The venerable Porsche 959 was the first supercar. It was made in 1987 and 1988. At the time of it’s production it was the most technologically advanced car in the world. It boasted a host of high tech systems such as ABS, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, and on some models, adjustable ride-height. Many of these systems are now standard equipment on modern cars.
The electronics are decidedly old-school. It has several large ECUs managing everything. The stepper motors for the traction control are each about the size of a large soup can and there are two laid out side by side sitting under the gas tank. As is typical of cars of this era, the electrical connectors are not sealed. This leads to problems when the car has sat for a long time as terminal corrode.
When we wake them up after many years slumber there are a whole bunch of things we must do to get them road worthy. This includes changing all the fluids, there is a lot, and they all having special bleeding procedures which take special tools. We have a list of many know common electrical problems – most due to poor connections.
The 959 is a car you could drive every day and be comfortable. Getting in and out of the car is easy. The seats grab hold of you and give you a sense of stability. The controls are within reach and, although unmarked, are pretty easy to figure out.
The steering is quick and the power assist is well balanced. The steering wheel is mounted off center which takes some getting used to.
The engine is a 2.85 liter flat-six with twin sequential turbochargers. The turbos are arranged such that at low rpm a smaller turbo provides low rpm boost and a larger turbo comes in at higher engine speeds. This is quite effective although it does make the torque curve have a dip around 4000 rpm.
Out on the road, they are a joy to drive. When jetting onto the freeway there is some initial lag and then it suddenly feels like someone hit you in the back of the head with a 2 x 4 and it takes off like a rocket ship. The traction control provides a very sure-footed feeling like it is getting sucked down into the pavement. I have driven stock engined 959s (470 horsepower) and modified (up to about 600 horsepower). In stock form, it is capable of over 200 mph.
For best results, a flick of the wrist rotates the car a bit and sets it up for the corner. I have driven ones that felt twitchy on both turns and when going down the road. I figured out it was a problem in the center diff. The original oil was no longer available and the replacement didn’t have enough enough friction modifier. After adding some friction modifying additive handling improved.
The styling is legendary. It is at the same time both 911 and something very different. Many kids of my generation had a poster of a cut-away 959 on their bedroom wall. They only made about 250 of these. I’ve driven 10 of them.