The Everlasting Car Through Decades – 1986-1988 Porsche 959

In all, 337 units were built, including prototypes, making the 959 one of the rarest road-going production cars Porsche has ever built. However, it took years for any of these cars to reach the United States, ever a key region for the Zufenhausen manufacturer. It is said that from the outset, Schutz and Bott had decided not to build the car for the US market, owing to the additional costs involved with bringing the car to market.

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Ultimately, Porsche needed to hand over four examples to US regulators to crash test and, with the company already making a heavy loss on every single unit of this low-production special, the gesture would be impractical at the very least. Nevertheless, the thesis of the 959 was mesmerising: this luxury supercar achieved a top speed of 196mph, making it the fastest production car of 1986 and a staggering 35mph quicker than the enchanting 3.3-litre 930. And top speed was just the start of it: this ‘super 911’, as Schutz puts it, featured ABS, active all-wheel-drive with adjustable torque split, active suspension with variable ride height and damping, sequential turbocharging, and a super lightweight construction. In 1986! Read through the press material of any new Porsche release and you’ll still find glowing references to such technologies today.

As we said, at the time only the Ferrari F40 could hold a candle to the 959’s unworldly capabilities – but lest we forget, the F40s focus towards competitive use brought with it compromises for its occupants: there wasn’t even room in the cabin for a stereo. Meanwhile in the 959, a driver could attain near identical performance figures from the comfort of a heated leather seat, listening to the radio and in a cabin regulated by air conditioning. As it happens, Bott’s proclamation that the 959 would be the benchmark Porsche for the next ten years was somewhat short sighted. Thirty years on, a quick glance at contemporary spec sheets sees its performance figures still stand up to the 991-generation of 911 currently gracing showrooms. However, the 959’s legacy goes far beyond that, best profered by Schutz himself: “I think the engineering in this car has probably touched more of the automotive population in the world since then than any other single automobile.” So, the big question is, what’s it like to drive today?

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