As work starts on Porsche's new Ferrari-baiting supercar, officials reveal new details about its forgotten flagship – a V8-powered 911

With the new Ferrari 458-baiting Porsche 988 in the works, it might not be entirely coincidental that the firm recently decided to push out one of its most obscure prototypes and release more details outlining its story.

The 965 prototype was a 911 powered by a rear-mounted V8 engine. According to Dieter Landenberger, head of Porsche’s Archive Museum, the 965 was intended to be a kind of flagship for the 911 range, a “cheaper version of the 959” fitted with all-wheel drive. 

It’s thought that this disguised mule, which was tested on public roads, was for proving the concept of a rear-mounted V8. Indeed, the engine is an Audi unit, engineered to power Audi’s flagship V8 model. Although Landenberger will only date the 965 to the “second half of the 1980s”, the Audi V8 was only launched in 1988. 

In fact, it seems that the eight-cylinder 911 was part of a modernising programme overhaul for Porsche. The major project in the late 1980s was the 989, an executive hatchback otherwise identical in concept to today’s Panamera. Overseen by today’s Aston Martin boss, Ulrich Bez, it would have been powered by a home-grown Porsche V8 and had a sophisticated, wide-track rear suspension system. 

It seems that Porsche was considering using the same V8 and rear suspension to build a more upmarket 911. In the late 1980s, Porsche was a small company and the air-cooled engines of the period were relatively crude.

Porsche’s first attempt to move upmarket collapsed at the end of the 1980s. A global recession culled 911 sales and the 989 was said to be overweight and over budget, and its new V8 was unimpressive. One of the few things that survived was the rear suspension, which was used on the 993-series 911.

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8 July 2014
The 989's styling also survived, re-emerging in coupe form some six years after it was canned in 1991. It was far more of a looker than the dreadful Panamera.

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