Spotted: Porsche 959 prototype


What was once a technological tour-de-force, is now a mechanical and electrical liability. Those words could have been written specifically for the Porsche 959. In fact, they just were.

Who needs level ride height?
Who needs level ride height?
I was probably one of the few kids from that era who daubed his bedroom walls with posters of 959s and not F40s, and this is largely because whereas the F40 was tangible – lots of power, little weight – the Porsche appeared to have arrived from a different Galaxy. Hollow wheels with tyre pressure monitoring, anyone? My family was busy upgrading to FM radio and in-car cassette players.

The technology that defined the 959 – the complicated 4WD system, the adjustable dampers, the water-cooled heads – is sadly now the key reason why values of this rare, fascinating machine languish below cars of inferior quality and significance. The Veyron truly is the new 959, because both cost a fortune to keep in a roadworthy condition.

Seats aren't quite right either...
Seats aren't quite right either...
So what is a development 959 worth? Lord only knows, but to me it isn’t as valuable as one of the production cars. The narrative behind this machine is clearly fascinating, and you wouldn’t have to trawl many Stuttgart pubs to meet the chaps who worked on it back in the 80s.

I’m always pretty suspicious of anything like this that somehow finds its way out of the Porsche factory gates and into private hands. The company is loathe to release these machines, so I’d want to research how it came to be in the United States.

It’s a piece of history though. One with some rear ride height issues and a set of seats with strangely small bolsters. But for the collector more interested in the story behind the car than the driving experience, it might be a dream purchase.


PORSCHE 959
Engine:
 2,849cc flat-six turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power (hp): 451@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@5,000rpm
MPG: 21.2mpg (combined)
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1986
Recorded mileage: not given
Price new: not available
Yours for: TBC

See the original advert here; car is due on sale on Saturday.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (80) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Grovsie26 18 Jan 2013

    stradman said:
    Delivery is totally different between them and of course they are totally different cars. In day to day driving there's probably not much in them in terms of outright performance. The F40 probably FEELS a bit quicker overall, however once the 959's second turbo kicks in then the slap in the back is quite impressive.

    Although the F40 may feel quicker, I'm not actually sure if it truly is though(gearbox is more belligerent so slows you down a bit). You see the difference is the F40 impresses immediately I guess. Although it still needs time to assimilate it, it shows its cards(and its teeth!) straight away whereas the 959 truly gets under your skin more slowly the more you live with it and drive it.

    Although easy to drive, with the 959 you uncover its abilities,and very high limits day by day the more you push it. Its very much like the difference between a really smokin' hot woman who you really want to get to bed with straight away with, no discussion necessary(F40), vs a simply attractive woman who you start talking with and then realise/uncover slowly that she is actually very intelligent, funny,fun, and sexy all combined(959)!

    I don't think I could part with either as they fill different voids in my motoring psyche! However on a regular basis I easily use the 959 as it is very easy and civilised to drive and potter around in traffic, yet push it and it truly does feel(and sound) special. When you first drive it it feels somewhat soft, yet its limits are huge. Its astounding how Porsche have managed to make such a car so compliant yet maintain towering performance when necessary. Initially, because everything is not as twitchy and buzzy as say, the F40, people get the impression that the 959 is more boring. In fact many times I hear or read people telling/saying that. Most of these people however have never really truly driven a 959 long enough or as it should be driven and may be re-hashing other peoples view points too. The 959 is every bit as special/exciting as any ferrari but with a different delivery. Throw in some rain into the equation of course and you can then kiss all the other contemporary supercars of the time bye-bye as the 959 completely leaves then in a spray of water, but that's another matter!! Amazing car really...

    You know I've read some people also say how the problem with the 959 is that everything it trail blazed in the 80's has now become common place and so it has lost any specialness it had. Well that is total rubbish imo. I think its incredible that 25 years later, although all other Porsches now have improved versions of the innovations the 959 pioneered, the 959 still feels reasonably modern and special and can still hold its own in this day and age. I don't know of many cars that can boast of such a legacy.
    heheh interesting. Methinks you need to bring them both down to a runway somewhere and drag the pair of em.

  • Gridl0k 18 Jan 2013

    stradman said:
    Its very much like the difference between a really smokin' hot woman who you really want to get to bed with straight away with, no discussion necessary(F40)
    Metaphor, or method? biggrin

  • r129sl 17 Jan 2013

    stradman said:
    Grovsie26 said:
    Is there much difference in pace between the 2? Power to weight would suggest the F40 is a good chunk faster once grip isn't a factor?
    Delivery is totally different between them and of course they are totally different cars. In day to day driving there's probably not much in them in terms of outright performance. The F40 probably FEELS a bit quicker overall, however once the 959's second turbo kicks in then the slap in the back is quite impressive.

    Although the F40 may feel quicker, I'm not actually sure if it truly is though(gearbox is more belligerent so slows you down a bit). You see the difference is the F40 impresses immediately I guess. Although it still needs time to assimilate it, it shows its cards(and its teeth!) straight away whereas the 959 truly gets under your skin more slowly the more you live with it and drive it.

    Although easy to drive, with the 959 you uncover its abilities,and very high limits day by day the more you push it. Its very much like the difference between a really smokin' hot woman who you really want to get to bed with straight away with, no discussion necessary(F40), vs a simply attractive woman who you start talking with and then realise/uncover slowly that she is actually very intelligent, funny,fun, and sexy all combined(959)!

    I don't think I could part with either as they fill different voids in my motoring psyche! However on a regular basis I easily use the 959 as it is very easy and civilised to drive and potter around in traffic, yet push it and it truly does feel(and sound) special. When you first drive it it feels somewhat soft, yet its limits are huge. Its astounding how Porsche have managed to make such a car so compliant yet maintain towering performance when necessary. Initially, because everything is not as twitchy and buzzy as say, the F40, people get the impression that the 959 is more boring. In fact many times I hear or read people telling/saying that. Most of these people however have never really truly driven a 959 long enough or as it should be driven and may be re-hashing other peoples view points too. The 959 is every bit as special/exciting as any ferrari but with a different delivery. Throw in some rain into the equation of course and you can then kiss all the other contemporary supercars of the time bye-bye as the 959 completely leaves then in a spray of water, but that's another matter!! Amazing car really...

    You know I've read some people also say how the problem with the 959 is that everything it trail blazed in the 80's has now become common place and so it has lost any specialness it had. Well that is total rubbish imo. I think its incredible that 25 years later, although all other Porsches now have improved versions of the innovations the 959 pioneered, the 959 still feels reasonably modern and special and can still hold its own in this day and age. I don't know of many cars that can boast of such a legacy.
    I can do without this! You know, when I was a kid, I was going to have a 959. I'm a 36 year old man and, very nice though things are for me these days, I'm big enough to know that a 959 is not going to come my way anytime soon. Then I read this lovely little review and I start dreaming like a child again. For what it's worth, I've always found that those unassuming girls rock hardest as well. Although my experience of smokin' hot cars is greater than my experience of smokin' hot women.

    Anyway, thanks for the insight. I'd love to hear of any epic trips you've done in that car. Meanwhile, I'm off to read my own September '87 edition of Car magazine.

  • urquattro 17 Jan 2013

    959 is/was a fascinating car, it still sparkles and glad a real owner/driver has put the record straight, I will make do with the other often criticised porsche variant, the RS2, until you have owned and driven one for a reasonable period dont knock the car, nearly 20 years on it can still hold its corner despite 5 cylinder lump being well up the front end.

  • stradman 17 Jan 2013

    Grovsie26 said:
    Is there much difference in pace between the 2? Power to weight would suggest the F40 is a good chunk faster once grip isn't a factor?
    Delivery is totally different between them and of course they are totally different cars. In day to day driving there's probably not much in them in terms of outright performance. The F40 probably FEELS a bit quicker overall, however once the 959's second turbo kicks in then the slap in the back is quite impressive.

    Although the F40 may feel quicker, I'm not actually sure if it truly is though(gearbox is more belligerent so slows you down a bit). You see the difference is the F40 impresses immediately I guess. Although it still needs time to assimilate it, it shows its cards(and its teeth!) straight away whereas the 959 truly gets under your skin more slowly the more you live with it and drive it.

    Although easy to drive, with the 959 you uncover its abilities,and very high limits day by day the more you push it. Its very much like the difference between a really smokin' hot woman who you really want to get to bed with straight away with, no discussion necessary(F40), vs a simply attractive woman who you start talking with and then realise/uncover slowly that she is actually very intelligent, funny,fun, and sexy all combined(959)!

    I don't think I could part with either as they fill different voids in my motoring psyche! However on a regular basis I easily use the 959 as it is very easy and civilised to drive and potter around in traffic, yet push it and it truly does feel(and sound) special. When you first drive it it feels somewhat soft, yet its limits are huge. Its astounding how Porsche have managed to make such a car so compliant yet maintain towering performance when necessary. Initially, because everything is not as twitchy and buzzy as say, the F40, people get the impression that the 959 is more boring. In fact many times I hear or read people telling/saying that. Most of these people however have never really truly driven a 959 long enough or as it should be driven and may be re-hashing other peoples view points too. The 959 is every bit as special/exciting as any ferrari but with a different delivery. Throw in some rain into the equation of course and you can then kiss all the other contemporary supercars of the time bye-bye as the 959 completely leaves then in a spray of water, but that's another matter!! Amazing car really...

    You know I've read some people also say how the problem with the 959 is that everything it trail blazed in the 80's has now become common place and so it has lost any specialness it had. Well that is total rubbish imo. I think its incredible that 25 years later, although all other Porsches now have improved versions of the innovations the 959 pioneered, the 959 still feels reasonably modern and special and can still hold its own in this day and age. I don't know of many cars that can boast of such a legacy.

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