Occassionally, with some smugness, you think you know everything about a preferred iconic item or product. Well, at the Grand Prix at Silverstone I was talking to a colleague who reminded me of the Porsche 959 that was made race ready for the 1980’s infamous Paris-Dakar Rally.
As we age there may come a point where crawling into and, more appropriately, out of a low slung sports car becomes a regrettable chore. Such is this case. A passionate 911 owner with a distinguished military history that has left his body a bit battered found his beloved 911 just too low and therefor unmanageable for daily use. However, the 959 with its revised and heightened suspension – the height of today’s SUVs – built for the inhospitable terrain not of the “Autoroute du Soleil” – the A6 South of Paris – but more for the sands of the Sahara, is perhaps the perfect compromise. Some height but still a 911. No, in this case a Cayenne will simply not fill the gap.
The Porsche 959, the brainchild of Porsche’s Chief Engineer in 1981, Helmuth Bott, was manufactured between 1986 and 1993. Initially as a Group B rally car – featuring all wheel drive that later became standard on all Porsche’s turbocharged versions, aluminum and Kevlar – it became the fastest street legal production car with a top speed depending on variant of between 197 and 211 mph.
The 959 was unveiled at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show and produced at Porsche’s Baur custom facility and not at their usual Zuffenhausen plant. The road version was shown at the same show in 1985 with first deliveries in 1987 at a cost of $225,000 – which is said to be less than half the actual build cost. 345 cars in total were produced including eight produced from spare parts at Zuffenhausen between 1992/3.
In 1984, in response to encouragement from the Belgian Formula 1 ace, Jackie Icks and and in compliance with the FIA Rules, requiring that Group B rally cars needed to be based on a production car that had been produced in more than 200 examples, a total of six – only five surviving – 911s were modified to 959 specifications. Three were used in the grueling 1985, 8,700 mile, Paris Dakar Rally – driven by Rene Metge and Dominque Lemoyne – with limited success. A 1986 variant used at Le Mans finished first in its class.
The Paris-Dakar (Senegal) Rally – now called “The Dakar” – ran between 1979 to 2007 and in 2009 it moved to South America. It continues to be open to cars, quads, truck and motor bikes.
The 959 is a key link to later versions of the turbocharged 911s and one of these Porsche legends can be seen in the Porsche Museum.
If you’d like to own one of the rarest and most desirable Porsche’s ever built then you have a shot. In October (27th) this year RM Sotherby’s are hosting a Porsche 70th Anniversary Sale in Atlanta (Georgia). The centre piece of this sale is a Porsche 959 Group B Rally car decked out in its Rothman’s livery. Predictions suggest that the sales price for this once in a lifetime opportunity will be between $3m and $3.4m
If for some inexplicable reason you feel that the currently available 959 is a tad out of your price range, I have an essential man/woman cave scaled-down addition – please click the following Amazon link below the image.
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Images – with grateful thnaks – courtesy of Robin Adams and RM Sotheby’s