What's the best pig car: 'Red Pig' or 'Pink 'Pig'?

By topgear, 23 February 2019

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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.

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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’?

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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')

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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.

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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.

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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

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