We’re not sure where you stand on the subject of ‘restomods’. You know, bringing a classic car up to date with more modern parts. Many see it as a sacrilege to mess with period fixtures and fittings, while others see it as fair game. Much depends on the car in question. Some classic car icons are almost untouchable. Most would count the Porsche 959 among them. But not Bruce Canepa.
With a history of Porsche racing dating back to the ’70s, and podiums at the Daytona 24 hour and Pikes Peak on his resume, Canepa understands what makes the 959 special. The car you see here finished in resplendent Viper Green is what Canepa describes as a “reimagined” car. Aside from the paintwork and the sumptuous brown leather with green contrast stitching, the Canepa 959s have had a series of mechanical upgrades to help them realise their potential.
“The car started with 450hp (336kW), but Porsche’s engineers were building a race car that could handle up to 750 (559kW), so in many ways the car is now finally what it could have been,” says Canepa.
First, let’s cast our gaze back to 1986. Originally developed to conform to Group B racing regulations, the Porsche 959 was revolutionary. Only 292 examples were built during a two-year production run, although an additional eight sneaked out of the Baur plant gates as a set of parts in 1992 and 1993. At a time when Ferrari was working on the bare-bones F40, the 959 went in a very different direction, introducing all-wheel drive with a front/rear variable torque split, sequential turbochargers and even an electronic suspension system that could alter the car’s ride height. At 3.7 seconds to 100km/h and with a top speed of 319km/h, it was the fastest production car in the world.
What was mind-blowing then is merely pretty brisk now. A rear-drive Porsche 992 Carrera S is quicker to 100km/h and would leave the 959 for dead in corners. Therefore, the 959SC (Sport Canepa) now boasts around 600kW and 880Nm, close to double the original output and good for a 0-100km/h time of around 2.5 seconds.
Each 959SC is an individual commission with no two examples alike. This car is number 11 of what Canepa claims will be a run capped at 50. More than 4500 hours are spent to complete each vehicle. The tub is stripped down to bare metal and zinc-plated. Paint colours are generally chosen from Porsche’s Paint-to-Sample palette, and the custom leather interiors can be made in any hue imaginable. The 18-inch hollow-spoke magnesium wheels are particularly lovely, built by the original manufacturer and retaining the optic of the old 17-inch items, but now without the fiddly Dunlop Denloc bead profile and thus shod with tyres that are up to that vast increase in performance – Michelin Pilot Sport 4S or Cup 2.
Canepa has developed proprietary dampers for the 959SC and these are twinned with titanium coil springs that use the original 959S design. Upgraded brakes are a must too, as are more powerful headlights. Titanium also has been used extensively in the design of the exhaust and many engine ancillaries to retain strength while reducing weight.
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Want one? First you need to show up at Canepa’s facility in the Santa Cruz hills with your own 959. That will have set you back somewhere in the region of A$2.4m. Add another A$1.2m to that and you could be one of the lucky 50.
Sacrilege? Not according to Canepa. “No offence to anyone, but it’s actually better than new,” he says. It’s hard to argue.