It's that time of year again where Porsche fanatics from all over the world gather in Southern California to celebrate Dr. Porsche's magnificent machines. Luftgekuhlt is mostly a big party for 911 and 356 lovers, but all kinds of race cars show up, too.
My favorite Porsche racing car is one that often gets forgotten when people start tossing around numbers like 917 and 935. It's the 962 race cars of the 1980s and 1990s. These long, wide and low machines remained dominant in sports car racing much longer than just about anything else, and Porsche would have a lot fewer Le Mans wins without it.
The 962 had kind of a weird childhood. It was designed at the last minute as a response to a rule change by the American racing organization IMSA. Explicitly, this change stated that a driver's feet had to be located behind the car's front axles and that made Porsche's current world-beating sports prototype, the 956, ineligible.
The 956 was introduced in 1982 as a replacement for Porsche's 936 open-top race car. It was a savagely fast automobile, setting a lap record for the Nurburgring Nordschleife that stood from 1984 until 2018. It was also the first car to use Porsche's PDK gearbox. The overall package of the 956 was incredibly successful, winning Le Mans outright four years in a row.
That shows why Porsche, when updating the chassis to the 962 didn't change an awful lot and why the two cars are pretty tough to tell apart when sitting next to one another. The Porsche 962 ran in several engine configurations during its long career, but it was always powered by a turbocharged flat-six engine and produced upward of 700 horsepower in some trims.
The 962 models that ran in IMSA have a special place in my heart, as they are purely air-cooled and feature a massive scoop on the rear deck. Other versions, including the Le Mans-winning 962C, either featured water-cooled cylinder heads or were water-cooled entirely.
So, if you're unable to make it to Universal Studios' backlot for Luftgekuhlt 6 today, kick back and enjoy some videos of one of the most dominant racecars the world has ever seen.