1985 Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar
$3,000,000 - $3,400,000
RM | Sotheby's - THE PORSCHE 70TH ANNIVERSARY AUCTION 2018 - Offered on: Saturday, October 27, 2018
- Campaigned at the 1985 Paris-Dakar by three-time winner René Metge
- One of three Works-supported entries in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally
- One of seven developmental examples; four of which are retained by Porsche
- Driven at the Goodwood Festival of Speed by celebrated Porsche driver Jacky Ickx
- Class winner at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and Quail Motorsports Gathering
- Displayed at the Royal Automobile Club in London, UK
- Invited to the Petersen Automotive Museum’s The Porsche Effect exhibit
- An important and authentic cornerstone of a Group B legend
Despite the enormous success of its production-based race cars throughout its history, Porsche rarely developed such models as official factory entries, preferring instead to support them in the hands of privateer customers. One of the notable exceptions occurred in the mid-1980s with the advent of one of Stuttgart’s most celebrated and advanced models, the 959.
The twin-turbocharged 959 production car, which competed with the likes of the Ferrari F40 in the first wave of modern supercars, was originally conceived in a 1981 meeting between Porsche chief engineer Helmuth Bott and the recently hired president of the company, Peter Schutz. Bott had long imagined the ultimate ends to which the 911 might be developed, and Schutz approved an idea to explore that end through the exciting Group B competition class, where Audi, Ford, and Peugeot were proving the racing capabilities of new production technologies like all-wheel-drive and small-displacement turbocharging.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show in late 1983, Porsche unveiled a concept car called the Gruppe B that indicated the manufacturer’s intention of joining the fray of the formula-free racing format. Finished in all white with dramatically overhauled 911 styling, the Gruppe B concept was envisioned with a twin-turbocharged flat-six engine lifted from the company’s shelved Formula 1 effort of 1980, a motor itself derived from the 935/78 Moby Dick powerplant.
While this engine would eventually see use in the production examples and later racing derivations of the 959, the Group B’s homologation rules required 200 examples to be produced, so the new model was initially built from a highly modified 911 SC powered by a naturally aspirated 3.2-liter Carrera motor. As the Group B class evolved to more comprehensively embrace rallying over the following year, Porsche brass realized the format might not be the testing ground for the 959 that was originally envisioned.
FROM PARIS TO DAKAR
Around this time, however, the longtime Porsche driver Jacky Ickx clarified his interest in developing a 956-based entrant in the Paris-Dakar Rally, which he had previously campaigned in a Mercedes-Benz 280 GE Gelandewagen. Ickx was already driving Porsche 956 examples to great success for the Rothmans team, and Porsche welcomed his ability to bring sponsorship and corresponding development funding, an attractive combination of factors for the 959’s evolution.
Under the Rothmans banner, Ickx fielded a Porsche team of three cars at the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally. Based on the 911 SC RS, but internally classified as the Type 953, these cars were fitted with manually controlled four-wheel drive, and the standard 911 bodywork was modified with the substitution of aluminum doors, deck lids, and plexiglass for optimum weight reduction. To the great surprise of the entire field, René Metge and Dominique Lemoyne drove their car to outright victory, while Ickx and Claude Brasseur claimed 6th, and the third car finished in 17th place. Incredibly, all three cars completed the grueling 7,500-mile race.
For the 1985 running of the Dakar Rally, Porsche unveiled three of the first purpose-built 959 examples, employing a new chassis and coachwork in the style of the Gruppe B concept. The featured example, chassis 010015, was one of these three entries. These cars were again powered by the naturally aspirated Carrera engine, but now featured further developed all-wheel-drive components, and numerous computer-governed systems. Unfortunately, all three cars retired with mechanical issues, including the feature car’s failure of an oil line about halfway through the race. Its sister car, driven by Ickx and Brasseur, would even hold the overall lead before hitting a large rock and retiring. The third 959 of Mass and Kiefer did not finish after an early accident.
After the 1985 event, Schutz and Bott doubled-down on their commitment to the Paris-Dakar the following year by finally introducing the originally conceived turbocharged engine to the 959 and smashing the competition at the 1986 race with a 1-2 finish (with the third support car finishing in 6th). While the street version of the 959 soon received the adulation of supercar enthusiasts everywhere, the rare Paris-Dakar examples produced from 1984–1986 were the true cream-of-the-crop for most Porsche racing experts. The 959 Paris-Dakar model has commensurately evolved into one of Stuttgart’s most desirable competition cars, as the purest distillation of Helmuth Bott’s original concept for the ultimate all-wheel-drive Porsche.
CHASSIS NUMBER 010015
Ultimately, seven such development 959 rally cars were produced. Three each for 1985 and 1986, respectively, as well as one Le Mans prototype, dubbed the Type 961. Of these examples, four have been retained by the Porsche motorsports department or museum, while one car was destroyed in the 1985 Rallye des Pharaons in Egypt, and another was subsequently sold by Porsche as a bare shell and rebuilt. This incredible piece of Porsche development history is otherwise one of only two 959 rally cars in private hands.
This historically significant developmental example of the 959 claims important competition provenance, and long-term private ownership. Chassis no. 010015 is one of three cars prepared specifically for the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally. To satisfy homologation requirements, these 959 test mules were developed from 911 SC chassis and then substantially modified to 959 specifications. Incorporating the naturally aspirated 3.2-liter Carrera engine, all three cars were fitted with a new heavy-duty suspension and electronically administered four-wheel drive.
Entered as #186, this 959 was piloted by 1984 champions Dominique Lemoyne and René Metge, the latter of whom had also won the Dakar Rally in 1981 and would win a third time a year later in 1986. Unfortunately, 1985 was not to be the year for Porsche, with this car winning two stages before suffering a ruptured oil line, forcing its withdrawal from the rally.
Following the 1985 Paris-Dakar campaign, chassis 010015 was shelved from further competition use, and eventually entered a short chain of private ownership. Acquired by the consignor, a respected collector based in Virginia who has owned an enviable collection of great sports-racing cars, the 959 joined his collection of other notable racing legends. The Porsche was enjoyed for three consecutive years at the Goodwood Festival of Speed from 2004–2006, where it was also driven by Mr. Ickx and his daughter Vanina. In 2008, the 959 won its class at the Quail Motorsports Gathering in Carmel Valley, California, and soon after it was displayed in the lobby of the Royal Automobile Club in London.
Currently prepared for future use at vintage events, chassis no. 010015 is fitted with engine no. 6380621, a correct 3.2-liter Carrera motor. An authentic period 959 Dakar motor that was most probably used in the actual 1985 rally, engine no. 09-01005, also accompanies the car. As an authentic Rothmans team 959 used in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally, this car is one of but a small handful that established Porsche’s supremacy in the field of all-wheel-drive supercars. The future caretaker can expect a warm welcome at international concours d’elegance and Porsche events, or enjoy the 959’s blistering performance at vintage racing events and exclusive rallies.
Chassis 010015 displays overwhelming authenticity and would handily crown most any collection of Porsche competition cars. Dedicated Weissach enthusiasts are invited to consider what will undoubtedly be an unparalleled acquisition.
Following the sale, this car has been invited to participate in the Petersen Automotive Museum’s continued display of The Porsche Effect through April 2019 – a monumental exhibition that documents Porsche’s impact on contemporary visual culture through a curated set of vehicles within the Mullin Family Grand Salon. For further information, please refer to an RM Sotheby’s representative.
Please note that there are currently two 959 rally cars in private ownership. Furthermore, of the seven original cars, one was destroyed in the 1985 Pharoahs' Rally and four remain in the Porsche Museum.