|By late-’80s standards the Porsche 959 was an incredibly advanced and complicated machine. It is reputed that Porsche sold them for half of their actual cost as showcases for its engineering prowess|
Prancing horse gees up
It all began in 1983, when Porsche topped Ferrari’s beautiful 288GTO with its technological meisterstück, the Gruppe B, soon to become known as the 959. Enzo Ferrari was smarting from the trumping meted out by the men in white coats from Stuttgart. He had to ignominiously pull the GTO from any racing programme because he knew it could not beat the Group B contender. A change in the Group B rules helped – but his GTO was effectively bested in the engineering shop without even venturing onto a circuit.
In 1987 Enzo Ferrari celebrated his 40th anniversary at the helm of his eponymous sports car operation by launching the F40, a racing car destined for… the road. Here was a limited-production flagship Ferrari to take the fight to Porsche and win. With a claimed top speed of 201mph and a 0-60mph time of 3.7 seconds, Ferrari grabbed the Fastest Car in the World crown. But, most importantly, it was faster than the 197mph 959. On paper…
Initially Ferrari planned to limit F40 production to just 400. This was then increased to 1000 and final production ran to 1315 examples by 1992. When sales began in the UK the F40’s list price was £193,000, but cars immediately cars changed hands for up to half a million and Nigel Mansell sold his for £800,000, making him as good a car dealer as he was a racing driver. Good F40s command £200,000 today.
Porsche goes hi-tech
First seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1983, the Porsche 959 went on sale in 1987, with a limited run of 200 examples. Demand was high so a total of 268 was manufactured, including the racing and test cars. Far fewer than the F40, then. The 959 cost £145,000, speculators drove the price to more than double that and now a good example is worth £150,000.
By late-’80s standards the Porsche 959 was an incredibly advanced and complicated machine. It is reputed that Porsche sold them for half of their actual cost as showcases for its engineering prowess. And it worked: the 959 was a well-proven competition machine, dominating the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally by finishing in first and second places, with the heavily laden back-up car coming home fifth. In the same year a 959 finished seventh overall at Le Mans, headed only by Group C Porsches. An incredible result.
In the meantime Ferrari constructed its (relatively) mechanically simple F40 racing car for the road, but never went racing. A couple of privateers campaigned F40s in the IMSA Series at Laguna Seca and the BRP Global GT Series in Europe. In LM guise they were beaten by the McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans.
Today, as modern classics, why is it that the more numerous Ferrari F40 road car commands a hefty premium over the rarer, more sophisticated, race-proven Porsche 959? As our American friends are wont to say, ‘Go figure’.
Ferrari F40 or Porsche 959? We decide