In 1976, Porsche won the World Sportscar Championship for makes with successful runs in both the 935 and prototype 936 chassis. The 936 was triumphant at Le Mans in the already famous Martini livery, while a series of 935/76s carried the colors in Group 5 FIA sports car racing. It was there that Porsche introduced the ‘slant nose’ aerodynamic bodywork that became the hot mod on 911s in the 1980s; however, in the 1970s you could get a very nice slantnose Porsche – replete with Martini Racing colors – for a lot less than a 911 Turbo.
To commemorate the success of the 1976 season, in 1977 Porsche released a limited run of Martini-colored 924s. Option M426 was the Martini World Championship Edition, and it cost $450. Add in a removable roof like this one for about $350, and the sticker price of this car just passed $10,000. For that sum, Porsche gave you quite a lot of visual enhancement; bathed only in pure white, the 924’s 8-spoke alloy wheels were color-matched to the body. Martini stripes ran the length of the sides, their design mimicking the wedge shape of the 924. Inside, a special two-tone interior of scarlet corduroy and black leatherette was offset with Martini stripes stitched into the upper portion of the seats and blue piping ran throughtout. A commemorative plaque was added to the back of the center console, too, reminding you that the car you were driving was from the house of a champion. You held a real leather steering wheel, and helping execute your commands was achieved by Porsche adding sway bars to the suspension both front and rear. It was a series of small changes that resulted in a neat package, and one that is sought by collectors of the transaxle design today:
Last month I wrote an article for The Truth About Cars where I covered the special models of the Porsche 924. Recounting the various special editions drew into sharp focus the general lack of any performance gains with those models. Sure, some had sway bars and fog lights – two of the best known performance upgrades in the 1980s. But generally speaking, most of the Porsche 924 limited models were just a special color stripes and/or special interior. The 1976 and 1977 World Championship Edition 924 is probably the best example of that, but before it’s completely dismissed as a mega-poser, it’s worth a look if for no other reason than it’s quite the looker:
Martini’s sponsorship is fairly well known in racing circles and the connection to Porsche has been solidified for decades. Naturally, Martini cosmetic packages have been around nearly as long. While mostly used by racers who desired a more bonafide appearance for their track cars, the graphics packages available from Porsche found their way to street cars as well. We’ve seen them on the 911SC and the 924. In some cases, if you had a chance to step inside one of those machines you might come across something truly special: a Martini package that included an interior treatment. These are wild and certainly not for the faint of heart. The most sought after of all were the packages applied to the 930. How many were there? The numbers don’t seem certain as I’ve seen suggestions ranging from three total all the way up to eight! As you can tell, regardless of the numbers there were very few of these genuine 930 Martini packages produced. The car we see here, a 1978 Porsche 930, purports to be one of those few. Whether it is can be hard to know for sure and we aren’t offered a lot here to validate those claims other than the reputation of a dealer that tends to traffic in some very high caliber vehicles. If it is the real deal, then this 930 not only should make for a wonderful edition to any Porsche collection, but it will also be quite valuable.
On my last visit home to Philadelphia, I happened to stop by and peruse the lot at Porsche of Bucks County in Warrington, Pennsylvania. For those familiar with the area, you may remember this dealer as Holbert’s Porsche-Audi-VW. Bob Holbert, a native of Warrington and Porsche race car driver in the 1950s and 1960s, founded this dealership in 1954. This would be one of the first Porsche dealers in the United States. Much like importer Max Hoffman, Holbert had a large role in shaping Porsche’s direction and success in the US market. His son Al also raced Porsches, winning Sebring in 1976 and 1981. He also ran the dealership for a time and was President of Porsche Motorsports North America. Sadly, Al met his fate in a plane crash in 1988, with his brother Larry taking over management of the dealership until being bought out in 2010 by a larger conglomerate of dealers.
In addition to a few of Holbert’s racing cars hanging around the showroom, the family also had a hand in a bit of tuning. Born out of a need to fit wider tires on race dedicated vehicles, a fiberglass kit was devised to provide the 924 Turbo a bit more wiggle room for larger rubber and in the process, giving it a bit more of an aggressive stance. Brian, a long-time contributor of ours, came across this 1981 Porsche 924 Turbo for sale in the Philadelphia area wears that very kit devised by Holbert. While not concours quality, this is a driver that wears a very nice patina and has a bit of that Martini Racing livery we all know and love.
In my opinion, there is no better livery ever than the various iterations of Martini Racing colors. It was hugely exciting when the colors were reintroduced on the 2014 Williams F1 cars; one of the most storied and celebrated color combinations, the Martini colors have graced everything from Formula 1 to Rally Cars and everything in between. Yet wherever they turn up, they always seem to fit just right. Even the Martini edition 924, which was really nothing more than an appearance package, somehow looks so much better than the standard 924 because of the white background with red stripes. My favorite rendering of the Martini colors is probably the Elford/Larrousse 917LH from 1971 Le Mans. With a silver background and the Martini colors cascading elegantly over the sinuous curves of the long tail 917. However, number 21 wasn’t the winner of the 1971 Le Mans; instead, it was the sister 917K driven by Helmet Marko of recent Red Bull fame and Gijs van Lennep (the name rolls of the tongue) in the magnesium framed short tail that won. That car was Martini sponsored too, but a white background with the red and blue stripes falling over the fenders – mimicked by today’s 911 Carrera:
What do you get when you combine the winningest marque in motorsports, the world’s toughest rallye, and a legendary rallye driver? You get this stunning tribute to Björn Waldegård’s 1978 entry in to the East African Safari Rally. While the combination of Waldegård and porsche never produced a victory in the 1978 Safari Rallye, the combo teamed up 34 years later for a victory in the 2011 Safari Rallye Classic.
This impecably done tribute for sale in Costa Mesa, California is an instant throwback, and embodies everything that made the late’70s motorsports awesome.
1988 Porsche 911 3.2 Martini Tribute on eBay
1988 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 RS Martini
East Africa Safari Rallye Björn Waldegård Tribute
VIN # WP0AB0910JS121255 146,200 chassis miles (7,500 miles since build)
Grand Prix White with Martini Graphics and Black Leather Interior 5-Speed G50 Manual Transmission
Clean and Clear Title
Original California 2-Owner Car
No Accidents/Original Paint
Vehicle Located in Atlanta, GA
In the late ‘70s, the Porsche motorsport department set itself challenges away from asphalted surfaces. The East African Safari Rally entered into Porsche racing history as an extraordinary trial for driver and technicians. In fact, the African Safari is considered by many to be the world’s toughest rally. In 1978, Porsche sent two modified 911 SC 3.0 sponsored by Martini to the starting line.
Porsche dominated the field, until a technical defect threw Waldegård, who had a lead of 46 minutes, back into fourth place. The team of Preston and Layl ended the rally in second place overall. Waldegård was one of the premier rally drivers starting and went on to win the championship the following year as a driver for Lancia. Porsche eventually settled its account with the African continent in the Paris-Dakar Rally: the Porsche 911 Carrera 4×4 won there in 1984, followed two years later by the legendary Porsche 959.