Porsche 959, 1988
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Updated: 31-January-2023 12:06

Porsche 959, 1988

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Porsche 959, year 1988. Colour red with a grey leather interior. This fabulous Porsche 959 is in top condition and the car shows all original details.


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In the year 1982 Porsche started developing the 959 Rally Project to compete in the FIA group B rally class. This was done under supervision of Porsche chief engineer Helmut Bott. For many years Porsche was very successful in many racing classes and now the company aimed for gold in the rally competition. The Porsche 959 group B prototype was presented on the 1983 Frankfurter IAA and the road version in 1985. Top obtain a FIA homologation for the 959 rally car Porsche had to build 200 959 road cars. Based on the shown prototype and the impressive specifications all 959 road cars were sold before production even started. Because of the enormous technical complexity of this super sports car, which should also be reliable in normal and slow daily traffic, the further development took an additional one and a half year to be completed. The first 959 road cars were delivered early 1987.

As the 959 road car was developed the 959 group B rally car brought in the first victory. The 959 won the demanding 1985 Pharao Rally in Egypt. In the year 1986 Porsche won the legendary Paris-Dakar rally, the 959's finished first and second! Also in 1986 the 959 won the French ‘Rally des 1000 pistes’. This would be the last group B outing, the FIA cancelled the group B rally competition because of deadly accidents. Porsche decided to modify the 959 for the GTX racing class. Now the car was named 961. The 961 was an instant success, the reliable racer won the 24 hours of Le Mans in the year 1986!
Late 1986 the first journalists and independent test drivers were invited to drive first Porsche 959 road cars. The specifications and the true performance of the car were so impressive and mind-blowing that the 959 became the first sports car to receive the title SUPER sports car. The Porsche 959 boasted a top speed of 315 km/h. and the car accelerated from 0-100 in just about 3,7 seconds! To achieve this the high tech Bi Turbo six cylinder boxer engine mobilized  450 DIN brake horsepower and a gigantesque torque of 500 Nm! Journalists and test drivers were deeply impressed by the ease the 959 unfolded its tremendous potential, this street race car was easy to control, safe and easy to drive fast, VERY fast and yet relaxed. This was something so special no one had experienced before.

The Porsche engineers created a hallmark, they explored, crossed and redefined borders of what was believed to be technically possible. In this view the Porsche 959 can be seen as the Bugatti Veyron of the twentieth century. The 959 was fastest production car ever and the high tech automobile introduced many staggering innovations. The 959 was the first car ever to be fitted with a six speed gearbox, two sequential Turbo chargers,  electronically controlled four wheel drive, speed dependable height adjustment of the suspension and a tire pressure monitoring system working through the hollow Magnesium alloy wheels. In the year 1987 the 959 cars were sold for 420.000 DM, rumors whisper that this sales price was about half the actual development and production costs.

The Porsche 959 engine was a further development of the engine which powered the famous Porsche 935 GT racing car. The 935 totally dominated the GT racing class in the late s1970'ies. In racing set up its Twin Turbo engine delivered a staggering 800 bhp! The further developed racing engine was fitted to the 959 group B rally car and to the 961 GTX race car. For the 959 road car the engine was de-tuned to a still very impressive 450 bhp. Many engineering hours were spend to achieve the perfect cooling capacity. The result was a very powerful, very cultivated, robust and reliable racing engine for road use. The boxer engine featured double overhead camshafts, four Natrium filled and cooled valves per cylinder, air cooled cylinders, water cooled cylinder head, dry sump lubrication, two water cooled KKK turbo chargers, electronic Bosch Motronic ignition (motor management) and DME petrol injection.  

The Porsche 959 was a piece of art in its own way. The base structure was very light and composite build using aluminium internally and ultra light Kevlar composite for the rooftop and wings. The flat floor was made of light and very strong Nomex fiber composite. The doors and the boot lid were made of aluminium and the front bumper was made of Polyurethane.

The Porsche 959 was available in two specifications, a light sport version (1350 kg empty) without luxury, and a 100 kg. heavier comfort version with full upholstered interior and power windows. In total only 292 Porsche 959 road cars were build. 113 in 1987 and 179 in 1988 of which only 29 were delivered in sport specification. Two 959 road cars were totally destroyed in accidents in which no one was injured. 290 cars survive today.  

In the year 1992 a limited edition of 8 additional Porsche 9595 cars was presented. These cars featured improved ride height adjustment and improved shock dampers. The car sold in ‘no time’ for 747.500 DM each. The scarce Porsche 959 super sports car is a technical hallmark and one of the biggest icons in the automobile history.

Technical data*

six cylinder boxer engine (DOHC)
air-cooled cylinders, water cooled cylinder head,
four valves per cylinder (32V), Bosch DME petrol injection,
sequential Bi-Turbo with intercooling
cylinder capacity: 2849 cc.
capacity: 450 bhp at 6500 rpm.
torque: 500 Nm. at 5000 rpm.
top-speed: 315 km/h.
acceleration 0-100 km/h: 4 sec.
gearbox: 6-speed, manual
transmission: electronically controlled four wheel drive
with Visco clutch
brakes: vented disc brakes all round+ ABS
suspension: hydraulic height adjustable, speed depending and manual, two shock dampers per wheel
weight: 1450 / 1590 kg.

*Source: Porsche Typenkunde

Porsche history 1931-1990

On 25 april 1931 Professor Ferdinand Porsche founded his automotive engineering company. The company was named:
"Porsche Konstruktionsburo für Motorenfahrzeug und Wasserfahrzeugbau". Porsche engineering designed merely for automotive manufacturers. Porsche engineering designed and constructed small cars for Zündapp, NSU and Wanderer. Porsche also engineered a fair share of the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix racing cars and some components were even built by Porsche engineering.
The most important prewar successes of Porsche engineering were the development and production of the Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars and the design and production of the "Kraft-Durch-Freude-Wagen" later to be known (and become world famous) as Volkswagen Beetle.

Ferdinand Porsches big dream was to build sportscars carrying his own name... In the year 1936 he started project 60K10, a racingcar prototype to participate in the Berlin-Rome road race. The 60K10 was mechanically based on "KDF-Wagen" components of which the chassis, engine and other components were used. In 1939 project 60K10 was finished; a beautiful aluminium bodied aerodynamic racingcar was the result. Regretfully the second world war became reality and all projects at Porsche were stopped and the Berlin-Rome road race was cancelled. Porsche moved his company and the production line to an old sawmill in Gmünd, Austria.
After the second world war not much was left of the German industry, everything needed to be rebuilt. The old Porsche company building in Stuttgart Germany was taken by the allies, the personnel had to manufacture gardening equipment and repair farming machinery.
In the old sawmill in Gmünd Ferdinand Porsches son Ferry Porsche and Prof. Eberan van Eberhorst started working on project 356 in the year 1947. On that moment in time Ferdinand Porsche was still imprisoned in France being suspected of war crimes. Ferdinand Porsche was found not guilty and was set free in August 1947. He joined project 356 and the first prototype was finished in march 1948; Porsche 356-001 was born.
The Porsche 356-001 was built using a chassis with tubular framework covered with aluminium body panels. Mechanically the car was based on Volkswagen components. The Porsche 356-001 was equipped with a center mounted engine located just in front of the rear axle.

The Porsche 356-001 prototype was evaluated and some changes were made for the production model. The most evident change was the relocation of the engine which would move behind the rear axle to provide additional interior space.
The production Porsche 356 shape was designed by Erwin Komenda. Until 1948 approximately 50 Porsche 356 cars were built with aluminium bodies in the old Gmünd sawmill, these cars are currently known by the name "Gmünd models".
Porsche never planned large scale production of the 356 but the production facility in Gmünd soon became insufficient.
In the year 1948 Porsche moved back to Stuttgart Germany. They rented a facility next-door the old Porsche building and they rented additional space at bodywork factory Reutter.
The Reutter firm was asked to built the Porsche 356 coupe body's and manufacturer Gläser became responsible for the production of the 356 convertible body's. All 356 bodywork variant were now built of steel.
Spring 1949 the Porsche 356 appeared at it's first car show; the Geneva car show.
The Porsche 356 was going to have a long production life in which it was improved continuously. Between 1948 and 1963 the following 356 models were presented;

Gmünd models 1948 - 1951, the pre-A models 1950 - 1955, the 356 A 1955 - 1959, the 356 B 1959 - 1963,
the 356 C 1963 - 1965.
In the same time period some special models were introduced; between 1955 and 1965 the 356 Carrera model was built. The Carrera engine was fitted with four overhead camshafts. Between 1954 and 1964 special convertible models were produced like the America Roadster, the Speedster and the Convertible D.

September 1963 saw the introduction of the Porsche 356 successor on the Frankfurter car show; the Porsche 901 (later to be known as Porsche 911).
In the month October of the year 1964 the Porsche 901 was renamed (re numbered) 911. Porsche was forced to do so because automobile manufacturer Peugeot owned the legal rights on three digit car numbers with the "0" in the middle.
As often happens with the introduction of a new model the existing Porsche customers were not very charmed by the new model. They claimed the 901/911 was too large, too powerful and to luxurious to be a real Porsche.

The market proved the opposite for Porsche. The Porsche 911 sold and sells very well and would prove to be timeless by design. The basic 911 concept and dimensions evaluated over the years and the car became fully thoroughbred.
The first extensive redesign (without change of concept and basic shape) would be materialized in the Porsche 911/993 which was presented in the year 1993...
The Porsche 911 was designed with a steel unitary bodywork construction in which the engine was located behind the rear axle. The 911 engine is a air-cooled six cylinder "boxer" engine. The suspension of the Porsche 911 was independent from the start as was a five speed gearbox with floor shift.
The air-cooled Porsche 911 six cylinder boxer engine would evaluate enormous through the 35 years of production; it grew from 2 liter capacity up to 3.6 liter... The six cylinder boxer engine is still built but was converted to liquid cooling to keep up with sound- and emission control standards. The liquid cooled six cylinder boxer engine was presented in the 911/996 model which was introduced in the year 1998.
911 models from 1963 up to today:

The 2-liter 911 1963 - 1969, the 2.2-liter 911 1970 - 1971, the 2.4-liter 911 1972 - 1973, the 2.7-liter 911 1974 - 1977, the 911 Turbo 1975 - 1993, the 911 SC 1978 - 1983, the 911 Carrera 3.2 1984 - 1989, the 911/964 Carrera 4 and 2 1989 - 1993, the 911/993 Carrera 1993 - 1998, the 911/996 Carrera (liquid cooled) 1997 - present day.

In the many years of Porsche 356 and 911 production Porsche also designed many successful racing cars such as the 1958 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder. (Click here tot take a look at, amongst others, 6 championship winning Porsche GT sports cars).

Porsche also designed and built sportscars for street use fitted with centrally mounted engines and front mounted engines.
In the year 1969 the result of a project in cooperation with Volkswagen was the VW-Porsche 914. This car was fitted with a centrally mounted VW four cylinder engine. Also a limited series was built with the two liter Porsche flat six engine; this car was named Porsche 914-6. The VW-Porsche 914 was a huge success, over 100.000 were sold.

In the year 1975 Porsche introduced the Porsche 924 which was developed in cooperation with Volkswagen again. The 924 was designed by the Dutchman Harm Lagaay who is responsible for the looks of every Porsche model ever since. The Porsche 924 was a good looking car and it was fitted with a two liter Audi four cylinder engine. Again the cooperation with Volkswagen proved to be successful; over 110.000 Porsche 924 cars were sold until 1985.
In the year 1977 a revolution takes place at Porsche as they introduce the very futuristic Porsche 928. The 928 was fitted with a new Porsche engine design, a 4.5 liter V8 engine which was front mounted powering the rear wheels of the car.
The Porsche 928 was a real GT sportscar for long distance drives, with it's perfect suspension and powerful engine it was able to perform extraordinary with great driving comfort.
The Porsche 928 was going to win the "Car of the year" award in 1978 which was a surprise because it was a very expensive top-of-the-line sportscar...
Porsche was able to attract a new customer group with the 928. After 18.000 cars being produced Porsche ceased production of the 928 in the year 1982.

The early eighties of the twentieth century were highlights of Porsche production. Porsche produced the 911, 928 and 924 and at the same time impressive successes were achieved in the Group C racing competition. In 1983 Porsche was able to win the famous 24 hour race at Le Mans...
In this time period the management team at Porsche was in crisis; they were focused on short term financial results and innovation and technical development was neglected.
The arrival of Peter Schutz as head of the Porsche management in 1982 meant a revival. Technical innovation and long term thinking were adopted as key strategy items at Porsche.
To show the technical and innovative capabilities at Porsche to the entire world the ultimate Super-Sportscar was created; the Porsche 959. The car had to be better than every sportscar ever built...Porsche succeeded. The Porsche 959 embodied all technical know how in use of materials, electronics and mechanics. This four wheel drive sportscar was modified for off road racing an was also able to win the desert race Paris-Dakar...easy...
The Porsche models 924 and 928 were taken out of production and because of the large efforts being invested in project 959 the further development of the Porsche 911 was running behind. With the introduction of the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 in 1984 Porsche was back on track with top sales in 1985.
Two years later sales dropped again due to the customer perception that the Porsche 911 was out of date...
The year 1989 saw the introduction of the more slick and modern styled Porsche 911/964 but the Porsche management team was struggling internally. Sales of the 911/964 were not that bad but the presentation of the 80% new developed Porsche 911/993, which saw the light of day in the year 1993, was going to boost sales again.
The Porsche 911/993 was designed by the Englishman Tony Hatter under supervision of Porsche chief designer Harm Lagaay. The car was given a strong and powerful body shape, a new developed suspension, more comfort and like all Porsche sportscars outstanding performance. The Porsche 911/993 was responsible, together with the newly developed Porsche Boxster (first Porsche with liquid cooled flat six engine), for the great health of Porsche motor company as one of the few independent automobile manufacturers.
That Porsche is looking at the future with a positive attitude was made clear with the introduction of the entirely new developed Porsche 911/996 which was presented in the year 1997. Like the Porsche Boxster the 911/996 was fitted with a liquid cooled flat six engine.
The year 2002 saw the introduction of the Porsche Cayenne (SUV Sports Utility Vehicle). An on- and off road Range Rover competitor with Porsche sportscar performance. The Porsche Cayenne is developed in cooperation with Volkswagen which is good for success looking back in the Porsche history (VW Porsche 914 and Porsche 924). The year 2004 saw the introduction of the successor of the Porsche 911/996; the Porsche 911/ 997. With the 911/ 997 Porsche achieved to improve the excellent 911/996 even further and gave the car more personality like the good old 911/993.
With the sportscar evergreen 911, the adorable Boxster roadster, and the powerful multi purpose Cayenne, Porsche has a variety of models which ensure the continuing history of Porsche as independent exclusive automobile manufacturer.

© Marc Vorgers 

Marc Vorgers
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Marc Vorgers