The story of the 965 prototype is a weird one. It was basically engineering car, a test mule. Its goal was to try and solve a big problem Porsche was having at the time, in particular, how to replace the 930’s turbocharged, air-cooled engine to power a new sub-959, range-topping 911 model. Costs ballooned, the project floundered, and ultimately in its last throes, its engineers got desperate. Many thought the flat-six with water-cooled heads was going to be too complex and too expensive to develop, so Porsche worked on…. a V8 (yep, I said it). The result can be seen here in this official Porsche video below, shot at the secret warehouse near Zuffenhausen.
The Porsche 965 prototype had a water-cooled Audi V8 out back, a cost-effective, power-dense solution that would meet project goals and that was seriously considered by Porsche management. Thankfully, management changes meant the 965 idea went away and the 964 Turbo was born. Thank goodness.
It all started in the early 1980s when Porsche was looking for a model to replace the 911 Turbo and sit above the forthcoming 964 Carrera. The car was to use all the technical and advanced lessons from the Porsche 959 including the use of a twin-turbo flat-six with water-cooled, four-valve heads, a four-wheel-drive transmission with the option of a double-clutch ’box, advanced adaptive air suspension. The chassis and floorpan was going to be shared with the 964 and the design was of a more evolved and modern 959.
Porsche’s engineers has initially set a lofty power target of 365bhp and a price significantly north of regular 911 models. The idea was that buyers would flock to a Porsche supercar was Group B pedigree. Initial 965 development ran smoothly as it shared a lot with the 964 which was being developed at the same time.
That is of course until costs and issues really started to pile up. The first hurdle was the engine. The proposed 3.5 Liter engine didn’t make enough power, falling short of its 365bhp target. While the Porsche 959 was good for 444bhp, it got use of all the advanced race technology that the 965 couldn’t afford. Porsche engineers are a creative bunch so they investigated the development of several alternatives including turbo V6 made from Hans Mezger’s Indy racing V8, and a brand new V8 to be shared with the 989 saloon (dead on arrival).
The second issue and the real killer was that in 1987 there was a financial crash. All of a sudden, the market for a more expensive 911 was not available and things died. All speculative projects were cancelled as Porsche tightened their belts across the company. The 965 survived, but sacrifices had to be made, starting with the engineers’ favored solution to the power problem, which was to water-cool the entire flat-six. Since this nixed much of the cost saving from sharing parts with the 964, the new engine was put on the back burner and the 965 would now enter production with the existing 911 Turbo motor. The Porsche 965 prototype ended up a water-cooled Audi V8 out back, a cost-effective, power-dense solution that would meet project goals and that was seriously considered by Porsche management.
Unfortunately this still wasn’t enough and Porsche sales collapsed and the company was in real trouble. More cuts were needed, and the 965 was killed off. Porsche switched gears and rushed a project to give the 964 a cost-effective Turbo variant using the old 930 motor. The real 965 was wiped from the model plan and the 16 prototypes were lost. A single engineering car survived.