The fastest car in the world in the 80s was rear-engined | Taza Khabre

Key findings

  • Innovation was key to the success of the Porsche 959, which dominated the supercar scene in the 1980s with cutting-edge technology.
  • Porsche’s unique approach to incorporating twin turbochargers and all-wheel drive outclassed rivals such as Ferrari and Lamborghini.
  • The 959 S cemented Porsche’s position as the fastest car in the world, displaying superior speed and acceleration compared to other supercars of the 80s.


The battle to build the fastest car in the world continues as manufacturers from all over the world compete against each other to achieve higher and higher speeds. Until the challenge now is to break the 300 mph barrierturned the clock back 40 years and some of the most prolific supercar manufacturers were busy trying to break 200 mph.


Although Ferrari and Lamborghini regularly beat each other’s records, this happened only before Porsche decided to take part in the creation of the iconic 959, which really improved the situation. Of course, the speed of this new Porsche was impressive, but perhaps more intriguing was the way the 959 got there. Here we discuss how and why Porsche decided to adopt such an unusual recipe for creation supercarand then we compare the results to the best works produced by Ferrari and Lamborghini in the 1980s.


HotCars gathered data from official sources and then compared the Porsche 959 to its competitors of the time to show how this rear-engined masterpiece dominated the supercar battle that raged throughout the 1980s.

Related

A brief history of top speed records

Breaking the top speed record is not like any challenge, it encourages manufacturers to explore the limits of automotive engineering in the race to be the best.

The Porsche 959 was a technological masterpiece

The future characteristics of the Porsche 959

  • Full drive
  • Automatic clearance adjustment
  • Magnesium alloy discs
  • Twin turbochargers
  • ABS brake

Porsche used many new technologies to beat the competition

Before the Porsche 959, the formula for an incredibly fast supercar was simple; put a huge engine with as much displacement and cylinder as possible in the middle of a rear-wheel drive supercar, give it a sleek and clunky design and hope for the best. Porsche looked at this recipe, threw the book away and started from scratch.


Result? A four-wheel-drive layout with a rear engine, a displacement of only 2.8 liters and no more than 6 cylinders – how could it stand up to the huge V12 giants from Italy? The answer was a technologically sophisticated one that included twin turbochargers to boost power, a tricky suspension to improve aerodynamics and clever weight-saving measures such as hollow-spoke magnesium alloy wheels. It is this unusual and profound approach to the development of an industry-leading supercar that makes the Porsche 959 so special. It’s a testament to how important this car was and still is that great examples often fetch upwards of $1.5 million or even $2 million.

Related

Rating of the fastest Porsche models

The fastest road-legal production sports cars and supercars ever produced by the German brand, ranked by top speed.

Porsche stole the fastest car record from Lamborghini in 1986


Lamborghini vs Porsche performance comparison

Model

1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000QV

1986 Porsche 959

Engine

5.2 liter V12

2.8-liter twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder engine

Method of transmission

5-speed mechanics

6-speed mechanics

power

455 horsepower

450 horsepower

A turning point

369 lb-ft

369 lb-ft

from 0 to 60 mph

5 seconds

3.9 seconds

The highest speed

185 mph

198 mph

The result of this huge advance in automotive technology has seen Porsche steal the crown of “world’s fastest production car”, a title that manufacturers have been fighting for for decades. In 1985, before the launch of the Porsche 959, the Lamborghini Countach 5000QV held the title of fastest car in the world with a record of 285 mph.


By comparison, the space-age 959 not only beat the Countach, it beat the record by 13 mph—an impressive margin. What’s perhaps most impressive is that Porsche managed it with 5 fewer horsepower and the same amount of torque. On that note, the Porsche also only had 6 cylinders compared to the Lamborghini’s 12, and although it had two side-mounted turbochargers working in series, the output was just over half of what Lamborghini fitted the Countach with. . It proved that raw power wasn’t the only factor to consider when trying to build a world-class supercar. The Porsche didn’t just impress in a straight line either, with the 959 sprinting to 60 mph from a standstill in 1.1 seconds less than the Italian’s just 3.9 seconds, no doubt thanks to the all-wheel drive system.

Porsche pushed the needle further with the 959 S

1988 Porsche 959 S
Porsche


Technical characteristics of the 1988 Porsche 959 S

Engine

2.8-liter twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder engine

Method of transmission

6-speed mechanics

power

508 horsepower

A turning point

414 lb-ft

from 0 to 60 mph

3.6 seconds

The highest speed

211 mph

The 959 S weighed 220 pounds less than the 959 Komfort

Porsche couldn’t stand Ferrari taking their crown in 1987 with the epic F40. The Italian stallion clocked a top speed of 201 mph, and while it was the first time a standard production car had broken the 200 mph barrier, Porsche wasn’t fazed.

Instead of spending millions to develop a new model, they set about making incremental changes to their current champion. The result was the 959 S, or 959 Sport, which produced more than 500 horsepower and slightly more torque.


Laid down to the black stuff, that extra output, in addition to a 220-pound weight-loss diet, allowed the revised 959 to hit 211 mph. This broke Ferrari’s record by a respectable 10 mph and put the Stuttgart technicians back on top. Ferrari has been battling Lamborghini for the coveted title of world’s fastest car for years, but apparently they were intimidated by the mighty Porsche and decided not to accept the challenge.

Related

Why the Porsche 959 could be the most comfortable supercar of the 80s in 2023

In the hills of Los Angeles and beyond, the Porsche 959 shows off its less-documented side—practicality.

Here’s how the Porsche 959 S dominated other supercars of the 80s

Comparison of characteristics of supercars of the 1980s

Model

The highest speed

from 0 to 60 mph

1988 Porsche 959 S

211 miles per hour

3.6 seconds

1987 Ferrari F40

201 miles per hour

4.1 seconds

1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000QV

185 miles per hour

5 seconds

1984 Ferrari Testarossa

180 miles per hour

5.2 seconds


The 959 S dominated the supercar battle that raged throughout the 1980s

This comparison shows just how big the gulf in performance was between the Porsche 959 and other supercars of the 1980s. Sure, the Lamborghini Countach 5000QV and Ferrari Testarossa are slow cars, but when you put them next to the Porsche 959, it’s clear why the term “hypercar” had to be coined. Porsche simply offers another level of speed and acceleration.

All three cars in this table are mid-engined, with the Testarossa and Countach using huge 12-cylinder engines, and the F40 using Porsche-like turbocharger technology. This clearly signaled a turning point for the supercar manufacturers, as cars such as the Jaguar XJ220 and Bugatti EB110 copied Porsche’s approach from there, incorporating turbo technology, lower-powered engines and all-wheel drive.

Sources: Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, CarBuzz

Leave a Comment