Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the man behind the Porsche 911, died today aged 76.
The Porsche 959 was perhaps the most extreme road-going evolution of the 911 design. Developed under Group B regulations for motorsport the engine needed to be smaller than the standard 911 of the time, to account for the 1.4 multiplier enforced on turbocharged engines, so a 444bhp 2.85 litre version of the flat-6 was produced (from the 935 race car no less). It’s twin sequential turbochargers ensured minimal lag and although the block remained air-cooled, the heads gained water cooling. A complex 4 wheel drive system and driver adjustable active suspension only added to the technological marvels. The wheels were hollow and wore run-flat tyres with tyre pressure sensors. Altogether it was the most sophisticated car of the day. Upon it’s release in early 1987 it was the fastest production car in the world.
With a 1-2 finish at the 1986 Paris-Dakar and a class win at Le Mans by the one-off 961 race version Porsche had no trouble selling just under 300 of the 959 road cars, although at over 3 times the cost of a 911 Turbo they still lost money on every car.
The death of Group B may have meant we never got to see the 959 go head to head on track with the beautiful 288GTO from Ferrari, but it provided us with one of the masterpieces of automotive engineering.