Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose

A V8 powered 911? Did I read that right?

A styling model for the 965/969 at Zuffenhausen. Image: total911

Following the 1984 reveal of the technical wondercar that was the 959, Porsche planned to sprinkle some of that car’s allure onto the ageing 911 line. The 959 was only ever going to be a low-volume homologation special, but this car, dubbed 965 in factory-speak but to be marketed as the 969, was intended to be a faster, more upmarket replacement for the incumbent 911 Turbo.

Originally intended to have a variant of the 959’s twin turbocharged flat six, 965 prototypes initially also featured that car’s novel air cooled cylinder block and water-cooled heads amongst its technical novelties. A sophisticated four wheel drive system was also on the cards. Costs spiralled however and in an attempt to save the programme, Zuffenhausen engineers investigated using a V8 unit instead.

The sole Audi-powered engineering prototype retained by Porsche. Image: 95octane

At that stage, Porsche had two potential in-house V8’s – the 60° unit from the 928 or a detuned version of their Indycar race unit. It’s unclear which was to have been used, but in order to test the feasibility of the layout, engineers shoehorned Audi’s V8, then in development, into a development mule. But following a thorough review of the project, the entire programme was cancelled by Porsche’s then technical chief, a certain Ulrich Bez.

With the 965/969 dead, engineers reverted to the time mechanical honoured layout in the 964-series 911 Turbo and normality was resumed. So don’t worry, there are no V8 911’s – you’ve just had a nightmare. Back to sleep children..

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose”

  1. I believe the 928’s V8 (122mm cylinder spacing) would be too large and heavy for such a layout. The Audi v8 is much smaller (88mm cylinder spacing) and lighter. Both are 90° v8 with crossplane crankshafts btw. The article helps explain some of the financial problems of Porsche at the time, being able to engineer a great car is fine, but you have to be able to build it and sell it as well.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Roberto. The Audi engine’s lighter weight and compactness would have mitigated one issue – that of weight exactly where you don’t want it, but it would also have opened up another, thornier one. How could Porsche have justified a car at this price point fitted with a non-Porsche engine – to say nothing of it’s mechanical layout?

      The 959 was a very costly programme for Zuffenhausen – one they could never have made money on, but it was a low-volume halo car, so they could perhaps justify the hit. One gets the sense however that the 969 was a serious attempt to amortise this investment. The product planner’s role is often that of the villain amongst enthusiasts, but their jobs often depend on getting their calculations right. Here it’s pretty obvious they hit a brick wall and the numbers simply wouldn’t add up.

  2. I just don’t understand what in this project cost so much money? If the r&d on the 959 was already done, this could only have been a decontended 959 slotted between that and the 930. Why not keep the 959 derived body, do away with all the complex electronics and four wheel drive systems and replaced it with an updated 930 drive train? Hey, presto 965! How much money could that have cost?

    Also, on the Audi V8, this was before Audi released the engine. If they had done it right, they could’ve capitalized on the Porsche tie-up and given the V8 (car) some much needed flair. Perhaps even a hotter version. I’m surprised Piech didn’t push that road ahead, as he was still at Audi at the time, and he had wanted to push development forwards on the Audi 5-cylinder derived Porsche V10 back in the late 70’s.

  3. It would seem that there are enough V8 911s around to keep a substantial business going:


    These people can fit Chevrolet smallblock and LS variants to every mainstream front, mid or rear engined post-356 Porsche except the Cayenne / Panamera / Macan (it can only be a matter of time)

    They’ve been doing it for 30 years, which suggests they know what they’re doing. The souls of Carroll Shelby and Don Yenko live on. There’s also a sideline in Subaru transplants to 914s, but I find the idea of an LS-1 powered 968 much more appealing.

    It’s also stated that the all-alloy LS Series V8 is about the same weight as the normally aspirated flat-six, and 90kg less than a turbo. So much for the magnesium-crankcased marvel…

    1. There does appear to be a belief amongst our friends across the Atlantic that the Chevy smallblock can bring the dead to life. In literal terms of course that is what conversions like this achieve and while I can understand the logic of using a power unit of proven performance and durability, one which any local mechanic can understand and fix, surely a Chevy V8-powered 911 simply isn’t a 911 any more?

  4. But would a 911 with an Audi or Porsche V8 be the real thing either?

    I like the idea of riling the purists – the Porsche ones mostly richly deserve it.

    1. Indeed. I suspect that question alone played a significant role in the 969’s termination.

      Re: Porsche purists – you may say so, I couldn’t possibly comment…

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