If you’re not down with the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, you may not be aware that it’s now the Year of the Pig.
We’re not telling porkies, either. It is actually the Year of the Pig. In fact, more than a billion people around the world have started celebrating the pink even-toed ungulate. Which, in Chinese tradition, is a symbol of optimism, enthusiasm and hard work. But bigging up the pig has started a furious debate in TG Towers: what’s the best pig car? The 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 ‘Red Pig’, or the Porsche 917/20 ‘Pink Pig’?
Back in the late 60s, the Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 was the world’s fastest four-door. But having the same aerodynamic profile and weight as a well-fed elephant, it wasn’t a sports car by any stretch of the imagination. Naturally, that didn’t stop AMG founders (Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher) from turning it into a track hound.
(Click HERE for an excerpt of our drive of the 'Red Pig')
They expanded the V8 to 6.8 litres and tuned it for 428bhp. Weight-saving: oh they did a bit of that. Weirdly, they gave it aluminium doors but kept the plush leather sofa of a back seat, full luxo door trims, thick carpet, and a wooden plank of a dash. Anyway, they took this unlikely warrior to the Spa 24-hour race in 1971. Everyone laughed.
They called it the ‘Red Pig’ (Rote Sau in German – following the nautical convention that vessels should be female) and got second overall in a field of proper sportscars. If it didn’t have such a furious appetite for fuel and tyres, some brainy people have worked out that the Red Pig would have won. Bet they’re regretting not binning that sofa of a back seat now.
Porsche’s pig comes in the iconic shape of the Porsche 917/20. The ‘Pink Pig’ was Porsche’s 1971 Le Mans contender and a unique 917. It’s a one-off amalgamation of the short and long tail 917 to try and make the ultimate aerodynamic, balanced 917. Its body was extremely wide and it had extremely rounded wheel cut-outs. The track width remained unchanged, and the wheels were hidden deep in the wheel housings. Finally, the nose was equally low and flat like that of the new long-tail coupé, but shorter.
But that’s not how it got its iconic name. That came courtesy of its livery. In a genuine instance of ROFLcopter German humour, Porsche designer Anatole Lapine decided to paint the whole thing pink then label each of the 917’s ‘body parts’ according to the butcher-style cuts.
Unsurprisingly, when Porsche rocked up at Circuit de la Sarthe it caused a sensation… and not just because it was painted like Babe. It was the fastest car during the pre-race qualification session, even though it was totally untested. Unfortunately, during the main race, the 917/20 dropped out shortly before the end (while running in fifth position) due to an accident.
So, here’s the million yen question: what’s the greatest pig car of them all?
STORY Rowan Horncastle