The Porsche 959 was a technical tour de force when it was released in 1986. This was Porsche at its very best, pushing boundaries and claiming the world record for the fastest-ever production car in the process.
There was just one problem - cost, both to Porsche and the consumer. The original price was the equivalent of over half a million dollars in today’s money, and even then, the German manufacturer was losing a lot of money, spending roughly twice that figure on each one built.
What it needed was something cheaper to sell (and build) that sat below the 959 but above the 911 Turbo. The project had the internal designation ‘965’. Porsche tried out various engines, including a V8 borrowed from Audi. Yep, still mounted in the 911’s traditional location behind the rear axle.
Ultimately, it still would have been a pricey beast, and with a recession souring the appetite of elite car buyers, the 965 was the right Porsche at the wrong time. The project was canned, and 15 of the prototypes were destroyed. All except one, which was hidden for years until Porsche dusted it off and talked about it in a YouTube video (below). More recently, it’s featured in a more in-depth effort (above), giving an insightful look at what might have been.
The survivor is the Audi V8-powered 965. The car is a fascinating blend of G and 964-generation 911 and 959 on the inside and out, with some neat reminders of its life as a prototype such as the engineer’s notes on the dashboard.
Prototype ‘L7’ wasn’t built for nothing - after the 965 died, it lived on to test water-cooling in the 911’s unusual rear-engined package, laying the groundwork for the 996.