1988 Porsche 959 or 1992 Ferrari F40? Both are auctioned
• Today’s picks force you to choose your weapon in the defining supercar rivalry of the 1980s, and do so before the twin auctions end on Friday August 5th.
• Porsche’s 959 was a high-tech tour de force that accurately predicted the future of the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive 911.
• Second on the scene but the first production car to hit 200mph, the F40 is still arguably more desirable than any Ferrari flagship that came after it.
Released in 1989, the personal computer video game The Duel: Test Drive II asked a difficult question. Faced with the option of a Porsche 959 or a Ferrari F40, which do you choose? It’s still a puzzle today. But you might have to decide, because the cars are both currently listed on Bring a Trailer (which, like Car and driver, part of Hearst Autos) by the same dealership in San Diego. Bidding ends just five minutes apart, and although the F40 is currently leading with a bid of $1.7 million compared to the 959’s maximum bid of $1.3 million, the price final for each should be neck and neck.
The game Road Test II was quite advanced for its time, using video footage captured in a Porsche 944 Turbo on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in Vancouver, British Columbia, to simulate one of the stages of the race. The developers even went so far as to rent a Ferrari 308, record its engine, and then faithfully reproduce the sound to the best of 8-bit technology. The Road test series culminated in the long run Need of speed franchise.
Maybe you, dear reader, grew up racing a digital 959 versus a digital F40 on mom’s Apple IIGS. Maybe you’ve also made wise investments in Microsoft, or Playstation, or those images of electric monkeys that no one understands the purpose of. And now you’re ready to cash in and finally buy the 1980s supercar of your dreams. So what’s it gonna be?
The case for the 959 is that it’s the rarest thing, a usable supercar. Launched in 1986, it was a window into the future of automotive performance. Its 2.9-liter flat-six engine featured water cooling and twin sequential turbochargers. Peak power was 444 horsepower and the 959 used its smarts Porsche-Stuer Kupplung all-wheel drive to reduce that power in all possible weather conditions.
This 1987 example is a relatively late-production Komfort model, meaning it comes with niceties like leather seats, air conditioning and a Blaupunkt cassette stereo. Any successful bidder should consider purchasing Kraftwerk’s immediately electric coffee on tape.
The F40 is also twin-turbocharged but doesn’t have a full stereo. That’s not really a downside, because experiencing that Ferrari 2.9-liter four-valve V-8 rushing to the redline behind you is like being front row for Pavarotti in his prime as he hits the crescendo of Sleep Nessun.
Gordon Murray called the F40 “a big kart with plastic bodywork”, and up close these cars have a kit-car build quality. There were also more than three times as many F40s built as 959s: 1311 to 337. Still, there’s a magic to this car that’s hard to define. It’s one of the few cars that stands up to the cult of childhood heroes, even better to drive than you’d hoped.
The F40 shown here is a 1992 discontinued model. For investment potential, it comes with the must-have Ferrari Classiche Red book. To get it out and drive it, he had the twin alloy fuel tanks replaced – European models had horrendously expensive rubber fuel bladders – and a full service in May this year.
With auctions ending August 5, there’s still time to decide which of these icons to take home. Will it be the insanely fast technology of the 959, or will you be swayed by the raw mechanical emotion of the F40? There’s really no wrong choice here: one or the other would be a childhood dream come true.
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