Opinion: Why the Porsche 959 is a 911

Let’s get one thing straight. The Porsche 959, Zuffenhausen’s mildly bonkers, Eighties Supercar, is a 911. It may not have featured often in the pages of Total 911 (apart from issue 108) but it has as much right to sit in our magazine as a 1964 Porsche 901, and here’s why.

Firstly, the 959 is rear-engined, just like a Porsche 911. You’d think that, building a supercar from scratch would result in a mid-engined layout, but that’s where you’d be wrong because, despite it’s massively flared body, the steel monocoque chassis underneath the 959’s clothing is essentially the same as a 911 too.

Another similarity between the 959 and the 911 is the engine hanging out the back of that gorgeously sweeping body. It’s a flat six, just like a 911 (although this one 2,849cc unit with two, sequentially-mounted KKK turbochargers).

Its side-on silhouette is very reminiscent of the classic 911 shape, albeit bulked out to match the technological prowess underneath the body.
Its side-on silhouette is very reminiscent of the classic 911 shape, albeit bulked out to match the technological prowess underneath the body.

Naysayers in this argument will argue that the 959 was marketed as a separate model while the 911 (despite its internal type code differentiations) has always remained branded ‘911’ across every generation.

Yet, at Zuffenhausen, the 959 type code was considered part of the 911 development strain (as was the 961 racing variant). With the above technical similarities, it’s not hard to see why.

Of course, the 959 is not identical mechanically to a contemporary 911 far from it, in fact. The supercar featured ABS (a Porsche first), a clever torque-vectoring four-wheel-drive system, and adaptive ride dampers.

The 959 was partly developed to replace the 911 in the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team line-up.
The 959 was partly developed to replace the 911 in the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team line-up.

None of these things were available on the 911 Carrera 3.2, or the 930 3.3 that occupied the 911 range at the time of the 959’s launch in 1986 but this doesn’t mean that the 959 didn’t influence future 911s, because it did.

The 964 generation, the first major revision to the 911 platform, featured ABS and four-wheel drive from launch while the 993 Turbo is arguably the spiritual successor to the 959 with its all-wheel drive system and twin turbochargers.

Yes, it didn’t look identical to a 911 in the mid-Eighties, but it wasn’t far off (and it’s easy to see where the 993 got its sloping headlights from). The 959 is pure 911, just beefed up a lot thanks to its place at the top of the technological tree. If the mid-engined 911 GT1 deserves its place in Total 911’s pages, the 959 more than deserves our spotlight too.

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The 959's influence on the Porsche 993 Turbo is clear to see both aesthetically and mechanically.
The 959’s influence on the Porsche 993 Turbo is clear to see both aesthetically and mechanically.

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