Porsche history project: Recomissioning a Paris-Dakar 959

Photos: Porsche AG

Porsche history project: Recomissioning a Paris-Dakar 959


Porsche history project: Recomissioning a Paris-Dakar 959


Porsche’s 959 mastered the grueling Paris-Dakar desert rally from France to West Africa in 1986, finishing 1-2 in the 8700-mile endurance contest. Now the runnerup Jacky Ickx/Claude Brasseur machine—which finished right behind the identical 959 of winners René Metge and Dominique Lemoyne—is ready to be driven once again. A cmprehensive recommissioning has been carried out over the past few months by the Porsche Heritage and Museum team together with their colleagues from Porsche Classic.

The multi-part documentary “959 Paris-Dakar” on the Porsche YouTube channel offers insights into the recommissioning process.

The starting line-up of the ’86 Paris-Dakar Rally was dominated by trucks and all-terrain vehicles. The three Porsche 959 cars from Zuffenhausen stood out—the third, a service car driven by project manager Roland Kussmaul and Wolf-Hendrik Unger, took sixth place. To this day, the Porsche Museum has preserved the complete trio as part of its collection.

“The winning car remains untouched and we keep it in a kind of time capsule, so to speak, with all of the physical traces of the rally preserved for as long as possible,” explains Kuno Werner, Head of the Museum Workshop.

The team spent two years in the early 1980s transforming the 953 and later 959 into rally cars, reinforcing the suspension with double shock absorbers on the front axle and fitted all-terrain tires. If the surface didn’t require all-wheel drive, an electro-hydraulically controlled center differential on the 959 distributed the power variably between the front and rear axles.

Racing director Peter Falk recalled Porsche’s first three Paris-Dakar attempts—1984 with the Porsche 953 and the following two years with the 959: “It was really great that we got all the cars across the finish line and won the race at our first attempt [in ’84]. Then Mr Bott said, ‘We have to go again, once isn’t enough.’ But in 1985, all three of our cars dropped out. That was devastating. We were determined to race again, though we were all a bit sick of the whole thing after losing everything.

“In 1986 we did it again,” Falk explained. “All three cars finished and we had a 1-2 victory.”

Porsche Museum 959 Paris Dakar Restauration

“[In recomissioning the second-placed 959] we wanted to keep the original condition and only lightly overhaul the car while eliminating any technical flaws,” said Werner. There were just over 11,000 miles on the clock of the 959 which, like its series production counterpart, was powered by an air-/water-cooled flat-six engine with compound turbocharging. Due to the low-quality fuel, the output of the six-cylinder engine was reduced to 395 hp, but it was still capable of 130mph speeds.

“The car was in very good condition, with no major defects or corrosion,” said Uwe Makrutzki, Head of Porsche Classic factory restoration. During the 959’s disassembly, the team discovered aseveral pounds of sand and dirt from the African desert as its body and mechanical parts had never been separated.

“This was not an everyday thing for us. It was fascinating. Mud and dirt showed us that the car had gone through rivers and gotten water in its interior,” said Werner.

Small areas of corrosion where the Kevlar body parts ground against the metal frame as a consequence of the physical pressures of high-speed rally driving were conserved rather than repaired in order to preserve the history of the car.

To re-tell the 1986 story, the Porsche Heritage and Museum team invited Belgian star Jacky Ickx to the car’s reveal following its overhaul, its former pilot giving it a run in a nearby stone quarry.

“In the car, the memories came back to me immediately as I remembered the people who made it all possible back then,” Ickx said. The team at the time numbered just 18 people. “It’s fantastic that I get to be a part of this story,” he continued. The rally was an unbelievable challenge and also the perfect testing ground for all-wheel drive.

Almost four decades later, Ickx summed up the ‘86 race in three words: “Memories, emotions, passion.”

For Kuno Werner, Head of the Museum Workshop, the reveal was something very special: “The 959 stood idle for many years before being given the opportunity of a whole new reunion with its original driver on this snow and grit. This has been a source of pride for our entire Porsche Heritage and Museum team.”

From February 23 to 26, visitors can see the car in Stuttgart at the Retro Classics event, as part of the ‘75 Years of Porsche Sports Cars’ special exhibition in the atrium / east entrance to the exhibition center.

For those unable to visit in person, insights into the recommissioning process can still be enjoyed, with the six-part ‘959 Paris-Dakar’ documentary now available on Porsche’s YouTube channel.


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