The car-guy comedian gets a tour of the engineering masterpiece
Supercars weren’t a new thing in 1988, but the Porsche 959 helped set the benchmark for the
segment to follow decades after production ended. On the latest episode of Jay
Leno’s Garage, Leno and Alex Grappo, the owner of the visiting 959, dive into
what made the car such a miraculous piece of engineering 30 years ago.
We’ve never met Mr. Grappo, but we don’t like him much since he
owns a 959 and none of us here at Motor Authority do. We
digress. Grappo is a well of knowledge about the supercar, including Porsche’s ethos during its
The goal wasn’t to just build a faster car, the German company wanted to provide power and make sure it was usable anywhere. He recalls photos of the 959 testing in, for example, the Arctic. Winter testing for supercars isn’t uncommon now, but in 1988? No way.
The rolling laboratory of a Porsche
boasted 450 horsepower, quite a lot for 1988, and boasted exotic parts and
materials. That included Kevlar and the first run-flat tires ever used. Grappo
says the engineers were worried about what a blowout could look like at speeds
approaching 200 mph, hence the inclusion of run-flats. All of the power was
sent through a manual transmission and then to all four wheels, bucking the
rear-wheel-drive trend of the time.
This car is a 959 Komfort model, which means it uses the adjustable ride-height suspension that weighed a lot but made the car easier to live with on a daily basis. When the Ferrari F40 came out, Porsche created the S model that did away with the adjustable suspension and created a lighter, more nimble, but stiffer-riding car.
It’s hard to list everything
Porsche considered when developing the 959. Porsche even developed a special
anti-shatter windshield to protect the driver and passengers from, say, a rock
hitting the windshield at high speeds on the Autobahn.
Most of this is stuff we’re used to
today. In 1988, it was game-changing, and it’s why the 959 remains a poster supercar to this day.