Porsche 959 values are suffering from a simple problem: The cars are just not old enough to ascend to that high platform of market adulation


Before the Ferrari F40, before the McLaren F1, almost before the term "supercar" was invented, there was the Porsche 959, an expression of extensive development, technical competence, and competitiveness that brought a new excitement to road-going automotive pursuits.

The Porsche 959 odyssey started in 1983 and involved many pioneering techniques, most notably molded composite bodywork. It was the first automotive production use of DuPont's Kevlar aramid fibers. The suspension has three ride height settings, as well as three dampening settings for the shocks. Its sophisticated antilock braking system is controlled by high-speed microprocessors augmented by run-flat Bridgestone tires.

The 2,849-cc, twin sequential turbocharged and intercooled flat-six engine runs a maximum boost of one atmosphere and uses water cooling for the six individual cylinder heads. The result is a maximum horsepower of 450 at 6,500 rpm. This power is transmitted through an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. Top speed is 198 mph and 0-62 mph is achieved in 3.6 seconds.

The list of the Porsche 959's specifications could go on and on. Suffice to say that it was a tour de force in any number of areas and was the first of a new breed of ultra-high-performance supercars.

Some 200 "Komfort" models were built and allocated to preferred clients throughout the world. The example offered here is the first 959 delivered in Italy and is offered by its original owner. Finished in metallic gray with triple-gray leather interior, it is original throughout and in excellent condition. The car shows 59,500 km from new, has never had an accident, and the service book is stamped accordingly. It comes with its handbook, tools and a title from the principality of Monaco.

Important automobiles to own, and even more satisfying to drive, well maintained Porsche 959s rarely become available on the open market. There is perhaps no more revolutionary automobile in the latter half of the 20th century. As the original supercar, it represents a technical achievement that may never be surpassed.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1988 Porsche 959

This ultimate modern Porsche 959 sold for $204,097 at Bonhams’ Monaco auction held May 15, 2004, against a pre-auction estimate of $195,000-$220,000.

Yes, that’s a lot of money in absolute terms. But for a 959, it’s just the going rate. And worse, 959 values have been flat for the past decade, while other special Porsches-like the 904 and the 550 Spyder-have risen by at least 50 percent during the same period. If 959s are so darn wonderful, why aren’t they appreciating too?

Rarity certainly isn’t the issue. While many iconic cars (think: Ferrari Daytonas, 356 Speedsters or 930 Turbos) were made in relatively large quantities that obviously create limits to their appreciation potential, the 959 was a legitimately limited-production model. Just over 200 copies were produced, a modest volume that bodes well for future appreciation. (By comparison, just over 100 904s were built, and about 140 550/550A Spyders left the factory.)

One strike against the Porsche 959, especially compared to the 904s and the 550 Spyders, is its lack of competition heritage. While used in the occasional off-road rally, the 959 was not used for circuit racing. But still, we’re talking streetable supercars here, so this isn’t the crux of the issue.

959 values are suffering from a simple problem: The cars are just not old enough yet. Part of what makes a vintage car into something special is the way our view of it changes with the passage of time. Certain vehicles speak for an entire generation, they mark important advances in automotive development, and they revamp our thinking about what can be achieved by four wheels and an engine. Although it always takes time to determine which cars will ascend to that high platform of market adulation, I think the 959 will, in fact, make it. What I am less sure about is the timing of the market movement leading up to that ascension.

When the 904 was in a similar situation back in the ’70s, you could pick one up for about $10,000, but they were difficult to sell. Nobody really cared about them back then, as they were not yet old enough to become icons, and yet way too old to be useful on a racetrack. Plus, they were maintenance intensive. It wasn’t until about 25 years after they were new that 904s hit the big time.

Today they’re worth $375,000-$500,000, and it’s a seller’s market. 904s are rarely offered, and when they are they nearly always bring record prices.

This simple law of supply and demand has not yet turned in the Porsche 959’s favor. Like the 904 back in the day, it’s currently a buyer’s market for 959s, with an ample supply available. (Not only are the cars regularly available in Europe, but high-line brokers like Michael Sheehan are able to get you one quite easily. Plus, a firm in California is converting a batch to U.S.-legal specs.) What’s different about the 959, however, is that it still has not hit a rock-bottom depreciation point, like the 904 did-and this may never happen.

Here’s an interesting comparison to illustrate the point. In the early ’70s, $10,000 bought you either a banged-up 904 or a brand new 911S. Today, the $200k you’d pay for a 959 pays for two new 911s and a Boxster. As you can see, today the market is wiser to the future potential of any supercar. That’s why we’re seeing these stagnant $200k prices, and as such, the 959 will likely never become the forgotten gem that the 904 was.

Still, a 959 will always be a thoroughly desirable and exotic addition to any first-tier collection. I think there’s money to be made on 959s, but like any stockbroker will tell you, it’s all in the timing. Will they start their climb this year or in a decade? That’s one I don’t have the answer to.

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