1988 Porsche 959 SC with famous history headed to Amelia Island auctions

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Broad Arrow Auctions is taking a 1988 Porsche 959 SC Reimagined by Canepa to this year’s sales at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, this example even more special than the average 959. The first bit of plumage setting this bird apart is documentation that shows it was a benchmark car Nissan bought to develop the all-wheel-drive system in the R32 Skyline GT-R. The second splash of color, literal and otherwise, is a four-year overhaul from Porsche specialists Canepa finished in metallic green. Both of those items contribute to a pre-sale estimate of between $3.25 and $3.75 million.

The Skyline-959 connection is a favored bit of lore in the GT-R’s history. However, the GT-R’s connection to Porsche goes well back before the R32. In 1964, a Porsche 904 beat the factory team of Prince Skyline S54 GT cars fielded by Japan’s Prince Motor Company. Prince engineers, including Dr. Shinichiro Sakurai, returned to their offices to design a new engine and a new car that could beat Porsche. The Prince R380 did that two years later at the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix, its engine becoming the basis for the S20 inline-six that would power the first Nissan Skyline GT-R that debuted in 1969 but only lasted until 1973.

Fast forward to 1984: Nissan, which merged with Prince in 1966, was looking at its tech-heavy but unloved R31 Skyline, at Porsche’s monumental 959, at a trophy cabinet lacking silverware from the top class, and at a corporate bank account filling with Bubble Economy profits. Naganori Ito, said to be Sukurai’s “number one student,” was put in charge of developing the R32 Skyline that returned the GT-R badge to the market.

To help him do that, the engineering team wanted to study a Porsche 959; a Nissan engineer would tell Car magazine at the R32’s debut, “We reckon Porsche makes the best-handling cars. And the 959 is reckoned to be the most advanced supercar ever made. We wanted to beat the 959.”

But Porsche wouldn’t sell Nissan a 959. So a Belgian national bought a 959 Komfort on behalf of the Japanese engineers, Belgian dealer D’Ieteren Brothers shipping the car to Yokohama. The fruit of this subterfuge became the GT-R’s Advanced Total Traction Engineering System (ATTESA ET-S), tuned to dial out understeer and maintain agility with the help of Super HICAS all-wheel steering. 

The Porsche 959 harvest continued closer to home as well, the tech in that car previewing what would come for the 911 range like water cooling, AWD, and the twin-turbo setup.

The paperwork shows that this 959 ended up in the hands of one of the GT-R engineers, who never registered it and so barely drove it. After having it for 30 years, he sold it to someone in the U.S. In 2019, that owner sent it to Canepa’s shop for the SC treatment with less than 900 miles on the odometer. The nuts-and-bolts teardown and rebuild took four years and cost $950,000. Canepa rebuilt the twin-turbo 2.8-liter flat-six engine with its Stage III kit, featuring gear like titanium con-rods, ceramic-coated headers, Borg-Warner turbos, and a two-stage titanium and stainless steel exhaust that increases output to more than 800 hp and 650 pound-feet of torque, compared to the original engine’s 444 hp and 369 lb-ft. The Komfort’s adaptive suspension was switched to the lighter, simpler 959 Sport setup riding Penske shocks and titanium springs. The custom 18-inch wheels hide upgraded brakes, a necessary step when the coupe needs just 2.5 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour and top speed is a claimed 230 mph.

Bruce Canepa says he’s only doing 50 of his SC-spec cars, limiting his builds to low-mileage examples. Each owner is asked to choose a unique color combination, this one finished in an unusual, unforgettable Oak Green over tobacco leather.

Lot 220 hits the block March 1-2 at Amelia.

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