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Canepa’s Porsche 959s

Jim Yu July 17, 2013 Featured, Hooniverse Goes To... 31 Comments

As you may recall, a bunch of us caravanned from Hanzel’s in Oakland to the Santa Cruz Mountains for Canepa Motorsport’s Cars & Coffee. In addition to the car meet in the parking lot, the good people at Canepa opened up their incredible work shop and storage facility. We got to see NINE of the world’s 337 Porsche 959s there.




As you all know, and agree, the 1986-89 959 was the greatest Porsche ever. You may also remember, vaguely, that people were having a difficult time importing these to the United States.

This is where Bruce Canepa comes in. He modified the cars so that they could pass emissions testing. And while he was at it, he made the cars faster. The stock 444 horsepower mill was upped to 640 horsepower! 

How? Specifically,

“[t]he phase II engine system includes eliminating the factory sequential turbo system and installation of an all new twin turbo system including new Garrett “Disco Potato” ball-bearing turbos, re-designed wastegates with TiAL diaphragms and titanium heat shields. Cam timing is optimized in addition to blueprinting all intake and exhaust valve springs. New intake runners are matched to K&N Air Filters. Upgraded fuel system, EGR, modern engine management system with ADL, F1 technology engine wiring harnesses, high output ignition system, upgraded alternator charge system and battery module, air pumps and air regulator valves, spark plugs, idle control valve, sensors, connectors, harness shielding, switches, adapters, hardware, etc. (369 new components in all.) A complete new stainless steel exhaust system with Porsche original equipment dual stainless catalytics are utilized. The exhaust is fitted with our new bypass system producing increased horsepower and a more aggressive engine note at the flick of a dash mounted switch. In addition the entire clutch system has been modified and upgraded to improve pedal feel and actuation. This includes an improved pressure plate, disc, and modified clutch pedal assembly.” 

That was a mouthful.

This Washington-plated 959 may have been purchased with Microsoft money.

To see all of these 959s in various states of disassembly, without supervision or velvet ropes, was incredible. Mr. Canepa is a very generous and trusting man.

Oh, Canepa also upgrades the 959’s suspension with its own proprietary gas struts and titanium coil-over springs.



I can’t imagine how much a minor fender bender with a 959 would cost.

And this may be the 959’s least expensive part.

Under the floorboard:

Apologies for the blurry images. I was shaking from all the excitement.

Images source: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jim Yu


  • topdeadcentre

    Disco Potato!

    • racer139

      Garret gt-28 turbocharger. Avery common upgrade in the late eighties and ninties, could be used on anything from a crx to a 959.

    • BAMacPherson

      Boost baby, boost! Disco Potato! Boost baby, boost! Lay that rubber down!

      • topdeadcentre

        I just like saying "Disco potato!"…over and over again…

  • vwminispeedster

    I wanna go back next year. We'll take a DS instead Jim. More comfort than the Vic.

  • Scandinavian Flick ★

    The only place where you can see a Veyron, surrounded by 959s, with a BMW M1 suspended over one of the 959s…

    So… when are you all going again?

    • Irishzombieman☆

      Cuz' I'm coming with you, damn it.

      • Scandinavian Flick ★


        I hate that car trouble kept me from going this last time…

        • pj134

          … Even I'm considering making that trip.

    • vwminispeedster

      I will see if they'll have us again next year. My face still hasn't recovered from all the smiling. 😀

  • Josh_Howard

    This was one of the first Porsches I ever loved.

    • Irishzombieman☆

      But. . . it's a stick shift.


      • Josh_Howard

        I got no problem with that. hehehe 😉

  • I remember we were all standing around drooling/gawking/quivering and practically leaned on the Veyron, as it just blended in with the background.

    Such was the awesomeness that is Canepa.

    • As I was reading the post, I thought, "wait, there was a Veyron there?" And then I remembered that I spent several minutes examining it. Normally I have an excellent memory. It was a pretty mind-bending place.

    • vwminispeedster

      yeah, that Veyron, it was the first one sold in the USA. And the red 959 in that area (forget if it was on the floor or in the racks, was the last one ever sold IN THE WORLD!!

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Funny to see rust on what's probably a $2000 brake rotor.

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Every time I see one of these, I daydream that I am Boris Becker, and imagine how it must've felt to have this for a first car.

  • nanoop

    I'm always amazed that you can buy a contemporary supercar from a premium brand for quite a premium, and there'll always be a garage firm (size of the garage may vary) that will make it "better". Read: put the compromises somewhere else than the original engineers, usually adding performance and complexity for the cost of longevity and, well cost. Which is fantastic, as the 959 isn't a simple starting platform…

  • Alfamale164S

    Based on the WA license plate, that silver 959 belongs to Mr Gates himself.

    • Possibly, since he was one of – or maybe THE – first to bring one of these into the US, but I believe it was as a "show & display" vehicle only. Do you know if he ever registered/plated it & drove it on the street?

      I don't think there's a publicly available vehicle history/ownership database via WSDOT, unlike certain other states, unless you're employed there. Any Washington State license plate geeks out there who know roughly when this plate sequence would have been issued? Won't prove much, but it could narrow things down.

      • MrHowser

        For new plates, Washington switched over to a XXX1111 format from the 111-XXX format a couple years ago (I think), and they make you replace them every seven years. However, they let you keep the old plate number if you pay $20 in addition to your plate fees.

        • Yep, at least 4 years ago – last time I plated a car here (2009), I got the XXX1111 format & it started with AB.

          I wouldn't pay an extra nickel to keep an old number.

  • hwyengr

    Page 1 of the 959 owner's manual (well, page 4, after the table of contents) lists braking distances from various speeds. They really treat it like it's an aircraft.

    From the same page <a href="http://(http://www.959registry.org/Owners_Manual/ulthm.htm):” target=”_blank”>(http://www.959registry.org/Owners_Manual/ulthm.htm):

    "Even the Porsche 959 is subject to the laws of physics." Just looking at the car, you could have fooled me.

    • nanoop

      Thanks for the link to that great read, my employer asks where to send the invoice.

    • "Even the Porsche 959 is subject to the laws of physics."

      Don't you blaspheme in here! Don't you blaspheme in here!

  • JayP2112

    I'd chained myself to a column.
    Are there more pics??

    • I have one more set of photos for another post– the non-959s. Countach and Daytona in the paint room. A ground up restoration of a Dusenberg. Several Gullwings. Several more Cobras. You know, pedestrian stuff.

      • JayP2112

        Man. I'd run out of battery. Can't wait.

  • Lucky Dog

    This is all fine and good. What I really want to know is where Smokey's black and gold #13 Chevelle got off to. Last I heard it was at Canepa with a $950,000 price tag on it. Any help out there concerning its whereabouts would be appreciated. I plan on rigging the Lottery and have an itch that needs to be scratched.