You're looking at a million-pound Porsche. That's the top estimate RM Sotheby's have on this super-rare 1987 Porsche 959 Komfort — and you wouldn’t bet against their reaching or exceeding that million. The auction house calls the Porsche "the one on the wall", because of the 959's popularity as a poster car in the 1980s. Now collectors will give their eye teeth — or just about anything else valuable — to have one in their garage. The 959 is one extraordinary Porsche, with one extraordinary history.
Porsche made just 292 of these hugely advanced four-wheel-drive 959s. The list price was steep - £150,000 then being rather more than it is now, even for a limited edition mega-Porsche — but reportedly Porsche lost the same amount again on every 959 sold. Each one was built to obsessive standards at Karosserie Baur, a dedicated coachworks, rather than on the run-of-the-mill Porsche production line. This was, you might say, Porsche's first supercar.
But the 959 wasn't meant to be a road car at all, let alone a highly-desirable supercar. Porsche's engineers conceived the 959 to race against similarly unhinged machines from the likes of Ferrari — the 288 GTO was due to compete — under new so-called Group B rules. In rallying, Group B led to cars such as the Audi Quattro and the Ford RS200. The rally series was short-lived after a series of accidents. On the race track, the series never even got off the round. Racing versions of the 959 did compete at Le Mans while in rally specification an example won the Paris-Dakar rally, but the 959’s future was on the autobahn rather than in competition.
At first glance the production 959 resembles a conventional 911 with a lurid bodykit. In truth, there's none of the standard 911 on the 959 at all. Most of the body is super-light, super-strong Kevlar, with some parts in aluminium or even plastic to save weight. The oh-so-1980s slippery shape is less for the aesthetics and more for the aerodynamics. The gaping air intakes are, of course, all functional, to cool the brakes at the front and to the rear to help cool the engine, in the classic 911 fashion.
It's that powerplant that really gets the attention. The flat-six is track-bred, being based on that in the 956 and 962 Porsche racers, and uses not one but two turbochargers, a rarity at the time. Power is to all four wheels, and the electronics used to get all that horsepower down were far ahead of their time. The result is that 60 mph comes up in less than four seconds, and top speed is just under 200 mph. Still no slouch today, 34 years on.
This 959 is finished in Grand Prix white, with a blue leather interior. The Porsche is in unrestored almost-showroom condition, testament to a gentle life in the ownership of two families. Mileage is less than 20,000, much of it, according to the auctioneers, around London where it's become something of a target for supercar snappers. The interior is more or less standard Porsche fare, which somehow adds to the appeal. Despite its radical looks on the outside, the 959 seeks to impress with its devastating performance rather than any flashy interior design.
The sky-high pricing means the 1987 Porsche 959 Komfort is probably destined for an air-conditioned collection which, after a life on so many teenage walls, seems unjust. What it needs and deserves is an empty autobahn, and a driver headed for a five-star weekend in Berlin. Sign us up for that.
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