1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015

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Lot 19
1988 Porsche 959
Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015

Sold for CHF 227,416 (US$ 235,461) inc. premium
1988 Porsche 959
Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015


  • "Anyone who has driven a 959 on a variety of roads and especially in the wet knows how stunningly good it is as a complete ultra-high performance road car." Autocar, June 1988

    Kevlar body panels, twin turbos, multi-mode four-wheel drive, adjustable ride height, Nomex floorpan, six-speed gearbox, hollow-spoked magnesium wheels – when the production version of the Porsche 959 was unveiled at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show, there were grounds for thinking it had arrived from a different planet rather than a late night truck from Zuffenhausen.

    There was nothing like it, nothing with the same level of technology, no road car to match its performance until Ferrari, peeved that the 288 GTO had been comprehensively usurped from its position as the world's fastest road car, fought back with the F40. But that's another story.

    Futuristic technology aside, the 959 was already familiar when it was shown in 1985 – in fact it had first been seen in the same place two years earlier, badged as the Gruppe B Prototype. The brainchild of chief engineer Helmut Bott, its origins date back to 1981 when it was given the go ahead by managing director Peter Schutz after Bott convinced him that he could take the 911s basic principles forward, possibly incorporating 4wd. This came at a time when Porsche was looking at ending production of the 911 in favour of the 924 and 928. It was a bold strategy.

    Realising that the car he was proposing would slot neatly into the Group B rally formula and that an active motorsport program would speed up the development process, the 959 gradually took shape.

    At its core was a smaller capacity version of the 911's flat six, with a turbocharger for each cylinder bank. In a quest to eradicate the lag that had up until then afflicted Porsche's turbo models, Bott employed sequential turbos: a small one for initial response, and, after 4,300rpm, a larger one for outright power, which allowed far more progressive torque characteristics across the rev range. Combining water-cooled heads with an air-cooled block, the 2.85-litre powerplant developed 444bhp at 6,500rpm and 369lb ft at 5,000rpm.

    Porsche went further, equipping its radical new prototype with aluminium doors and bonnet, a polyurethane front bumper, with the rest of the body panels constructed from Kevlar – a first for an automotive product. Even the spokes of the 17-inch magnesium alloy wheels were hollowed out, the empty channels maximizing air volume in the tyres, which improved ride quality. The Bridgestone RE71 tyres also had run-flat capabilities and there was tyre pressure monitoring, too.

    Underneath the sleek aerodynamic bodywork (developed to create zero lift) was Bott's Porsche Steuer Kupplung (PSK), an all-wheel drive system that could vary the torque from front to rear depending on the conditions, sending up to 80 per cent of available torque to the rear wheels under full acceleration. This was mated to dampers that offered a choice of three different ride heights and three stiffness settings.

    It was, by any measure, an extremely advanced car, but the technology took time to develop and successive production delays meant deliveries of the road going version didn't start until 1987. However, a motorsport rally program got underway immediately after Frankfurt in 1985.

    In fact in some ways it had already been underway. Three 911s with 959 running gear (internally known as the 953) had taken part in the 1984 Paris-Dakar, one of them taking overall honours. Expectations were high for the 1985 race, but all three failed to finish, so it wasn't until 1986 that the 959 scored its first victory on the world stage – a 1-2 finish on the Paris-Dakar.

    The Group B rallying experiment was terminated at the end of the 1986 season, though, effectively finishing the 959's racing career before it even began.

    However, although costs had spiralled Porsche had pressed on too far with the road car project to think of backing out. Rumour had it that the firm was losing over £200,000 on each car – despite charging more than £175,000 for the 959 in the first place.

    Available in either 'Sport' or 'Komfort' trim (the latter being far more popular with buyers), Porsche sold 113 in 1987 and another 179 the following year – and that was it. After a long and troubled build-up the technological tour de force that was Project 959 was dead within two years. All told, including racing versions and prototypes, only a little over 300 were produced at the Zuffenhausen facility.

    That makes this a rare opportunity to acquire a known example with clear provenance. It was sold new to the Duke of Guevara Fabbri in Geneva, and invoiced to him by the Porsche factory on 19th May 1988 (the invoice is with the car) for DM.368,421.06 plus 14% mehrwertsteuer (German VAT), totaling DM.420,330.00. Although import taxes were (and remain) higher in Germany than Switzerland, perhaps the duke opted to pay German tax as 959s cannot be registered in Switzerland due to emissions laws.

    The car was ordered in Grand Prix White with black leather trim, German equipment, sports seats left and right and alarm system. It was imported to Switzerland in 1988 and acquired by Peter Baumberger from the Duke's ex-wife in 1994, becoming one of Peter's favourite cars. Much expense has since lavished on maintenance, including work by the Porsche factory, the Zurich main agent and, most recently, a major overhaul by classic Porsche specialist Marc de Siebenthal near Lausanne. He recalls that parts alone cost almost CHF.40,000, including CHF.7,000 for a new front radiator; it is hoped that a copy of the four page invoice will be available for inspection. "The car drove well and showed no signs of accident damage" Marc recalls. Now showing 93,425km, Peter's 959 is cosmetically well presented but has not been driven recently so a further check-up is advisable before serious use.

    This 959 is one of the most eye-catching around. Don't forget that a 197mph maximum made it the world's fastest road car, while almost nothing could touch its 3.6 sec 0-60mph sprint time either.

    The driving experience is similarly captivating – although you may not appreciate as much for the first few miles. Inside the cabin bears close resemblance to a 911s of the period. The 959 is easy to drive – light on the controls, with fine visibility and an obedient, flattering nature.

    But just wait until that second turbo spins up, catapulting the 959 down the road accompanied by a deep, wailing soundtrack. The trick systems all work harmoniously to keep the car in check during cornering and even today there aren't many other supercars that can be pedaled along a mountain pass as quickly as this one. Composed, efficient and so precise, the Porsche 959 still feels modern today. 20 years ago it must have felt extraordinary.

    Unregistered, the Baumberger collection 959 comes with a 1320A form (Swiss tax paid) and owners manuals in their wallet.

Saleroom notices

  • The owners manual referred to in the catalogue is infact the service manual ('Garantie & Entretien') Additional items included with this Lot: trip master manual, jack, wheel nut remover, tool kit & bonnet hydralic strut We have catalogued paperwork and tool kits/accessories as a courtesy to clients but without guarantee. N.B. We have not checked individual tool kits for completeness
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
1988 Porsche 959  Chassis no. WP0ZZZ95ZJS90015
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