After almost two decades of competing at Le Mans without an overall victory, Porsche finally found ultimate success with the 917. Development started in 1968, introducing Porsche's first flat-12 engine that came in 4.5, 4.9 and 5.0l versions with power ratings ranging from 500 to 630hp. Early 917s proved difficult to drive; at high speeds the body created lift instead of downforce, making the car go light and unstable. Porsche went back to the wind tunnel, revising the bodywork to increase downforce. Porsche returned to racing with the 917K (Kurzheck, 'short tail') with increased downforce and thus greater aerodynamic stability. The revised design was highly successful, but the increased downforce also increased the aerodynamic drag. For the high speeds of Le Mans, Porsche wanted a lower drag design that would allow the car reach maximum speed along the Mulsanne straight. The result was the 917LH (Langheck, 'long tail') featured here by AutoArt in 1:18 scale.
This particular car was raced by the Martini Racing team in the 1970 Le Mans and featured a psychedelic swirling green and purple paint job earning the nickname "Hippie" by spectators and media. After starting in 12th position, it finished 2nd overall behind a factory 917K. While it didn't win overall, this car did win the Index of Thermal Efficiency, averaging 9.1mpg compared to the winning car that averaged just 7.4mpg, a testament to the slippery aerodynamics allowed by the long, graceful bodywork.
Design and Accuracy: 9/10
Comparing the model to photos of the actual car, AutoArt has done a fantastic job replicating the curves and proportions of the 917LH. The paint is flawless everywhere, and the livery matches the original very well, down to the correct replication of the sponsorship decals. To me, one of the most important aspects in whether a model looks like a real car is the model's stance. Many models just don't seem to sit on their wheels correctly. This models gets the stance just right, it's low, and long, and looks fast sitting still.
Fit and Finish: 9/10
The build quality is nearly flawless on this model. All the shut lines are nice and tight, everything fits together beautifully, the delicate metal prop rod for the engine cover has a smooth and precise movement, there are no real complaints. I took off 1 point because one of the headlight lenses was loose when I received it, bouncing around under the headlight cover. Luckily, with a delicate touch and some tweezers, I was able to snap it back in where it belongs.
Both doors open in a smooth butterfly fashion, the engine cover opens to show off the massive 4.9L flat-12. The front cover is removable to show the brake and clutch reservoirs and the backside of the pedal assembly. The front wheels turn, and if you spin the wheels, you will see that the brake disc spins while the caliper remains fixed, lovely attention to detail.
Searching ebay, it looks like the going price is about $120, which I feel is a good value for a model with this level of detail and quality. The last Porsche model I reviewed, the Porsche Design 906, cost me the same amount of money, was also beautifully rendered, but just couldn't meet the higher level of detail offered by AutoArt. The differences aren't massive, but everywhere you look on the model, under the engine cover, in the cabin, behind the wheels, you can see where AutoArt has gone the extra mile.
Searching ebay, I find 4 listings from US sellers, another 7 listings from international sellers, and it looks like you can still order it directly from AutoArt if you choose. This is not a hard model to find, though you aren't likely to see it sitting on a store shelf.
Final Score 37/50
It's a beautiful model of a beautiful (and important) race car. The model scored strongly in every category except rarity, which means that you can still get one for yourself. Should you get it? Do you love race cars? Le Mans? Porsches? Beautiful cars? If you answered yes to any of the above, then yes, you should definitely get one. I will end this review with a picture of the 917LH posing next to one of it's predecessors, the 906.