Rare Rides: A 1988 Porsche 959 for Over One Million Dollars

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Silver 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.

Development 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Technology 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.

The 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.

At 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.

That 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.

Production 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.

Today’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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • IHateCars IHateCars on Feb 20, 2018

    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!

  • Healthy skeptic Healthy skeptic on Feb 20, 2018

    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.

  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
  • Crown Seems like they cut some cylinders too.A three cylinder...where are they planning on selling that??
  • Slavuta "There’s also the problem of climate change, and the more intense weather that comes along with it"How could one even write something like this? We don't have more intense weather. We have better weather. When Earth started, it was a fiery ball. We don't know what weather was in 1700. And even if we know some of it in Europe, we don't know what was happening in Africa, South America, Oceania, etc. We have people living in places where they did not live before. We have news that report weather related events minutes later or during. This did not happen before. There is no evidence that we have an increase in intensity. I looked into historical records in the area where I live - there is not much movement at all between 1970 and now. And remember - none of the previous weather predictions have materialized.
  • VoGhost Very soon, every home will have a 240v outlet in the garage, which can function as your electric charger, just like a modern home has 120v electric outlets and light switches inside the house. This is where the market is going. You all would see that if you didn't have those oil soaked blinders on.