Nick Heidfeld’s glorious and rare Porsche 959 S restoration
How the former F1 driver got a legendary vehicle back on the road
Nick Heidfeld standing behind white Porsche 959 S
This Porsche 959 S is one of only 29 ever made. Giving it the new lease of life it deserved, Porsche Classic jumped onboard to restore the gamechanging car back to factory condition
When the production model first made its debut in 1985, the Porsche 959 was a sensation – and today is seen as a landmark in Porsche history. With just 292 units of the 315km/h sportscar produced, its exclusiveness certainly adds to its reputation – but there’s also an even rarer and more powerful version. Just 29 examples of the Porsche 959 S were made, each packing an extraordinary 515PS and an ability to reach a top speed of 339km/h.A proud owner of one of these wonders is Nick Heidfeld, one of Germany’s best-known racing drivers, who spent over a decade driving in F1 . After bringing home his twin-turbocharged 959 S, Nick soon realised that the then 30-year-old car needed a major overhaul. To do so, he enlisted the expertise and craftsmanship of Porsche Classic Factory Restoration. With their meticulous attention to detail, they helped get the car back to its original condition. More importantly, it allowed Nick to use the Porsche 959 S to do what it does best – drive.
Nick Heidfeld squats beside rear of his white Porsche 959
Good as new while retaining character: Nick Heidfeld’s 959 was restored to former glory by the experts at Porsche Classic Factory Restoration
Diagnosing the Porsche 959The first thing that any new owner of a classic Porsche sportscar should do is get a decent overview of the state of the vehicle. Nick took his 959 S for a visit to Porsche Classic for a proper diagnosis, where it transpired that despite the fact that this oldtimer only had an astonishing 4,183km on the clock, this collector’s item was in need of some urgent attention. Although barely broken-in at the time of its 2017 inspection, it had fallen into disrepair primarily due to infrequent use. It was clear that a makeover wasn’t just a nice-to-have, but a necessity.“If such a technologically innovative car is not driven regularly, storage damage is, unfortunately, unavoidable,” explains Uwe Makrutzki, head of factory restoration at Porsche Classic. “The powertrain and chassis have to be overhauled in their entirety. Experience has shown that any reduction to the scope of work leads to problems down the road.” What is Porsche Classic Factory Restoration?This experience comes from the decades-worth of craftsmanship housed under one roof at Porsche Classic Factory Restoration. The goal of the department is to not only make every vehicle that falls into its care as good as new, but to ensure it leaves with even more character. All owners of classic Porsche can benefit from the expertise and equipment of this dedicated team and enlist Porsche Classic as their most reliable partner for the service, repair, and restoration of their vehicle. The specialists in the Stuttgart workshop maintain all classic models, from the 356 all the way up to the 911 (Type 996).The availability of original tools – such as body frame gauges and direct access to all technical documentation and the historic archive – further enables the experts to maintain vehicles’ authenticity as a priority. These skills, combined with the original Porsche parts required, ensure that the results are the very best you can achieve. The professionals who work on these projects treat every car as if it were their own.
View of Porsche 959 twin-turbo engine in rear of car
The genuine article: genuine Porsche parts are used to bring precious treasures back to factory condition
Restoring the 959 with Porsche Classic Genuine PartsWhen it came to thoroughly inspecting this particular Porsche 959 S, upon opening up the rear of the car the team discovered that the engine management system had been modified. As such, the Motronic unit was reverted to its original condition in close consultation with Nick himself. Carrying out all work consistently in accordance with the most stringent requirements – from quality control to maintaining the character of every component – Porsche Classic Factory Restoration was primed to deal with every aspect of the job. Of course, Porsche Classic is no stranger when it comes to the 959. When production of the vehicle stopped, the department took ownership of all testing and restoration tools from the factory. “Almost every 959 has been with us at least once in their life, so we have had a lot of practice,” says Uwe. “Thanks to the highly complex technology, a 959 overhaul is always a very special and wonderful mission.” And with a famous owner to match this particular car, this project was an especially noteworthy one.
I’ve had the privilege of driving many high-performance cars, but driving this high-tech legend is something special for me
Nick Heidfeld | Former Formula 1 driver and Porsche 959 S owner
Nick Heidfeld leaning into driver’s seat of Porsche 959, touching seat
Nick Heidfeld revelled in being reacquainted with his restored and rejuvenated 959 S
How did the Porsche 959 model become an icon?On top of its limited production run, the 959 boasted some of the most innovative car technologies of the time – one of the reasons that it’s still such a captivating sportscar today. In its pre-production form, it not only won the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally but took an impressive second and sixth place too.The production model made its debut at the Munich IAA Motor Show in 1985, showcasing revolutionary technology including speed-sensitive and adjustable shock absorbers, self-levelling suspension, electronically controlled variable all-wheel drive with driving programme selection, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. The aerodynamic body design incorporated materials from both racecar and aircraft design, while the doors and bonnet were made from a special aluminium alloy. It was also the first production car to have a biturbo boxer engine with sequential turbocharging to reduce turbo lag. And although air-cooled cylinders were customary for Porsche at the time, the four-valve heads were water-cooled in another break with tradition.The rarer Sport version revealed larger turbochargers with higher boost pressure. And, in a bid to save weight, the automatic air conditioning, central locking system, electric windows, right-hand side mirror and rear seats were removed to bolster its lightweight prowess. How to keep a classic Porsche on the roadAfter all this tender, loving care from Porsche Classic, “Quick Nick’s” 959 S was back on the road again in December 2021. So, how did it feel to finally take it out for a spin? “I’ve had the privilege of driving many high-performance cars, but driving this high-tech legend is something special for me,” says Nick. “I was a teenage car fan in the late 1980s, and to me this Porsche was always extraordinary.”When it comes to keeping any Porsche extraordinary, the journey doesn’t end there. As an owner, maintaining your vehicle ensures that these repairs lead to long-term success. And that means regular outings with your classic car, says Uwe. “Covering around 100km in mixed operation, at least once a month, provides protection from damage due to standing still. That’s also what the feedback from our customers has shown.” Relying on any of the unique services from Porsche Classic will help you throughout that journey, from the best possible corrosion protection to the Factory Restoration’s own upholstery shop.
Nick Heidfeld smiling, sitting in Porsche 959 driving seat
“Quick Nick” was elated to finally take his classic for a spin after its Porsche Classic restoration
With an impressive 183 Grand Prix starts during his F1 career, Nick is no stranger when to sitting at the wheel of powerful cars. And, in the form of the 959 S, he’s still in awe at its performance, despite it now being in its fourth decade. “At the time, the 959 was the fastest production car in the world and by far the most advanced,” he explains. “So even today, it doesn’t drive like a 30-year-old car, but like a much more modern vehicle.”Take a peek at Nick’s garage today, and there are a few more treats in store alongside his freshly overhauled Porsche 959 S, including a classic Volkswagen Beetle convertible and a Porsche Carrera GT. Classic cars still being driven. Just as it should be.
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