Supercars weren't an entirely 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 development. 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.
1988 Porsche 959 on Jay Leno's Garage
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.
Learn more about these facts and others, and watch Jay take the car for a spin, in the video above.