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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This car is just waaaay ahead if it's time!

Unlike Ferrari and Lamborghini, Porsche did not build 959 for clinching the title "World's Fastest Car". Since Ferry Porsche created the first 356, Porsche always makes practical sports cars. Porsche's cars will never sacrifice handling for top speed, never pursuit acceleration over braking, never place lightness above reliability. Therefore supercar had never been Porsche's subject.

From the beginning the 959 project was intended to be a technology study rather than just another supercar. As the company was earning more and more profit from the success of 924 / 944 series, Porsche generously poured in excess of $100 million US dollars into the project, most went to the development of advanced 4-wheel drive, engine, aerodynamics and advanced materials. Porsche believed most of these technologies would benefit production models in the future, or at least keep their engineers state-of-the-art. Now we know only the 4WD system was simplified and applied to the 911 Carrera 4 of 1989.

Anyway, because time and cost were not constraints during the development of 959, no wonder it could be so sophisticated and so well developed.

Basically, the 959 was based on 911's monocoque chassis but with tracks widened and covered with advanced materials such as Kelvar. The flat six engine was derived from 962's racing engine. 4WD was a completely new development and was then tested in a 911 Carrera 4x4 in the 1984 Paris-Dakar rally.

The first prototype, named "Group B" rather than "959", was unveiled in the '83 Frankfurt motor show. It stunned the whole world by its radical specifications but actually it was more a show car than a running prototype. It was called Group B because Porsche designed it to comply with the requirements of FIA Group B racing category. This was, however, never applied.

In the 1985 Frankfurt show, Porsche unveiled a final prototype whose appearance would be carried over to the production car. Most mechanical development was completed, except the complex PSK 4-wheel drive system which met some difficulties. After one year of delay, the first production-ready car was unveiled to journalists in 1986. In April 1987, the first 959 was delivered to Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, the youngest son of Ferry Porsche.

In order to satisfy the minimum requirements of Group B homologation, a limited run of 200 cars was originally planned, but eventually 230 went out of the factory due to strong demand.

Porsche sold every 959 for DM 420,000 ($225,000 USD), which could buy a Lamborghini Countach plus a Ferrari Testarossa. Nevertheless, that was still a bargain considering the long list of technology involved - sources estimated the cost of every 959 was $530,000. This means Porsche might made a loss of some $70 million in the production run of 230 cars.

Styling and Aerodynamics
In fact, 959 was never purposely-styled. Because the chassis came from 911, all the important dimensions and hard points were fixed - the wheelbase was exactly the same as 911, the width exceeded 911 Turbo by 2.5 inches, mostly for accommodating wider tyres. The exterior shape of the cockpit section was nearly identical to its cousin, in which the doors, windows, windscreen and roof even had exactly the same dimensions. No wonder many car tuners could easily modify a 911 into a fake 959 !

Initially, it was quite difficult for me to accept its styling - perhaps we were too used to 911's classical shape so that anything looks half-911 and half-others would be perceived as strange. Honestly speaking, even if we ignored the "911 effect", it still failed to deliver the pure beauty and emotion like any Ferraris. In terms of design philosophy, 959 has none, because it was styled by functional requirements rahter than artistic sense.

One of the functional requirements was aerodynamics. The big front air dam, huge rear spoiler and wide skirts were created step by step in wind tunnel. They contributed to the superb drag coefficient of 0.31 - the best among all supercars (only to be equalled by McLaren F1 and Lamborghini Diablo). This was very crucial to its record-breaking top speed.

Engineers could have reduced the drag further, but they did not want to sacrifice the zero aerodynamic lift they had already acheived. For a supercar running in excess of 300 km/h, any aerodynamic lift could cause serious problems in stability. Obviously 959's air dam and the fiberglass-Kelvar flat undertray contributed a lot to that.

However, 959 did not create any downforce either, unlike Ferrari F40 and today's 911 GT1. This explain why it was later discovered as lack of track-racing potential.

The 2849 c.c. flat-six shared virtually nothing with the 911, because it was derived from the racing unit that powered the 956 and 962 Group C racers. Unlike the famous air-cooled engine using by the contemporary 911, it was water-cooled because the excessive heat generated was impossible to be cooled by air. The basic structure was anything predictable: aluminium alloy head and block, aluminium forged pistons finished with polishing, titanium con-rods, 2 camshafts in each bank driving 4 valves per cylinder, dry sump lubrication .... all operation managed by Bosch's latest version of Motronic management system.

As in 956 / 962's engines, it got a pair of small KKK turbochargers. However, they were arranged to operate sequentially for the benefit of responsiveness - below 4,000 rpm, since exhaust gas was not enough for driving both turbines efficiently, all the exhaust gas was fed to a single turbo. This made the turbo operated earlier than conventional turbochargers. Between 4,000 and 4,200 rpm, the second turbo "pre-spin", that is, prepared for engaging very soon. Above 4,200 rpm, two turbos operated simultaneously to provide full boost up to 0.9 bar (12.8 psi). At this moment, or 6,500 rpm, the engine developed the maximum power of 450 hp, which was the highest record for a road car if you do not believe the figure quoted by Lamborghini Countach QV (455 hp).

In contrast, torque seemed to be a little bit disappointed. At 5,500 rpm you got only 369 lbft, well below the 425 lbft of Ferrari F40. Luckily, at least the delivery of torque was quite linear. Since the first turbo started operating hard at 2,500 rpm, no less than 296 lbft was available. It gradually increased until the second phase of boost started at 4,200 rpm, then jumped to the maximum in 5,500 rpm. In short, it had a very good manner for a turbocharged engine of this level of performance.

In order to compensate the lack of torque, as well as to cope with the near-200 mph top speed, Porsche developed a 6-speed gearbox with Borg-Warner.

PSK 4-wheel drive
This is the highlight of 959's technology breakthrough.

While other supercar makers insisted to remain rear-wheel drive (mainly for cost and weight concern), Porsche demonstrated the superiority of 4WD with the 959. Those who have ever driven the 959, Bugatti EB110, Ferrari F40, F50, Jaguar XJ220 and McLaren F1 agreed that the first 2 provided much better "real world performance", that is, running on wet or slippery surfaces, or rough twisty roads. Undoubtedly, this is the inherent advantage of 4-wheel drive.

Porsche 959's PSK (Porsche-Steuer Kupplung) system was like no others. Even in today, it is still regarded as the most sophisticated 4WD system ever made. What made it so unique and so superior? Among all 4WD designs, PSK is the only one which could vary the front / rear torque split ratio under normal running condition, while other designs can only vary when tire slip occurs.

In most of the time, torque split between front and rear was 40 : 60, that is, the same as the car's weight distribution. This made the best use of traction.

In hard acceleration, PSK transferred up to 80% torque to the rear wheels. Why? Because hard acceleration leads to rearward weight transfer, which reduces traction at front wheels and increases traction at rear wheels. By transferring more torque to the rear wheels, the traction can be optimally used.

On a slippery road, 50 : 50 torque slit was used. In any time, computer determined the most suitable torque split ratio by analysing parameters such as throttle position, steering angle, g force and even turbo boost. Therefore PSK system provided near perfect traction that was not comparable by other 4WD systems

The basic suspensions were nothing other than predictable: double wishbones in the front as well as the back. What amazed us were the adjustable ride height as well as the adjustable damping.

The adjustable ride height function was designed to achieve high speed stability without hurting low speed ride. The driver could select a ride height of 12 cm, 15 cm or 18 cm according to need. For example, if the car was travelling off-road, he might need the largest ride height to prevent the car from bottom out or damaging by rocks. If he was just travelling at ease, he might also expect a comfortable ride which was only achievable by the longest suspension travel. However, if he was going to have a 300 km/h excitement in Autobahn highway, he must want the lowest ride height which lowered the center of gravity and stiffened the suspensions (by the shorter suspension travel as well as the adjustable damping) thus enhanced cornering stability.

The 3 ride height settings could be selected manually in the dashboard, or it could be done automatically by the computer. According to Porsche, FOR SAFETY REASON, no matter in what setting the computer would lower the ride height to at most 15 cm when speed exceeded 50 mph and further lowered to 12 cm when exceeding 100 mph. Well, it seemed that Porsche was either regarding its customers as ordinary drivers or it wanted to add another gimmick for advertising purpose. "Computer-controlled self-leveling suspension", isn't it sounds great ?

The adjustable damping also had 3 settings. Of course they varied the damping rate thus result in different stiffness.

To implement the adjustable damping and adjustable ride height, each wheel employed 2 dampers. One of which had an electric motor to vary the damper's valve system so to implement adjustable damping. Another damper, whose fluid was supplied by hydraulic pump from the engine, took care of the ride height adjustment

Sport and Comfortable
959 had two versions: 959 Comfortable and 959 Sport. The Sport version had the same power, but weighed 100 kg less than the Comfortable version so as to provide even higher performance, especially were handling and acceleration. What diet did it go? Firstly, the variable ride height and damping was discarded. Then, all the luxury items were deleted - air-conditioning, power windows, central lock, the useless rear seats and even passenger side mirror. The electric leather seats were replaced by manually-adjusted sports seats.

As the ride height adjustment had gone, the Sports version used stiffer springs and dampers. Paul Frere's book "Porsche 911 Story" explains the reason for these versions:

"Whatever care is taken to save weight, a car carrying such an amount of advanced technology cannot be a lightweight. Originally, Porsche predicted a weight of 1,450 kg with full tanks, but this eventually turned out to be optimistic by anything between 150 and 200 kg ...." No wonder Porsche had to make a lighter version.

However, even the lighter Sports version tipped the scales at 1,566 kg with a full tank of fuel when it was tested by German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport. This corresponds to about 1,530 kg kerb weight (half tank of fuel), very different from the factory figure of 1,350 kg. Obviously 959 was overweight by any standard.

Few customers felt inclined to sacrifice those luxurious items to even higher performance, so only 6 Sports version were ordered.

In the end, this car sums up what Porsche is all about. Versatility. They created a supercar which is still stunning to this day, so full of technology no other car since has really matched it. Of course, newer cars have gone faster, and used newer technology, but this car broke all the rules, the most radical and versatile car of all. From a record-breaking top speed car, to a daily driver, to a LeMans and Desert Rally car, this car has done it all. No other comes even close.

Type Air Cooled Twin Turbo Flat 6

Displacement 2849 cc / 174 cubic inches

Horsepower 450 hp @ 6500 rpm

Torque 369 ft lbs @ 5500 rpm

0-60 mph 4.1 seconds

Top speed 195 mph / 314 km/h


talk about versatile!









· Registered
21,933 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
:thumb: Thanks for adding some perspective.

The 959 is just an awesome car, especially for something developed in the early 80's

FINALLY these cars are legal in the US being that they are now 15+ years old I would love to get my hands on one of these cars.

I have a love hate relationship with the Cayenne and to a lesser extent the boxter. Yes they are all too common and are pretty boring vehicles, however they are what's making Porsche R&D $$ so they can comtinue to build awesome cars like the GT2, GT3 and Porsche GT and go racing. If building sellout SUV's is the only way they can have enough profits to do so then I'll take that. Better off than have them bought out by some other company and drove into the ground.
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