The Porsche 959’s Dakar-Winning Spirit Reborn in the Marsien
Porsche has been successful in sports car racing for decades, and has even conquered off-road racing before. In 1986, the company won the famed Paris-Dakar Rally with a special version of its all-wheel drive 959. While that particular off-road supercar wasn’t available to the public, Marc Philipp Gemballa is making a distant successor with a similar theme. Called the Marsien, it uses the 911 Turbo S as a foundation and adds proper off-road suspension to create what the firm calls, “The Ultimate Adventure Sportscar.”
Inspired by the Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar
Marc Philipp Gemballa grew up around rear-engined cars from Stuttgart, as the son of late Porsche tuner, Uwe Gemballa. His father created some of the wildest-looking Porsche conversions from the 1980s into the early 2000s. With that sort of background, it’s no surprise that Marc Philipp drew inspiration from the Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar.
The Marsien takes its name from the French word for Martian. Marc Philipp Gemballa chose the name due to the unique color of the landscape where the vehicle was tested. The Al Faya desert in the UAE has distinctive red sand, almost resembling the planet Mars.
“We felt like as if we were in an entirely different universe,” said Marc Philipp Gemballa. “Since it looked and felt like we were on Mars paired with the futuristic design and the vehicle’s off-road capabilities, we couldn’t think of a more fitting name for our first project.”
A fast foundation
A descendant of the Porsche 959 is the basis for the new off-road supercar. The 911 Turbo S already has AWD and a 4.0-liter turbocharged flat-six engine with 640 hp. The Marsien conversion adds modifications from noted Porsche tuner, RUF Automobile in Germany. With upgraded turbochargers and ECU software tuning, the flat-six can make as much as 818 hp, but the standard offering is 740 hp.
“My father trusted the technical expertise as well as the high-quality standards and the well-proven working methods of Alois Ruf,” said Marc Philipp Gemballa. “Consequently, the choice to partner with RUF Automobile for the engine development was a natural decision for us. I am pleased that we can continue this very special friendship and partnership.”
For design of the carbon-fiber body, Marc Philipp Gemballa chose Alan Derosier. In addition to this project, Derosier works as an exterior designer for the French automaker Renault. At the rear of the Marsien, it’s impossible to miss the wide spoiler that evokes the old 959 with a modern twist.
Rugged and exclusive
The suspension design is what makes the Marsien really distinctive, however, and provides its off-road abilities. Marc Philipp Gemballa collaborated with KW to develop a custom double-wishbone setup that is a total departure from stock. The ride height is adjustable at the push of a button, with a max ground clearance of 9.8 inches.
With a limited run of 40 units, the Marsien will be incredibly rare, even by supercar standards. Pricing will also guarantee exclusivity. Conversions start at around $600,000, plus $200,000 for the donor 911 Turbo S. That brings the total cost to somewhere in the $800,000 range, depending on options.
Those who can afford it will enjoy a truly unique driving experience. Like the 959 Paris-Dakar that inspired it, the Marsien combines relentless speed with the ability to charge through sand and dirt like an off-road racer. It’s a formula that may be uncommon for a sports car but is certain to be loads of fun.