The 80s were a time when supercars were about raw power and emotion. Group B racing was a thing, and all carmakers gave it their best when competing in this no-nonsense racing program. Two iconic cars, spawned with intent and enthusiasm, were about to enter. But unfortunately, they were a bit too late, and Group B was no more.
However, since time and money were spent on them, the respective manufacturers decided to sell them to the public. The cars in question are none other than the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959—two of the most legendary cars ever to grace the motoring world.
In this discussion, we’ll be pitting them against each other to see what makes them great and unfold the reason behind their coveted status.
Ferrari F40 vs Porsche 959: Style Meets Sophistication
Maybe the first part of the title better suits the Ferrari than the Porsche. Unlike the tech-filled 959, Ferrari stuck with the classic principle of less weight and more power. The F40’s interior is largely stripped out, with minimal moving parts. For instance, leather is not an option, and the dash is lined with felt to reduce glare and, of course, weight. There are no seat adjustments or power-operated systems; steering, brakes, and windows are all unassisted. There’s bare carbon fiber everywhere, and everything you see is there for a purpose. Also, the F40 is very aero-efficient. NACA ducts are employed on the hood, rear fenders, side skirts, and even on the doors. And there are vents on the front and rear fenders that release turbulent air, relieving pressure inside the wheel wells.
The Porsche, however, is a perfect example of technology on wheels. The 959 was nothing short of an engineering masterstroke. It was widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated cars of the eighties. Unlike the stripped-out Ferrari, the Porsche had all the creature comforts of a normal car, including a stereo and air conditioning. Where Porsche truly stands on its own is technology. Very much the father of modern supercars, the 959 came with adjustable suspension, ride height, multiple drive modes, ABS, run-flat tires, and magnesium wheels. The chassis and body panels were aluminum-kevlar-polyurethane composites, and the car managed a drag coefficient of just 0.31. In short, the Porsche 959 was the pinnacle of German ingenuity and then some.
Ferrari F40 vs Porsche 959: No Shortage of Power
The F40 employed turbocharging and was the third road-going Ferrari ever to have forced induction. Power came from a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V8, producing 471 horsepower and 426 lb-ft of torque. The engine was closely related to the 288 GTO, albeit with several tweaks for enhanced output. The transmission was a 5-speed dogleg manual designed to handle the immense torque generated from the turbocharged engine. The F40’s power to weight ratio was unlike any Ferrari up to that point. As a result, the prancing horse takes 4.2 seconds to hit 0-60 while topping out at 197 mph.
As for the Porsche, power comes from a twin-turbocharged 2.8L flat-six, producing 444 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. One of the highlights of the 959 was its trick AWD system. It could send as much as 80% of the power to the rear wheels and vary the power bias depending on the road surface and available grip. The system was paired to a 6-speed manual transmission—another first for the decade (the F40 had a 5-speed). 0-60 took a mere 3.6 seconds, and the 959 managed a top speed of just under 200 mph, making it the fastest road car of its time.
Ferrari F40 Vs Porsche 959: Backed By Rich Racing Pedigree
It all started with Group B racing, where manufacturers started building outrageously capable race machines. The Ferrari 288 GTO was a perfect starting place for Ferrari, so the team developed a competition version dubbed the 288 GTO Evoluzione. This project was proposed to enter FIA Group B in the same class as its competitor, the Porsche 959.
However, when FIA banned Group B in 1986, Ferrari was left with five 288 Evoluzione development cars. One of the validation drivers convinced Enzo that it was possible to make them roadworthy. Enzo gave the idea the green signal just as he entered the final days of his life. The engineering division had 13 months to completely homologate the supercar. Development took place in total secrecy, so no one aside from the people close to Enzo were aware of such a project. The F40 was introduced in 1987, and it remains the last Ferrari to be signed off by the legend himself.
The Porsche 959 was more of a testing ground for the aforementioned AWD system, and Group B was the perfect stage. Engineers were looking for a possible replacement for the 911, and development was focused on improving the existing rear-engine platform. Porsche’s chief engineer at the time, Helmuth Bott, believed racing would accelerate the development process and convinced the management to agree. A total of 337 cars were built between 1986 and 1993 as part of FIA’s homologation regulations. Porsche, however, sold all of them at a loss since the whole Group B racing was axed, and a lot of money was spent on development.
Sources: EVO, YouTube, Car and Driver