Book Review: “Porsche 959″
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By Glenn Oyoung

Whether cooled by air or water, it seems these days that almost every corner of the Porsche market is red-hot. At a recent trip to Willow Springs, I found myself admiring a 993 Turbo and a 50th Anniversary Edition 911. I couldn’t decide what I liked more – the cars or the fact that you could drive them, track them, and still make money on them when the time came to change up the stable.

It’s therefore very hard for me to imagine the Porsche of the mid-1980’s that Dieter Landenberger, manager of Porsche’s Historical Archive, describes in the forward to “PORSCHE 959.” While still wildly successful from a sales perspective, “Porsche was not regarded as the most innovative brand in the industry,” due no doubt to its reliance on “very moderate developments” of the 1970’s based 911. The introduction of the 959 completely turned that around for Porsche. This handsome three-volume set by author Jürgen Lewandowski documents the development of the legendary 959 from concept to production in fascinating detail.


Developed for the legendary Group B rally series, known for some of the fastest racing cars to ever stage up, the Porsche 959 took the world by storm from the moment the prototype debuted at the 1983 Frankfurt Auto Show. From its innovative design to its myriad of technical and racing achievements, the 959 was truly the “uber-Porsche.” It put the automotive world on notice that this little sports car company from Stuttgart was a force to be reckoned with, not just a pseudo-one-hit wonder living off the 911’s past achievements.

The eyewitness accounts from the team members who gave birth to the 959 are augmented by beautiful large-format photos of the 959. Lewandowski takes us through the 959’s evolution from the C92 aerodynamic model (replete with engineer’s notes) to the Frankfurt Auto Show prototype to the production models.

I enjoyed learning about the famous racecars such as the Rothman’s-liveried 959 that took Paris-Dakar by storm and the 959s that set a record as the first AWD racecars at Le Mans. It was even more of a treat to see period photos of the 959 being tested all over the world, the “Golden One” commissioned by the Emir of Qatar, and René Staud’s quintessentially 80’s shots replete with requisite magenta neon glow that ended up gracing the 959 brochures.

A must for any true Porschephile, PORSCHE 959 is full of technical data, history, and photos that are sure to bring the reader back to the Golden Era of Group B racing and to a pivotal moment in Porsche’s history.

PORSCHE 959
MSRP: $148
ISBN: 9783667106957
Publisher: Delius Klasing Verlag
Size: 290 mm x 270 mm
Pages: 344
Illustrations: 200 colour
3 vols, hardback, slipcase

***

LA Car Exclusive: An interview with 959 Owner and 1985 Indy 500 Winner Danny Sullivan.

When the time came to review this book, our Editor and resident connected guy Doug Stokes brought to my attention that he knew of a very special 959 owner – none other than legendary racer Danny Sullivan. As a child of the 80’s, I literally jumped at the chance to interview Danny and ask him about his experiences with the 959.

Photo: Wikipedia

LACar: What year did you get a 959 and why did you choose a 959, of all the cars you could buy at the time?

Sullivan:  I got my 959 (serial #196, I think) in June of 1988.  I went over to Stuttgart on the Monday after Le Mans.  I was driving for TWR in a Jag, the team won, but our car had a problem.

LACar: You’re a legendary racer and the 959 is a legendary supercar, that still is amazing by even today’s standards. How would you compare the experience of driving the 959 vs. some of the race cars you’ve piloted?

Sullivan: As most know, it’s very hard to ever compare a road car, no matter how good it is, to a race car.  The 959 was very special in the day, turbos, all-wheel drive, looks, Porsche Engineering, style, and easy to drive.  I remember staying with Peter Schutz at his home in Germany, he was the CEO at the time, and he gave me his car to drive.  Snow, slush, Autobahn, back roads, McDonald’s drive-throughs, it handled anything and everything exceptionally well.

I unfortunately sold my 959 quite early on, but only because it was ruled at the time that there was NO WAY we were allowed to bring them into the States and register them for the street.  Sad, I might still have the car today.

I have driven one of Bruce Canepa’s updated versions recently, and it was as exciting as ever.  I know the reports on all the system problems and cost associated with that, but they still have the look, and I would own one again if the right opportunity comes along.

LACar: You’ve had some seat time in modern Porsches, how would you compare the 959 against the latest offerings from the company?

Sullivan: The new Porsches that I’ve had the pleasure to drive (on the road and on the track at Fontana), are such a great progression of what they’ve been doing since the 50′s. And my 959 was just one very important chapter in that history.

Currently in my Porsche stable I have a ’59A Coupe, a ’73 Tuthill Rally 911, a ’92 964 Carrera RS, and a Turbo Diesel Cayenne.

Editor’s Note: The boyhood dream list is getting checked off year by year. Interview Danny Sullivan – Check! Now if I can only score an interview with K.I.T.T.

- Glenn Oyoung, Editor-at-Large

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