The Porsche 959 celebrates 30 years

30 years ago, Porsche changed the face of the supercar world irrevocably. Launched in 1985 at the IAA in Frankfurt, the Porsche 959 – offered for sale from 1986 – wasn’t purely about outright power.

Instead, the 959 was the first supercar to truly harness the power of modern technology, using sequential turbochargers, all-wheel drive with dynamic torque distribution and electronically adjustable suspension inside a 911-esque, rear-engined package.

Released to the public in 1986, the Porsche 959 was, at the time, the fastest car in the world with a top speed of 196mph (315kph) and a 0-62mph (0-100kph) sprint of 3.9 seconds.

Porsche 959 cabin

While Porsche’s original supercar may be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, the 959’s story actually begins in 1981 with the ‘Gruppe B’ programme, led by head engineer, Helmuth Bott.

The plan was to show how far the Porsche 911 platform could be developed while creating a road legal sports car legal for the FIA’s new Group B rules (on both track and stage).

The 2.85-litre twin turbocharged was developed from the unit used in the famous ‘Moby Dick’ Porsche 935/78 however, the sequential turbo layout improved throttle response dramatically.

Porsche 959 engine

Finished in pearlescent white, the ‘Gruppe B’ prototype made its debut at Frankfurt in 1983 but development delays would mean that the car wouldn’t be ready for sale until 1986, by which time the Group B motorsport rules were all but dead.

Off-road, a 959 was able to give Porsche a second Paris-Dakar Rally triumph as René Metge and Claude Ballot-Léna won the 1986 running (having also taken victory in the Porsche 953 two years earlier) however, on track the 959’s racing variant – the 961 – only made two appearances, both at Le Mans.

This didn’t detract from the car’s appeal though as a total of 337 Porsche 959s left the production line between 1986 and 1988, each with a starting price of $230,000/DM 420,000 (a figure rumoured to be less than half of the true cost of each 959).

Porsche 959 Dakar

Whether you consider the Porsche 959 to be a part of the Porsche 911’s lineage or not, its effect on the beloved neunelfer over the last quarter-century has been dramatic.

The 959 inspired Porsche to launch the 964 Carrera 4 in 1989, while all 911 Turbos have been four-wheel drive and twin-turbocharged since the 993 generation arrived.

While it may not have enjoyed the competition success that Bott envisaged in 1981, modern Porsche 911s – from their torque vectoring to their PASM – have a lot to thank the Porsche 959 for.

Porsche 959 rear

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