The Everlasting Car Through Decades – 1986-1988 Porsche 959

What’s most impressive about the 959’s performance though is its power delivery. Far from the rough and unforgiving experience the car’s acoustics on tick-over deceive you into expecting, it’s as sophisticated as the rest of the technology aboard this 1980s rocket ship. The 959 is an able cruiser, retaining a civility about its ride at low speeds. However, with a prod of the accelerator, the 959 demonstrates why it is the fastest car of 1986. There’s no such lag as found in its little 930 brother, the sensation of rapid momentum available instantly. There’s a real surge in velocity as the fi rst turbocharger is called into play from around 1,700rpm, this rush sending the rev needle winding hastily around the tacho.


Then, at 4,000rpm, the dormant second turbocharger spools into life, providing car and driver with another hasty kick forward. You can really feel the entry point of both turbochargers on that journey around the tachometer, elevating your pulse rate accordingly as each one kicks in. The sound, too, is something to savour, that gruf note rising into a rich mechanical bark akin to rapid gunfi re and utterly consuming the cockpit past 4,000rpm, all the time among a faint backdrop of whirring turbos. The sound and sensation of speed in the 959 is mesmerising, and I feel my eyes widen and my mouth open as I grip the wheel with one hand and quickly shift up with the other. Delightfully slick, the 959’s gearbox is a worthy aid to its 2.85-litre power plant. It’s technically sixspeed, though the ‘G’ gear, found where first gear resides in a traditional G50, is for use only when moving of on uneven terrain. That means for road use the 959 has a dogleg first gear, and the shorter, more concise throw across each gate makes for a pleasurable action later lavished on the manual 964. Its power delivery and sound are unlike any 911 before or since, and the 959’s handling is decidedly diferent, too. It’s so assured, that wider track at both axles doing wonders for its road holding. Even at high speed, the car is unperturbed, soaking up occasional bumps in the road thanks to the twin shocks on each wheel.

Certainly, there’s nothing crashy about the 959’s intentions to stick to the road, even when the body hunkers down by some 30mm at speeds above 95mph. There’s a beautifully translucent manner about the steering too, it being power assisted yet perfectly weighted, and grip through turns is constant and plentiful – while pace on exiting a corner is plainly astonishing. The brakes are confidence inspiring, too, allowing me to brake much later into a corner than I would otherwise do. There’s healthy pedal travel to be had and though the bite of those pads isn’t as razor sharp as a car of today, speed is scrubbed with an impressive rate with a firm press of the pedal. The sensation is indicative of the 959 as a whole: it just seems unshakeable, though I’ll admit I don’t push my luck too much to find out the point at which this is likely to be jeopardised.

My overriding thought as I finally climb out of the original hyper 911’s cockpit? It’s so endearing as a usable high-performance machine! Far removed from the edgy spirit of Porsche’s other turbo’d cars of the time, the 959 is positively more explosive, yet its limits seem boundless. Bizarrely, and in contrast to the supercars of today, the 959 utilises its technological superiority in the right way, thrilling rather than overbearing the driver. I put this down to the fact this technology is largely mechanical, rather than digital. The 959 is certainly no aging slouch, its drive still comparable to the current crop of supercar superstars, some of which still utilise its technological concepts. The Porsche 959 is a true pioneer of the automotive world: little wonder, then, that its spirit is evident in the majority of 911s still rolling out of Zufenhausen today.

Model 959

porsche-959-6Year 1986-1988
Capacity 2,850cc
Compression ratio 8.3:1
Maximum power 450bhp @ 6,500rpm
Maximum torque 500Nm @ 5,000rpm
Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive Suspension
Front Independent; double wishbone; coil spring; anti-roll bar
Rear Independent; double wishbone; coil spring; anti-roll bar
Wheels & tyres
Front 8×17-inch; 235/45/ZR17
Rear 9×17-inch; 255/40/ZR17
Length 4,260mm
Width 1,840mm
Weight 1,450kg
0-62mph 3.9 secs
Top speed 196mph

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