Porsche 959 History

An engineering tour de force of awe-inspiring power and ability, the 1987-88 Porsche 959 was the "everything car" enthusiasts dream about -- the one that can do it all.

Motor Trend aptly termed this 911-based uberwagen "the fastest, most technologically advanced sports car in history." Said Car and Driver, "The 959 can accomplish almost any automotive mission so well that to call it perfect is the mildest of overstatements." No less amazing, it remains a performance and technical benchmark even now.

More than just the "ultimate 911" to that point, it was the ultimate roadgoing Porsche, the sum of all Zuffenhausen had learned about production sports cars in its first 40 years. No wonder the Porsche 959 was such a towering achievement or that it pioneered features that have since become commonplace.


Porsche 959
Porsche 959s were built between 1987 and 1990 and had a $225,000 price tag.
 See more pictures of the Porsche 959.

The 959 originated with the fully finished and evidently producible "Gruppe B" prototype unveiled at the 1983 Frankfurt Auto Show as Porsche's entry in the new Group B racing series for factory-experimental cars. Two years later, also at Frankfurt, Porsche announced that a production version, designated 959, would be sold to meet homologation requirements.

Production was limited to 200, and all were spoken for within weeks despite an otherworldly price of around 225,000 U.S. dollars. Still, Porsche lost a bundle on every one, as actual unit cost was estimated at a cool $530,000.

That was evident from even a cursory glance at the specs sheet. Though it used the 911 wheelbase and a similar inner structure, the 959 was strikingly different. Distinctions began with a lower body reshaped for good surface aerodynamics and with a profusion of ducts and vents for controlled airflow through it. Aero considerations also dictated a bellypan covering the entire undercarriage, except for the engine.

Dominating all was a muscular, ultra-wide tail topped by a large loop spoiler. The results: a drag coefficient of 0.31 (creditable, if not the lowest around) and -- the big news -- zero lift. To save weight, the doors and front lid were made of aluminum, the nose cap of polyurethane, and the rest in fiberglass-reinforced Kevlar.

Five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels wore low-profile Bridgestone RE71 tires specially developed for the Porsche 959 (and chosen over a Dunlop design, which raised eyebrows, as Porsche had not previously sanctioned Japanese rubber). Though heroically sized at 235/45 fore and 255/40 aft, the tires were only V-rated, meaning safe for up to 149 mph -- curious, as the 959's claimed maximum was nearly 40 mph more.

Hollow wheel spokes (first used on Porsche's 1980 Le Mans racers) provided extra air for the tires and a smoother ride. There was no spare, because the tires were designed to run flat for 50 miles after a blowout. Another innovation was electronic sensors within the wheels to warn of pressure loss.

Porsche 959
The Porsche 959 featured lower-body air ducts and an ultra-wide tail.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

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  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911