The Porsche 959 is often regarded as the father of modern supercars. Features we take for granted today like all wheel drive and adjustable suspension started with the 959 as pioneered very advanced technology at the time and formed a glimpse into the next 30 years of the automobile.
The story of the Porsche’s 959 started back in 1981 when a man named Helmuth Bott approached Porsche’s managing director about his ideas for a new 911. Bott’s vision was to build a sports car that Porsche could rely on for years to come, sporting a whole array of new technologies like all wheel drive. Once he got the green light, Bott eagerly began testing his new prototype, originally called the Gruppe B, in Group B Rally competitions. After years of development, prototypes, and even racecars, the Porsche 959 road car was unveiled in 1985 as the world’s fastest production car with a top speed of 211 mph in the 959 Sport.
The engine for the 959 was a great leap forward in terms of technology back then. Much like the Porsche Carrera GT, the 959’s engine began life as a race engine, the 2.85 liter twin turbo flat 6 from the Porsche 935. But there was a slight problem. In the 1980s, the Porsche 911 was still air-cooled, so stuffing a water-cooled engine in a Porsche sports car was sacrilege. So to please purists, Porsche decided to make the cylinders air-cooled, but the rest of the engine water-cooled, a very bold move. And in a time where sports cars were carburetted, the 959 featured a Bosch fuel injection system along with dual overhead camshafts. The turbos were sequential rather than parallel meaning that turbo lag was a thing of the past while power remained high. This all summed up to 450 hp and 369 lb/ft of torque, numbers that can beat sports cars of today. This was upped to 510 hp and 414 lb/ft of torque in the 959 Sport, a number comparable to today’s supercars; and that was just the engine.
Where the 959 really shined was its all wheel drive system. In the year 1985, the 959 had an all wheel drive system that could monitor and change the torque split between the front and rear wheels. From the cabin, you could adjust the ride height and even the damper stiffness after checking your tire pressure via the electronic tire pressure sensor. Even the body was advanced, constructed from lightweight and exotic materials like aluminum and Kevlar composites along with a material called Nomex for the floors. The 959 even had lightweight magnesium alloy wheels. Keep in mind this was in the year 1985, some cars today don’t even have this technology.
The 959 basically paved the way for the next 30 years of the automobile, showing us what we thought was impossible, and what was beyond our wildest dreams. It’s only fitting that the true successor of the 959 is not the Carrera GT, but the 918 Spyder. With its advanced hybrid powertrain and aerodynamic wizardry, the 918 represents the future of the supercar, much like the 959 did back in its day, and if this is true, then the future is bright my friends, it really is.
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2 thoughts on “The Porsche 959: A Showcase of the Future”
Brilliant article,loved it as usual
Your articles are just like the Porsche company always surprising.