EVEN IN A ROOM filled with exotic cars, like Lorbek emporium in Melbourne, a Porsche 959 stands out. Really, I’d regard it as the first of the true road-going supercars, eventually superceded by the Ferrari F40.
What distinguishes this car is the out-there styling. You can see that project leader Helmuth Bott – the engineeer whose name was tied to 911 series for decades – let engineering and wind tunnel needs rule the drawing board. It’s not necessarily beautiful, in my view, but it is purposeful. Look at features such as the wild and wide sills, or the huge rear spoiler, which unlike most today no doubt works, and you’ll see what I mean.
Inside the car looks and feels very familiar – it’s classic Porsche road car. I used to own a 964 Carrera 4 that looked and felt very similar. Of course it’s the mechanicals which make this car, and it was the first time Porsche went with the combination of a twin-turbo and allwheel-drive in a road car. Actually, ‘road car’ is a pretty loose term, as we’re talking about something that does near enough to 200 miles per hour, or around 317km/h according to the figures of the day.
1988 PORSCHE 959
BODY 2-door Coupe ENGINE 2.8-litre
6-cylinder twin turbo boxer POWER & TORQUE 331kW / 500Nm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 3.7sec TOP SPEED 317km/h TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual DRIVE SYSTEM
BRAKES Front and rear discs WHEELS 8 x 17 + 9x 17-inch f/r
PRICE $2.5 million WHERE
You can see the Group B rally influences in this car, where it was designed for a particularly unforgiving competition. In the end, Porsche initially built this generation for just three years – 1986-88 – and 337, including test mules/prototypes, were built. Four years later, Porsche turned around and made another eight ‘Komfort’ versions out of leftover parts stock. In any case, you could never argue this was a commercial enterprise in its own right, it was more of a brand image exercise.
Though the cars initially were priced at a sky-high US$225,000, that wouldn’t have been enough to cover the enormous development time that went into them, or the cost of the exotic materials used in their construction. At the time, it was said they cost about double what was charged for them.
Part of the magic was the (for the time) hugely sophisticated 4WD system, which had an adaptive feature that could distribute torque to the wheels most able to deliver it to the ground.
These days the 331kW (444hp) power figure may not seem so great, but it was a big number from a 2.8lt engine and, thanks to the car’s special construction, had just 1450kg to punt along.
The $2.5 million price tag on this example seems big, but they’ve consistently gained in value over the years and are on the international collector radar.