The Type 959 was Porsche’s first true “supercar,” a design to which every imaginable accolade has been applied. Based on the company’s evergreen 911 sports coupe, it was built to win the FIA’s Group B World Rally Championship and, not incidentally, serve as an all-wheel-drive development platform for Porsche’s future 964 production series. The “Gruppe B” prototype was introduced at the 1983 Frankfurt auto show, where it stunned onlookers with advanced technology that included a chassis built of advanced lightweight materials, a rear-mounted, 2.8-liter turbocharged engine, and a mind-boggling array of electronic engine and suspension management systems.
The flat-six engine, with air-cooled cylinders and four-valve water-cooled heads, was derived from both the “Moby Dick” IMSA GT racer and Porsche’s Indy open-wheel project. This engine mounted a pair of intercooled sequential turbochargers. A small turbo began producing boost almost from throttle tip-in, while the larger unit came in at about 4,500 rpm, generating a seamless flow of power. This engine pumped out a fearsome-for-the-day 450 brake horsepower at 6,500 rpm. The transmission was a Borg-Warner six-speed, with a very low “G” or “Geland” first gear for the off-road conditions that the 961-rally car might have encountered. A quite docile machine at civilized driving speeds, the 959 could leap from 0–60 mph in less than four seconds, do the standing quarter-mile in just over 12, and reach a maximum speed approaching 200 mph. In the fully leather-upholstered, carpeted, air-conditioned confines of a 959 “Komfort,” this was accomplished in a calm and controlled, even quiet, fashion.
When it came time to stop, huge power-assisted, ventilated disc brakes with ABS handled the task with aplomb. The 959’s 17-inch diameter magnesium wheels and special run-flat tires were specially designed by Bridgestone; hollow spokes allowed use of an air-pressure monitoring system. All told, a well-driven 959 could see off almost any other high-performance car on the planet; not until the arrival of Ferrari’s F40 a few years later was there anything to rival it.