The end of the 1980s marked a time in car manufacturing history when the development of new technologies was at the forefront of every new release. Elements such as 4-wheel drive and steering, composite turbocharged engines, and modern electronic systems were hot drivers for car marque competition.
At the very pinnacle of such technological development was the Porsche 959 – a car that in the 1980s represented the future, and today features as a legendary techno-classic!
Technology from the future
Porsche’s development of the 959 was motivated by the need for a car capable of both competing at Le Mans and the Paris-Dakar Rally. Yet, in order to be allowed to participate, Porsche had to build at least 200 examples of the 959 to have it homologated.
Because of its rally racing purpose, the 959 was not just any four-wheel drive car but one where the front wheels could get up to 50% of total torque. In addition, the 959 has 3-position rotary switch that enables the driver to ready the car for dry, wet or icy roads, and an electronic black box that vectors the torque to precisely the right wheel at the right moment.
The 959’s suspension system, in turn, allows the driver to elevate the car height on the go for rough terrain, or lower it when road and weather conditions call for it. However, regardless of all the high-tech features weight saving was still of the essence, which is why the 959 had an integrated system to monitor tire pressure and wheel alloys that were hollow.
Porsche 959 powertrain
The 959 techno-monster is powered by a turbocharged 2.8-liter flat-6 V4 engine, which was Porsche’s first production car engine whose cylinder heads were water-cooled. This offers the 959 a good 450bhp at 6900rpm while the sequentially placed turbochargers give an extra boost to the motor’s tractability.
This powertrain setup enables a 959 cruising on the Autobahn to reach up to 339 km/. All the while, the complex electronic sensor system ensures maximum traction and smooth sailing regardless of any bumps in the road. Acceleration in the 959 means going up to a 100 km/h in only 3.7 seconds, while powering through to 200 km/h takes you only 13.3 seconds in total.
The 959 Supercar
With the 959, Porsche gave the world a glimpse of what the future of automotive technology involved. As the first production car with a manual 6-speed and adjustable car height, the 959 was one of the first models ever to be termed a “supercar.” In this, Porsche didn’t just deliver technological supremacy, but also the reliability that the German marque is still known for today.
The three 959s proved themselves during the Paris-Dakar Rally of 1986 by coming in 1st, 2nd, and 6th. Yet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that owners today rarely exposure it to the hard conditions that it was developed for. Since Porsche built its 959 only 337 times, of which 37 were pre-production or prototype models, most the 959 owners safely maintain their car as a true collector’s item.