By on February 19, 2018

Image: 1988 Porsche 959Silver on the outside, and multi-shaded maroon on the inside, this Porsche 959 is the most expensive car we’ve featured in the Rare Rides series to date. What do you get for $1.25 million dollars, aside from service visits costing $100,000?

As you prepare to sell off your mixed security holdings, let’s find out.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959Development of this chunky supercar started out back in 1981. Looking to the future, Porsche decided it might be time to test the limits of the 911’s rear-engine setup. The company set its engineers to work on developing a new, modern sports car with the same spirit as the 911. As the project went along, Porsche set its sights on testing the new model in a rally environment.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959The 959 made its debut as a Group B rally racer in 1986. Entry into the series meant Porsche had to produce at least 200 road-ready examples to comply with homologation regulations. Thus became the consumer version of the 959.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959The road-legal version immediately took the title for the world’s fastest street-legal production car. The top speed of the 959 was 195 miles per hour in the roadgoing Comfort version, or 197 for the racing (Sport) version.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959Technology was another best with the 959. Hailed as the most technologically advanced road car ever made, it was one of the first super performance vehicles to feature all-wheel drive. This set the stage for future supercar designs from other manufacturers, as well as for Carrera 4 models and later 911 Turbos.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959The swooping body was comprised of a composite containing aluminum and Kevlar, and the floor a flame-resistant Nomex. This kept overall weight down to a quite respectable 3,200 pounds. That figure is roughly the same as a four-cylinder Toyota Camry from 2005. All 959s were built by Baur rather than at Porsche, with oversight from Porsche inspection employees.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959At the back rests a twin-turbo six-cylinder boxer engine displacing 2.85 litres. All 959s had a six-speed manual transmission, which was composed of five forward gearings, and a G off road gear. A unique characteristic of the turbos on the 959 was their sequential nature, rather than a common identical setup. This allowed for smooth power delivery, unlike the on-off turbocharging of contemporary turbocharged Porsches.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959That engine produced 444 horsepower, and powered the 959 from 0-60 in just 3.6 seconds, and on to 100 miles an hour in 8.8 seconds. Its shocking performance was not easily bested. For reference, the Ferrari Enzo came to market in 2002, and managed 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, and 100 mph in 6.7.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959Production of the road-going 959 ended in 1988, after 292 examples rolled off the assembly line. Sold for $225,000 each, that figure was less than half of what it cost Porsche to build each 959. Porsche did produce eight more 959s between 1992 and 1993 using spare inventory.

Image: 1988 Porsche 959Today’s 1988 example is on offer in Portland, waiting for someone to offer up the aforementioned $1,250,000 for the pleasure of sitting in its brown seats. Hey, at least there are four of them in there.

[Images via seller]

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23 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1988 Porsche 959 for Over One Million Dollars...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Fun fact: Bill Gates wanted to import one of these, and had to lobby Congress to allow computer simulations in lieu of actual crash testing, to get the engineering data required to modify the car to meet FMVSS.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist78

      Nope, Bumpy, you got it all mixed up…please do research first.

      Porsche attempted to submit the computer simulations of collisions in lieu of physical crash tests that would require four 959 to be destroyed. However, DOT rejected it outright.

      Bill Gates, being clueless about US regulations, was so miffed his new 959 being impounded at the customs due to its non-compliance of both FMVSS and EPA regulations. Not happy about his favourite toy being stashed away for eternity, Bill and several other wealthy connoisseurs came together to lobby for the ‘Show and Display’ law, which allowed the non-compliant vehicles to be registered and driven on the public roads. He succeed in 1999.

      The stipulation is very severe: no more than 2,500 miles per year for the purpose of travelling to the shows and back. The owners must send in the documentation that the vehicles didn’t exceed 2,500 miles. Another stipulation was that the total production cannot exceed 500 units. Porsche 959 qualified for that easily. Lastly, the vehicle approved for ‘Show and Display’ exemption must meet EPA emission regulations for the year of manufacture.

      If 911 has been certified for sale in the US, any variations of 911 such as 911 GT3 cannot qualify. Same with Land Rover Defender 90/110.

      Now, ‘Show and Display’ law might be moot if the vehicle is at least 25 years old. They can be imported and registered without modifications to meet FMVSS, BUT the motors must be modified to meet the EPA (and CARB if applicable) regulations for the year of manufacture.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        So it is; the perils of thrice-told tales.

      • 0 avatar
        Stevo

        And Bill Gates did drive it on the street around that time. I remember seeing him go past me on Capitol Hill (Seattle) and my buddy and my jaws just dropped. We had read of the car but seeing such high end cars was very pretty rare in Seattle back then.

      • 0 avatar
        focus-ed

        It’s never occurred to me until now, but it’s odd that while our nuclear program is based nearly solely on computer simulation (no surface testing), cars still require arbitrary destructive tests that can’t really reproduce all possibilities while increase prices and lower vehicle selection (not just exotic brands/models but even availability of coupe/2 door versions or manual transmission). Time to move on.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Noted Porschephile Jerry Seinfeld has a 959.

    http://www.complex.com/sports/2014/03/cars-we-know-about-from-jerry-seinfelds-car-collection/1994-porsche-964-speedster

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This one’s probably worth that much money. Amazing car.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The gauges and the steering wheel don’t seem to go together, as if they were designed 20 years apart. What a hideous POS. It’s a good thing it’s really quick, nobody will get a good look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Could not disagree more. It was awesome looking when it came out, and I think it still looks good today. A timeless classic.

      The 959 came out at the same time the “jellybeans” like the Audi 100/5000s and Ford Sierra/Taurus/Thunderbird came out. It looked just as much like a spaceship as the jellybeans did; and also pointed the way to future. I also think it looks better than the Porsches that followed it.

      I also think it was an amazing car that will get what they are asking for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        I used to think all 911s were ugly, and I still don’t like old targas or the slantnose, but the 959 is what started to change my mind about them. I dig the multi-tone interior, but the steering wheel and the carpet kind of let it down. Still an awesome car though. Definitely on my shortlist of cars to get when I write a series of books that turn into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Agreed, jhefner. The vehicles you mention have a clean, functional style. And they also haven’t had packaging thrown out with the proverbial bathwater, as many later designs have.

        – – –

        And c’mon, Corey. “Service visits” don’t cost $100,000 for 959’s. The listing indicates that “it went through Porsche Classic in Germany and was serviced to the tune of nearly $100k” (see https://www.porsche.com/uk/accessoriesandservice/classic/factoryrestoration/restoration/). I’m guessing they did more than change fluids and filters. (Although with only 6,300 miles on it, I am morbidly curious as to what exactly Porsche did and at what cost. I’m guessing a highly trained Porsche technician breathed some expensive, proprietary Porsche air on it at some point.)

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Considering the cost to build, rarity, and condition, it is a fair price.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      It might be, but not even if I had Trump’s debit card would I be interested in actually buying it.

      I appreciate it for what it is, I respect its engineering and abilities, but it just isn’t for *me*. I could blame no one for loving it, though.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    I love the door speakers. For the $$ you think there could be a better solution.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Truly a rare ride and well done.
    I remember reading a comparison test in CAR Magazine in 1989 between 959, Ferrari F40, Lambourghini Countach and another Italian car venture the name of which I forget. It quoted a line from I believe Gordon Murray that ” F40 is too exhausting and 959 is too boring.”
    959 was rated second to F40 with a statement to the effect that 959 will be fastest on a narrow alpine pass in the hands of anyone short of Nigel Mansell’s ability and bravery, but F40 delivers more thrill.

  • avatar
    blppt

    Only Porsche I ever wanted. Too bad i’m only about a million dollars short of buying this one, lol.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The most technologically-advanced car of its time, and it looks like THAT.

    It’s like if Skynet designed the T-800 Terminator to look like Melissa McCarthy.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This, not any stupid Ferrari or Lamborghini, was my childhood dream car.

    Our overloaded Land Rover Discovery was once passed by a blue 959 moving verrrrrry fast on a French country road, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack at 15.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Always loved the 959, I had a few buddies in my high school years at the time who were attending the American School in Switzerland for their GED. While they were tooling around Lugano prior to classes starting the next day they came across a new silver 959 with a very well dressed older woman loading her day’s shopping in it. She saw them ogling the car and asked my buddy if he wanted a closer look and they spent the next half an hour chatting with her, she let them sit in it and take pics. I still have a few of those photos….I was sooooo jealous!

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    By all accounts I’ve read, this car was 10-20 years ahead of it’s time. It was the only supercar poster I had up in my bedroom, given to me as a gift from the dealer when my grandfather bought his Porsche.

    I saw one on the streets of San Francisco about 10-12 years ago. I was walking up a long uphill freeway overpass to Potrero Hill. Behind me, down in the Dogpatch, I could hear what sounded like a highly souped up rice rocket tearing around…except that the engine sounded too large. Then I heard the car get onto the overpass behind me. I turned and saw a sliver 959 go rocketing *uphill* past me like it’d been shot out of a catapult.


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