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The Original 718

THE MOST RECENT Porsche Boxster and Cayman have been prefixed with “718” — a name from Porsche’s racing past.

Introduced in 2016 for the 2017 model year, the Boxster and Cayman were renamed the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman. This model of Boxster and Cayman switched engines from naturally aspirated flat-sixes to small-displacement flat-four turbocharged units.

The original 718 was built and developed from 1957 to 1962. Until the last year or two they had a mid-engine flat-four. Later versions had a flat-eight. The car was developed extensively over its career in various configurations, namely RS60, RS61 and WR-S. The latter’s first appearance in North America was at Mosport on Sept. 22, 1962.

The cars competed with larger and larger engines and better suspension designs. There were open-cockpit and closed-coupe sports racers. As well, there were open-wheel and covered-wheel Formula 2 racecars. Porsche even sold a kit to convert a left-steering racecar to a centre-steer version. The open-wheel Formula 2 racer was quite successful and led to Porsche entering Formula 1.

The sports racers were instrumental in Porsches being known as “giant killers” as these cars often finished ahead of larger-displacement vehicles. Porsche won the 1960 Targa Florio race against stiff opposition.

There is a Canadian connection as well, as Ludwig Heimrath was quite successful racing his RS60. The list of other drivers who raced the 718 is like a who’s who of the late ‘50s — Dan Gurney, Roger Penske, Hans Hermann, Phil Hill, Jo Bonnier, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss all raced different versions of the 718.

So, the next time you slide behind the wheel of your 718 to go for a spirited drive, recall the racing heritage of the name of your car. </>

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