Porsche’s 959 is an icon of the brand’s history. For many enthusiasts, this is the car that made Porsche a serious contender in the world of supercars. Forget the competition victories, the Le Mans domination of the era, or the decades of on-track prowess. No, Porsche wasn’t truly a Ferrari-like take-on-the-world sports car manufacturer until the 200 MPH 959 first spooled its turbos. It’s a massive technological step forward in Porsche’s history, and the ethos behind this car continues to push the brand forward today. The 959 represents elegant and effortless speed. The upgraded Sport version packs a more powerful 508 horsepower flat six, coil over spring suspension [instead of the Komfort model’s hydropneumatic], a leather-wrapped roll bar, and grippy cloth racing buckets. Nick Heidfeld’s 959 S showed just 2,600 miles on the odometer when it arrived at Porsche Classic in 2017 for a complete refresh.
You may remember Nick Heidfeld from his time on the Formula One grid. Between 2000 and 2011 he started 183 Grands Prix around the world and scored 13 podiums, as well as a pole position and two fastest laps. He may be regarded as among the better drivers to never have won a race. The man has supplanted his time on the F1 grid with a number of other motorsports successes, including four fairly strong seasons on the Formula E grid, and five years as one of Rebellion Racing’s core drivers. With Rebellion he notched up a Le Mans class victory in 2014, and a Petit Le Mans overall win in 2013. It’s the kind of career that many racing drivers would be quite proud to call their own, and if a few more things had gone right, he could have really been a world championship contender in all three series.
Without regular exercise, the car began to accrue what Porsche describes as “storage damage”. The car needed a stem-to-stern overhaul. Says Uwe Makrutzki, Head of Factory Restoration at Porsche Classic, “The powertrain and chassis have to be overhauled in their entirety; experience has shown that any reduction to the scope of work leads to problems down the road. Almost all 959s have been with us at least once in their life,” continues Makrutzki. “So we have had a lot of practice. Thanks to the highly complex technology, however, a 959 overhaul is always a very special and wonderful mission.” Thankfully for us, having always been advocates of driving your cars, Makrutzki agrees with us. He says that every 959 should cover at least 60 miles of mixed operation use no less than once a month. If you’ve got a 959 you’re not only doing the car a disservice to keep it in storage, but you’re doing the world a disservice as well. Think of the wide smiles of all the people who will see it on the road!
Thankfully Porsche Classic took over all of the testing and refitting tools from the standard production line, meaning Porsche Classic has the most extensive archive of 959 expertise in the world. Heidfeld’s car was apparently equipped with some kind of non-standard tuning chip to augment its Motronic engine management system. Porsche Classic staff, at Heidfeld’s request, restored the Motronic unit to its original condition. Where else could you even get such a service completed?
The former Formula One driver’s 959 S was then ready to hit the road again in December 2021. Heidfeld: “I’ve had the privilege of driving many high-performance cars, but driving this high-tech legend is something special for me. I was a teenage car fan in the late 1980s, and to me this Porsche was always extraordinary. At the time, the 959 was the fastest production car in the world and by far the most advanced. So even today, it doesn’t drive like a 30-year-old car, but like a much more modern vehicle.”