The late 1980s heralded in an economic boom in Western Europe and, amongst others, sportscar makers at the top end of the market saw the opportunity to exploit it ruthlessly with hugely expensive limited editions.
The Porsche 959 was the first of these super performers and set the standard for imitators. Aston Martin in Britain produced the Vantage Zagato, while Ferrari made small numbers of its 288GTO in 1986 and its 322km/h F40 in 1987. Their success persuaded other manufacturers to follow suit.
Within three years, Jaguar had announced its XJ220 and racing car manufacturer McLaren’s F1 was a road-going model. Even the name Bugatti was revived by one business consortium for their new supercar and a second consortium came up with the Cizeta-Moroder V16.
The 959 was spawned from a 1984 Group B design study and it was one of the wildest road-going Porsches of all time. It was a modern equivalent of the old 550, and a lot more practical than the model 935. There was no doubt that it was a competition derivative of the 911, but a far cry from its parent.
The 959’s curvaceous body shell was made from strong, yet light aramid, a member of the Kevlar family stretched over a galvanised steel monocoque body shell so as to reduce weight. It had the same basic flat-six engine as the standard 911s, but twin sequential turbochargers boosted power to 336 kilowatts and when fed through a six-speed gearbox made it very potent indeed. In fact, it was good enough for 315km/h and with four-wheel drive and electronic traction control it had blistering acceleration.
To cap all of this it was also equipped to the point of luxury although the dashboard was virtually identical to the 911. Whilst it would have, no doubt, been an instant sales success in the United States the 959 was never officially modified to meet USA regulations and so was never sold there.