One of Porsche’s most iconic models gets a one-off makeover

The Porsche 911 may be considered as the quintessential Porsche model, but others like the 959 also deserve the “all time” status that they’ve been given. In the case of the 959, it featured some of the most advanced technologies available in the world at that time, and when Porsche was done building it, the model became the fastest street-legal car in the world. Only 292 units of the Porsche 959 were built and one of them belongs to Bruce Canepa, the owner of the noted car restoration company Canepa. Since the company prides itself on being a world-class restoration service company, it took up the task of customizing its owner’s 959. The result is a supercar that packs an incredible 763 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque.

Those numbers may look normal by today’s standards, but remember, this was done on a car that’s on the cusp of being 20 years old. This was done on a car that took on the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari Testarossa during its time and has etched its own legacy in the annals of Porsche lore. In other words, it’s every bit as impressive a restoration/tuning job as anything the company has done. The fact that the car is actually owned by the owner of the company further adds to its one-off aura.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of exterior upgrades that would’ve modernised the car. Canepa barely touched the exterior except for replacing the wheels. Everything else though was given the full cosmetic and mechnical peek and subsequent work.

It certainly goes without saying that unless another 959 owner actively seeks Canepa and asks for the same program, this particular 959 that’s owned by Bruce Canepa will remain a complete one-of-a-kind. It’s a fitting title for a car that at one point in its life was considered the fastest in the world.

Continue after the jump to read the full review.

  • 1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa
  • Year:
    1987
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    flat-6
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    763
  • Torque @ RPM:
    635
  • Displacement:
    2.9 L
  • Top Speed:
    200 mph
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Exterior
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1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Exterior
- image 683035
1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Exterior
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Not a lot of aftermarket work was done on the exterior of the Porsche 959, although it does have a more polished set of magnesium wheels. Everything else remains in stock configuration.

Interior

1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Interior
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1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Interior
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1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Interior
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During its run, the Porsche 959’s interior was considered one of the best in the segment. It had leather seats, a radio, air conditioning, power windows, and more. Today, an interior like that wouldn’t inspire too much admiration, which is why Canepa modernized the 959’s cabin with luxury materials more fit to the times. These include a chocolate brown leather and Alcantara that pretty much covers every visible surface of the cabin, floor, and steering wheel.

Drivetrain

1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Drivetrain
- image 683020

At the peak of its run, the Porsche 959 featured a 2.9-liter turbocharged flat-six engine that produced 444 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers allowed the 959 to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds to go with a top speed of 197 mph. That not only allowed the 959 to lay claim to being one of the fastest and most powerful supercars in the world, it also forced Porsche’s rivals to step up their game just so they could keep up.

Even today, the 444-horsepower output is still considered good enough for a sports car; it just doesn’t approach what today’s supercars are capable of. That’s where Canepa’s Gen III upgrade comes into the picture. In truth, the Gen III kit is actually the third stage upgrade that has been done on this particular 959. There was a lot of work that was put into this upgrade, including replacing Porsche’s factory turbochargers with an all-new parallel twin-turbo system, Borg-Warner turbos, integrated wastage’s, and titanium heat shields.

The result of the program is an output of 763 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque

Canepa also replaced or upgraded a list of engine components to keep the whole modernised. The intake, exhaust, camshafts, and air filters were either replaced or upgraded. The same holds true for the air pumps and air regulator valves, spark plugs, idle control valve, sensors, connectors, harness shielding, switches, adapters, and wiring harnesses, among others. In a lot of ways, the whole drivetrain of the Porsche 959 is a modern take on the turbo flat six that was fitted back when the 959 first broke into the scene in the late 80’s.

The result of the program is an output of 763 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque, a significant increase from the Gen I kit’s 576-horsepower output and the 640-horsepower upgrade from the Gen II kit. Performance numbers weren’t revealed, but given the massive bump in power, a 0-to-60-mph sprint time in the low to mid-three seconds is a possibility, as is a top speed of over 200 mph.

Chassis and Suspension

1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Exterior
- image 683009

A new S-spec coilover suspension kit has been installed into the 959 to complement the engine upgrade and give the 959 an improved ride and a more purposeful look.

Pricing

Since this is a one-off project built specifically for Bruce Canepa’s personal Porsche 959, it’s unlikely that the company will release any pricing details about the build. That said, you can contact Canepa directly in the event you want to make an inquiry about the possibility of having one done on your own Porsche 959, that is if you can accept that it will be subjected to some aftermarket work.

Competition

Lamborghini Countach

1973 - 1990 Lamborghini Countach High Resolution Exterior
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The late 80’s was considered a high point in the supercar industry and no more was that evident than with Lamborghini, which had at that time the Countach, considered to this day as one of the company’s most important models. Unlike the Porsche 959, the Countach actually had a long life spanning 17 years. It gave birth to a number of variants over the years, each with different levels of output. Initially, Lamborghini gave the Countach a 4.0-liter V-12 engine that pumped out 375 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers lasted for some time but eventually, the industry caught up, which then compelled Lambo to do the same. In the end, the Countach featured a 5.2-liter V-12 that produced 455 horsepower and and 340 pound-feet of torque, enough to make it one of the fastest and most powerful exotics of the time, highlighted by a top speed of 186 mph.

Read our full review on the Lamborghini Countach here.

Ferrari Testarossa

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior
- image 655717

As iconic as the Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 959 were, the Ferrari Testarossa was right on par with them. It was in the market from 1984 to 1991 and in that time, it elevated Ferrari’s status to a new generation of auto enthusiasts, myself included. Throughout its life, the Testarossa counted on a 4.9-liter flat-12 engine to deliver its power, which itself was good for 385 ponies and 361 pound-feet of torque. It wasn’t as powerful as the Porsche 959 or the Lamborghini Countach, but all the same, it earned an iconic status because of its dramatic looks and incredible performance times, which includes a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph.

Read our full review on the Ferrari Testarossa here.

Conclusion

1987 Porsche 959 Gen III by Canepa Exterior
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This is a tricky build because it obviously caters to the whims of one person. Bruce Canepa wants his Porsche 959 to be more powerful than any of the other 292 959s in existence. That’s his prerogative and that’s on him. I’m just not sure other 959 owners would do the same thing given the car’s rising historical significance. But as far as the program goes, it’s obviously top quality, especially that part about it getting over 700 horsepower in output.

  • Leave it
    • * One-off project
    • * Not much work done on the body
    • * Not everyone would want their 959s given a tuning kit
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