long LeMans Mulsanne straightaway.
In qualifying for the LeMans 24 hour grind, the Kremer #41 935 K3 qualified third fastest overall and was the the fastest of the Group 5 entries. During the race, #41 ran near the front of the field until the leading sports prototypes, Porsche 936s, ran into trouble.
The #41 "Numero Reserve" car inherited the race lead with the 936's misfortune, but then it too suffered mechanical troubles with three hours to go in the race, but hung on to win by eight laps over another Porsche 935 driven by Rolf Stommelen, Dick Barbour and actor/race driver Paul Newman.
In the years after their 1979 LeMans victory, the Whittington brothers went on to race in Indianapolis 500-mile race five times until they were convicted in 1986 of charges of money laundering, income tax evasion and conspiracy to smuggle cocaine and each served eighteen months in federal prison.
The 1979 LeMans winning car meanwhile was first displayed inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum around 1982. In 2009, Don Whittington sued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation regarding the ownership of chassis #009 00015.
Whittington claimed that the car was on loan and wanted to reclaim possession, while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation maintained it was a donation. In April 2010, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with the museum and ruled that the car was a donation.
After 2011 the car was sold to car collector Bruce Meyer who commissioned the nuts and bolts restoration by Canepa Racing of Scotts Valley California. This immaculate car was featured in “The Porsche Effect” exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Photos by the author
Photos by the author