Along with the comprehensive selection of sports racing Porsches in the Collier Collection at the Revs Institute, you will find some cars which are powered by Porsche, bodied by Italian coach builders rather than Porsche itself, or featuring chassis which were provided by other makers but powered by Porsche. The 1958 Porsche-Behra was created when French driver Jean Behra, then racing sports cars for Porsche and Formula 1 cars for BRM, decided that he could produce a more focused car for Formula 2 than single-seat version of the RSK he'd been driving for Porsche. The Behra car, designed with the aid of ex-Maserati engineer Valerio Colotti, had a narrower front and rear track than Porsche's new open-wheel F2 car, and a sleeker alloy body, all in the interests of better aerodynamics. Despite the substitution of the old rear swing axles for Porsche's newer all-independent design, the new car proved competitive. It was fast enough in the hands of Hans Herrman (shown driving below), in fact, to beat the factory Porsches and Ferrari Dinos at Reims, the best-supported event of the '59 F2 season, where it finished ahead of everything except the Cooper-Borgward of Stirling Moss.*
Also during 1959, Porsche began to search for ways to extend the racing life of its aging steel-bodied 356 Carrera in production sports car racing while engineers were busy with its F1 and F2 efforts. This led them to approach Carlo Abarth, the Austrian-born specialist builder who had worked on the Porsche-designed Cisitalia Porsche 360 GP car in 1947, to build a lightweight car on the 356 Carrera platform. Abarth in turn commissioned Franco Scaglione of Bertone and Alfa fame to design the alloy body shell. The first body was built by Viarengo and Filipponi, as Zagato was busy building bodies for Carlo's Fiat Abarths and for arch rival Alfa Romeo. The new Abarth Carrera GTL looked so much sleeker than the old 356, it's hard to believe both cars are on the same stubby 82 inch wheelbase. It's narrower and lower than a 356 coupe; the Revs crew have parked it between a 356 coupe and Speedster and this serves as a reminder of why these cars were called "bathtub Porsches."
The first car produced is pictured, and even though Porsche needed to add cooling slots to avoid overheating and the cabin proved leaky during the rainy Le Mans of 1960, this car won its class. Twenty cars were commissioned, and some experts have suggested that improved workmanship on later cars resulted from moving body production to Rocco Motto.
Our last example carries both Porsche and Elva labels on its nose, but the chassis and body are entirely the work of specialist Frank Nichols in England, who had long experience building lightweight chassis when approached in 1963 by Porsche distributer Oliver Schmidt and dealer Carl Haas to provide a version of his Mark VII for an effort in the then-new U.S. Road Racing Championship. Porsche agreed to supply copies of their four-cam engine in 1.7 liter, 183 hp form, and Nichols redesigned the tubular space frame layout to fit the wide engine. The final product weighed an amazing 975 pounds.
The name "Elva", by the way, is a riff on the French for "she goes", and she did indeed. The Porsche-powered Mark VII won its first race at the 1963 Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin against stiff competition. Planned production of fifteen cars sold out, but the car acquired a reputation for unpredictable handling owing to the rearward weight bias. As a result, the Mark VIII Elva featured a longer wheelbase. Most of those cars, however, also featured BMW engines.
*Footnote: For notes on the Cooper-Borgward, see our posting from March 3, 2017 entitled "Forgotten Classic: When Borgward Went Racing." There are excellent photos of the Behra Porsche on the Revs Institute website, but we preferred a rare shot of the car in action.
Top: uncredited photographer, at 8w.forix.com
2nd: Ian Avery-DeWitt
3rd: the author
4th: Ian Avery-DeWitt
5th: Paul Anderson
6th: Ian Avery-DeWitt