If you’re a Porsche enthusiast, then you’re certainly familiar with the 959. Not only was it considered to be the most technologically advanced road-going car of the 1980s, but its performance capabilities are still incredibly impressive by today’s standards. Derived from the Group B rally car, the 959 was outfitted with a twin-turbocharged flat-6 producing 444 horsepower and an all-wheel-drive system that propelled the car to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of 198 mph. Most of this is standard equipment found on modern supercars, but back in 1986 this was cutting-edge automotive technology. While this is fairly common knowledge to Porsche fans, here’s a few things that may not be:
When the 959 project was approved in 1984 to satisfy FIA homologation regulations, Porsche was enjoying fiscal success. However, by the late 80s, the company found themselves in financial trouble due to a sharp drop in US sales following the Wall Street crash of 1987. To make matters worse, when Porsche began production in 1986 they discovered that the cost of 959 production was dramatically higher than the initial estimate. The cost for an original 959 was around $300,000, but each car cost Porsche approximately $720,000 to build. As a result, the project is estimated to have been a loss of around $204,000,000 and Porsche ceased production in 1988 after only 337 were made.
America’s richest man, Bill Gates, has an interesting part in the history of the 959. When the 959 was originally released, it had not yet passed Federal crash-test or emission requirements (and it never did). Nonetheless, Gates placed his order with Porsche in 1986 only to have it seized by US Customs. For nearly 13 years, his Porsche was stuck in the Port of San Francisco’s impound lot. Gates and others worked together for over a decade to have a law passed which allows privately imported automobiles with “historical or technological significance” to be exempt from Federal safety standards. It wasn’t until 1999 when the “Show or Display” amendment finally went into law that the car was released.
Four years after production ended, Porsche built six 959s from spare parts for one man from Macau. Knowing that Porsche was left with enough leftovers to produce additional 959s, this man – whose identity has remained anonymous – contacted Porsche offering double the original price to have them built. Still on the mends from the financial crisis, with sales significantly down, Porsche accepted his offer. At the time, it just made good business sense.
While it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever have the honor of working on a 959 given their limited production and historical significance, it doesn’t stop of from having a strong appreciation for the model and the Porsche brand as a whole. If you’re a Porsche enthusiast in the Cincinnati area and are searching for high-quality Porsche repairs, stop by our shop at 9190 Planfield Rd or give us a call (513) 791-9761.