Three decades ago – long before the invention of today’s ubiquitous SUV – all-wheel drive was a technology nearly absent on all but the most serious off-road vehicles. Yet, a few early adopters wanted the advantages that putting power to all four corners afforded—not just for mud-slinging brutes but for high-performance rally cars and even road-going sports models. And although the Audi Quattro debuted in 1980, it is probably the Porsche 959 that will be remembered as the high watermark of early all-wheel-drive sports cars. Make that supercars.
The 959’s immediate predecessor was a Group B rally car that debuted as the 953, a heavily modified variant of the 911 developed for—and taking overall first place in—the grueling 1984 Paris-to-Dakar Rally. Its look and stance would have made it very much at home terrorizing other vehicles in the film Mad Max, but the ungainly monster evolved quickly into the gorgeous 959, of which about 292 examples were manufactured from late 1986 to 1988, with reportedly a handful more made in 1993.