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  Porsche 959 'Dakar'

  Article Image gallery (30) WP0ZZZ93ZFS010015 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1985 - 1986
Numbers built:6
Internal name:959
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 12, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionMatching the exceptional chassis and drivetrain was a similarly advanced engine. Needless to say it was an air-cooled flat-6, but distinctly different from any engine ever fitted in a 911 road car. In fact it shared many components with the six cylinder in the back of the all conquering 956. The main departure from the 911 design were the cylinders that featured twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. More important still; they were water cooled. Displacement was just over 2.8 litre, right at the maximum set for Turbocharged engines in the Group B class. Two sequential Turbos smoothly boosted the power to 450 bhp. There was however a flaw in the initial design of the engine: vibrations from the camshafts had a destructing effect on the chains driving them. The solution was a twin-chain setup, but that meant that several parts had to be recast, causing considerable delays. With this much power available, the brakes were very important. Porsche suggested using an anti-lock system, which had recently been developed by Mercedes-Benz. Using it on a four-wheel driven car provided additional complications. In the end the engineers had to basically redesign the system from scratch to make it work, but they succeeded handsomely.

During the Paris-Dakar rally early in 1984, observers had the first chance to see what Porsche was up to. They had fielded three 911 SC based racers fitted with a simplified version of the new four-wheel drive system. Porsche thought of the rally as nothing more than a big test and were pleasantly surprised when one of their cars crossed the line first in Dakar. Encouraged by the results in 1984, three 959s were prepared for the 1985 edition. Due to the engine development problems, the cars were fitted with the 232 bhp engine fitted in the Dakar winning 911 SC. All the advanced 'gizmo's' were fitted on the three cars. Untested they departed for Dakar on New Year's day. The drivers quickly discovered that the cars really were not quite ready and all three were forced to retire. Porsche returned a year later and much better prepared. They fielded three 959s again, but this time fitted with the twin-Turbocharged engine. The boost of Turbos was lowered to cope with Africa's low octane fuel, which saw the power decrease to 390 bhp. Another change from the 959 road car was the absence of the ABS system. Only 67 of the 488 starters survived the 1986 edition of the Dakar Rally. Among them were the three Porsches, which finished first, second and sixth. With its point proven, the 959 did not return to the Paris Dakar; it was the end of the 959's rally career, but not yet of its racing career.

The engine problems had caused the introduction date of the production car to be delayed several times. Homologation for Group B had lost all priority. The engineers instead concentrated on building the very best road car they could. To ensure the 959 met all the quality standards expected from Porsche nearly 20 pre-production prototypes were built and subjected to extensive testing. The 1985 IAA in Frankfurt was set as the new launch date of the 959 road car with deliveries expected to start in the fall of the next year. The final specification included a fully appointed interior with luxurious leather seats, electric windows and air-conditioning. That was quite unlike the other Group B 'homologation specials' and clearly showed where Porsche's priorities were. The price had almost tripled from the initial estimate to a staggering DM 420,000. Nevertheless Porsche received as many 1,600 inquiries. Eventually 250 orders were accepted after the customers placed a down payment of DM 50,000. That was a mean feat considering that the 959 was not going to be available in the potentially biggest market. Porsche refused to waste additional resources to adapt the new car to the very strict emission and in particular safety standards upheld in the United States. It took until April of 1987 before the first car was finally delivered. By that time the original buyers were offered premiums of up to DM 150,000 for their new cars, underlining the excitement the exceptional 959 had created in the market.

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  Article Image gallery (30) WP0ZZZ93ZFS010015 Specifications