Films: 1987 Porsche 959: A Supercar Years Ahead Of Its Time
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Made To Drive | S11 E06

1987 Porsche 959: A Supercar Years Ahead Of Its Time

The most ambitious Porsche road car ever built may have also saved the 911.
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Austin Powers
Austin Powers
4 years ago

The first 959 I ever saw was at GM’s Heritage Center in Warren, Mi. It was around 1999 or 2000. It wasn’t showcased, but stored out of the main room around some vintage GM cars. I was just dumbfounded looking at it, wondering “how did GM get their hands on this thing?” knowing that it wasn’t legal to drive in the U.S.. Waxing on how significant the car was and to have one possession was such a coup, I couldn’t understand why my colleagues just looked at me with “meh” on their faces.

Hope it’s still there.

Bob Clarke
Bob Clarke
4 years ago

It was the best day of my life. My old modified Mazdaspeed3 and I had just come down into Red Bluff, off Northern California’s legendary motorcycle and sports car road, Highway 36. I began my day in a redwood forest, climbed to 5,000 feet and home to Red Bluff on a fully banked 150-mile-long racetrack. It’s California’s own freaking North Loop, and it’s a lot of fun. 2 lanes, 1 lane, log trucks, oh my! There at the bottom was a guy, backing the familiar shape of a 959 off a trailer. Never having seen 1.5 million dollars up close before, I had to stop and talk to the guy. He didn’t want to talk much, but it turned out he was getting ready to run Highway 36 with a buddy of his in what looked to have been a restomod Chevelle. The Chevelle was going up as the rabbit. A thing I remember was that he had a great smile on his face the whole time. Wish my dad had been there. Cheers!

Royce Amatique
Royce Amatique
4 years ago

Great video, thanks.
The thing that gets me about 959s is that they’re ugly but no one seems to acknowledge that.
It’s a bit the same with E types. In standard form their track is too narrow and I think they look ungamely, although with wide wheels and track they are quite beautiful. But most people seem to regard E types as unqualified beauties. I don’t get it.

Sotirios Bakaimis
Sotirios Bakaimis
4 years ago

the only 911 that really matters (also the 993). aerodynamics, style, 4X4, engine make me forget…. the ugly…..& enormus steering wheel…

Tom Yip
Tom Yip
4 years ago

Terrific video, and a great story, everything we’ve come to expect and love from Petrolicious! Bruce Canepa rightly highlights Helmuth Bott’s genius in building the 959 and arguably, the man most responsible for saving the 911. But that’s only part of the story. Late last year, Peter Werner Schutz, former CEO of Porsche AG, from 1981 to 1987, passed away at the age of 87. Panorama magazine recently ran an article in tribute about the German-born, US-educated and trained Schutz. In the article is an excerpt from a 2013 interview he gave to Road & Track in which he described the meeting with Professor Bott that would change the fate of the 911.

Schutz: “I remember the day quite well: I went down to the office of our lead engineer, Professor Helmuth Bott, to discuss plans for our upcoming development model. I noticed a chart hanging on his wall that depicted the ongoing development trends of our top three lines: 911, 928 and 944. With the latter options, the graph showed a steady rise in production for years to come. But for the 911, the line stopped in 1981. I grabbed a marker off Professor Bott’s desk and extended the line across the page, onto the wall and out the door. When I came back, Bott stood there, grinning. ‘ Do we understand each other?’, I asked. And with a nod, we did.”

Herr Bott was in fact, acting at the direction of Schutz. And in another anectodal story, the article gives a nod to the spare-no-expense development of the 959. Panorama recounted Schutz’s response to Bott’s warning about the high cost of Porsche’s return to Le Mans racing (which Schutz also directed).

Bott: “Do you know how much this will cost?”
Schutz: “If we win, no one will ask.”

Thanks to Bott’s genius, the 959’s legacy is forever cemented in Porsche lore, but it-and the 911-might not exist today, were it not for the vision and leadership of Schutz.

Randy
Randy
4 years ago

I met Mr. Canepa when he was on one of our charters from L.A. to Santa Rosa. He was quite surprised when I started talking cars, and that I knew who he was.

What an enjoyable video.

AndrewAllred
AndrewAllred
4 years ago

Down in front Teddy!

drake
drake
4 years ago

Thatt is most definitely Highway 9 going from Santa Cruz to Felton. I have spent 30 years traveling that bit of road in cars, motorcycles and even bicycles. I have had the pleasure of seeing 959’s being test driven in the area. and at the Cars and Coffee. I’m so thankful to have had the pleasure of going through Canepa’s workshop and seeing cars that had only existed to me in books and magazines. The diversity is amazing. If you love cars you should make it Number 1 on your bucket list. To see a Pagani drive in to park next to a Ferrari Lusso is hard to comprehend. And that’s just in the parking lot outside.

Casual Observer
Casual Observer
4 years ago

What a garage!

JB21
JB21
4 years ago

959 came out when I was in high school. So did F40. My friend and I would argue over and over which is better. He was all in for 959, I, of course, for F40. Now it sounds like a stupid argument, as we know, they are so incredibly different from the concept to the execution, but at that time, it was valid, especially for two kids who didn’t even have a driver’s license. I still haven’t got to driven either of them, but hearing pundits talk about them today, I feel I won the argument.

dennis white
dennis white
4 years ago

I believe Bruce was in his 917 a few years ago when he made an inside pass on the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Major cojones!

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
4 years ago

Well made little video about a pivotal car, with a complicated history, told by a man at the center of the California mid-coast Porsche community. I continue to be impressed by the level of access that Petrolicious continues to obtain to these cars and these people. Fun to see the car on what must be the roads around Santa Cruz, and perhaps Big Basin. On another note, does anyone recognize that little, right hand drive, Italian, roadster in the Jaeger-Lecoulter advertisement?

Bohemianracer
Bohemianracer
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert in LA

It’s a Pagazo Z 102

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert in LA

@Bohemianracer
A Pegaso. Thanks for the reference. Spanish. Interesting and innovative little barcetta. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegaso_Z-102

Dave Budgell
Dave Budgell
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert in LA

Hey Robert – Wondering the same thing about the little roadster in the opening ad. Nice to see the ad done as tastefully as the stories featured.

SantaCruz-e30C
SantaCruz-e30C
4 years ago

A walk through Canepa Motors is amazing. A Saturday morning at one of their Cars & Coffee is mind-blowing! There are the usual stunning displays of various cars that show up, but the freedom to explore the garage/restoration/storage spaces is staggering.
The road winding through the redwoods looks like Hwy 9 running from Felton to Santa Cruz. Quite a grin-worthy few miles.

SantaCruzRed
SantaCruzRed
4 years ago
Reply to  SantaCruz-e30C

Completely agree… any enthusiast, Porsche or otherwise, should put one the cars ‘n coffee events at Canepa’s in Scotts Valley on their bucket list. The only 959’s I ever saw were either at automotive shows or as pictorials in car magazines. Walk through Canepa’s and you might see a couple on the showroom floor or, back in the shop… maybe 2 or 3 at some state of one of their remarkable restos. It was great to actually hear the car in the video as although the basic engine architecture is the same as just about any air-cooled 911… no 911 ever sounded like that!

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
4 years ago
Reply to  SantaCruz-e30C

Yes. It looks like it could be Route 9 or thereabouts. And 236 (Big Basin Way) drops down to one lane and has redwoods growing right up to the edge of the road. I love both of them.

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
4 years ago
Reply to  SantaCruz-e30C

Canepa’s Cars & Coffee looks very well attended.

http://canepa.com/category/news/canepa-cars-and-coffee/

PDXBryan
PDXBryan
4 years ago

That is a very cool piece of automotive history. I remember when the talk was that Porsche would probably quit making the 911 and what a depressing thought! I didn’t realize, however, that the 959 was the turning point in that decision. Thanks Petro!

Valor007
Valor007
4 years ago

We owe these folks a huge “thank you” for paving the way for “Show and Display.” Truly pathetic how dumb-ass backwards our bureaucracy is. You can drive a motorcycle, even without a helmet in many places in this country but a car like a 959, a car that’s hardly ever driven, that is actually safe, is forced to comply with road going standard technicalities expected of a mass produced production car. We Americans once rode horses and rode in covered wagons but now we need to be protected from cars like the 959 and other exotics. Even under show and display these cars are forced to comply with the EPA requirements….which is ludicrous considering how few miles they are driven…..and yet two stroke gross polluting motors (leaf blowers, lawn mowers, scooters, mopeds, etc) are everywhere??

Alexandre Goncalves
Alexandre Goncalves
4 years ago

What a car and what an ordeal (and what a great lunch I just had – not for the meal itself, but by having the pleasure of eating and resting a bit, while enjoying this short film) Thanks to the owner and thank you Petrolicious!

Btw, not that I know that much about cars, but I thought Bill Gates was the main responsible for the “Show and display” bill. I guess I was wrong.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton
4 years ago

I could be wrong. I was under the impression that Bill Gates approached Canepa and tasked them with getting them in to the US.

Stephen Fitzgerald
Stephen Fitzgerald
4 years ago

This would certainly absolve Bill Gates for having created Windows in my mind. 🙂

KadettKid
KadettKid
4 years ago

From what was told to me on a tour at Canepa was that, the first one to enter the country was by someone very wealthy that had a yacht and essentially sailed to Europe, purchased one, put it on his yacht then sailed back to the US and was driving it around essentially as a 911. Perhaps that someone was Bill Gates???