1988 Porsche 959 Komfort
“We hesitate to call any car perfect… But we have just returned from West Germany, where we finally got a chance to drive a Porsche 959 on the street, and the word ‘perfect’ is difficult to avoid. What single word more accurately describes a car that combines race-car performance with luxury-sedan comfort, that is equally adept at commuting through rush-hour traffic, profiling in jet-set locales, negotiating blizzard-swept mountain passes, and outrunning light airplanes?” – North American magazine Car and Driver in raptures after its first drive of a Porsche 959 in November 1987
Considering an entry complying with forthcoming Group B rally regulations, Porsche swiftly rejected calls from its competition department for a mid-engined car based on the 914. The new model should be directly related to the 911, have four-wheel drive and be aimed at long-distance desert ‘raids’, rather than traditional European rallies.
“If we build a Group B car,” said Helmuth Bott, head of research and development in Stuttgart, “let’s have a look at the future of the 911.”
The result was certainly futuristic. In September 1983 Porsche showed a pearlescent white design study by company man Dick Soderberg on its Frankfurt Motor Show stand. Named the ‘Porsche Gruppe B’, the new car was a 911 on steroids: wider, lower, with massive wheels, side skirts and an integrated rear spoiler over the rear engine cover.
The 959 was born.
The Porsche 959
A year after the Gruppe B concept had stolen the show, prototype 4wd Typ 953s were running in the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally, which Metge/Lemoyne won. The turbocharged cars carried lightweight bodywork similar to the design study, but with greatly increased ground clearance for the off-road event.
Preparing winning competition cars had always come easy to Porsche, the immediate task was to make the newly designated Typ 959 a road car fit for production.
The specification was space-age: Bilstein electronically-controlled ‘active’ dampers that not only maintained the car’s poise but also lowered the 959 as speed increased; specially formulated Kevlar aramid panels from DuPont; tyres, by Dunlop, that could cope with extended runs at 320kmh (200mph) and also run flat for 80km (50 miles) at much slower speeds.
Bosch uprated its DME Motronics computers to monitor acceleration, braking, ride height, steering, traction and suspension loading – 200 times per second. The arrangement controlled a four-wheel-drive system that under hard acceleration delivered as much as 80 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels. The driver could vary the torque split between axles. Anti-lock braking by WABCO Westinghouse had to contend with four-wheel drive, front tyres rotating faster than rears and outside tyres rotating faster than inners when cornering.
Designer Soderberg, although forced by budgetary constraints to keep the roof and doors of the contemporary 911, effectively laid down a design marker for future road cars and elements of the 959 can be seen in today’s 911s.
When finally on sale in 1985, the Porsche 959, its 2849cc flat-six boosted by twin sequential (‘staged’, so one turbo only gives the motor low-down urge then a second cuts in for ultimate performance) turbochargers to 450bhp, could sprint to 125mph in 14 seconds. The maximum was an easily reached 195mph. It was clearly much more than just a trick 911 with Kevlar composite bodywork.
Two versions were offered: Sport, with cloth seats and an integrated roll-cage, and Komfort, a luxurious, leather-clad supercar. Both sold for 420,000 DM, with Porsche requesting a 50,000 DM deposit for each car, 250 of which it received. In total, including the 37 prototypes and eight cars manufactured in 1992 from leftover parts, production of the 959 totalled 337 cars. Most of the 292 regular production 959s were built at Zuffenhausen in 1987 and 1988. It was never officially imported into the US.
Speculators loved them, and in the boom period of the late-eighties were cheerfully advertising delivery mileage 959s for 800,000 DM – almost double the ex-factory price.
This Motor Car
This car was first registered on 13 April 1988 and delivered via official agent Karl Thiel Porsche, Paderborn, Germany. It was finished in classic Guards Red with a grey leather interior highlighted by multi-tone silver inserts.
Thiel looked after the car until 1993, the service book showing regular visits for either brake, oil, or oil and inspection services, plus the car’s two-, three- and four-year condition reports. By January 1993 the mileage is recorded as 11,236km.
In 1995, the then-owner entrusted ‘0140’ to Porsche Stuttgart, which carried out further service work, including a seven-year condition report and 10,000km service, before it crossed the Channel to the UK. In August 1998, Porsche Cars GB serviced the car (including brakes) and completed a nine-year condition report. The mileage recorded at this time was 17,433km.
Four years and 10,000km later, the red 959 was in the care of Porsche Zentrum München, which serviced it at 27,517km. In 2007, ‘0140’ was in Dutch ownership, first with a Mr De Ruiter then a Mr Tijhuis, as recorded on service invoices that accompany the car. On 26 September 2008, two decades after it left Stuttgart, Mr Tijhuis sent it back to Porsche for an exhaustive service and overhaul that totalled c. €39,000, €21,000 of which on parts. The comprehensive work completed at Zuffenhausen included new tyres, overhauled suspension and an air-conditioning service. The mileage at that point was 34,464km.
The car remained in Germany for another year before passing into the current Spanish owner’s hands in 2009 via a specialist dealer in the Netherlands. Once again, the all-important servicing schedule was kept up to date. Entrusted to Centro Porsche Barcelona, an oil and brake service was completed – together with an Official Porsche Centre 111-point inspection report – in October 2015.
The mileage recorded then was 39,590km, and marque and model experts concur that regular use is the key to stress-free 959 ownership. Today, with spare but regular use adding barely 1000km to that total, this Guards Red 959 presents itself well as a nicely run-in example of Porsche’s iconic supercar, at one time the fastest car in the world.
Car and Driver concluded its first drive of the 959 just short of declaring the 959 ‘perfect’. It did, though, sum the state-of-the-art supercar up by writing: “But if you want to call the Porsche 959 the best car in the world, you will get no argument from us.”
We could not agree more, and recommend this well-maintained, regularly driven car as a fine example for appreciation – in every sense of the word, given the stellar success of limited-edition Porsches from this period at recent auctions.