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I always say one of the coolest things about the Paris-Dakar Rally is the motley assortment of heavy-duty support vehicle capable of keeping up with the off-road race cars. But one legendary truck stands above them all: a first-gen Mercedes G-Class with a V8 from a Porsche 928 S4 under its hood. It’s inarguably just plain cool. But what makes it truly unique is that it was promoted from part-hauling support vehicle to race car.

Porsche won Dakar in 1984. So when the automaker decided to introduce its new 959 rally cars at the 1985 race, the pressure was on. It decided to upgrade its support vehicle (which was a Volkswagen T3 van with a Carrera six-cylinder engine), so it bought Mercedes’ new Gelandewagen.

The 1985 Dakar didn’t go well for Porsche. The least of team’s problems was that the 155-horsepower Mercedes struggled to keep up with the race cars. In additiona, all three Porsche 959s were forced to retire. The factory racing team went back to the drawing board and upgraded the cars with twin-turbocharged engines. The lead engineer, Roland Kussmaul, decided to also slam a 320-horsepower Porsche V8 into the G Wagon chase vehicle (borrowed from a 928 S4).

The team nicknamed the truck the Porsche im Schafspelz, which is German for “Porsche in sheep’s clothing.” Considering how gnarly square-body G Wagons look, I might disagree. But it’s a cool name nonetheless. Then they painted the truck up in Rothmans livery to match the team.

A blue and white Mercedes G-Class SUV and Porsche race car parked in a museum.
Porsche 959 and Mercedes G-Class | Porsche

Before the big 1986 Dakar race, Porsche decided to sort the new powertrains out at Egypt’s Rallye des Pharaons. And during desert testing things went from bad to worse: one of the 959s burst into flames before the race began. It was far too damaged for the race, leaving the Porsche team with one entry slot. So Kussmaul decided to enter the engine-swapped G Wagon. And to drive it himself.

The 320-horsepower G Wagon more than kept up with the race cars. One of Porsche’s newly-turbocharged 959s won the race. Hot on its heels was Kussmaul in the G Wagon, for a second place finish.

For the G Wagon service truck, beating out most of the race cars for a podium finish at the Egypt rally would understandably be the high point of its career. And the Rallye des Pharaons must have banged it up pretty good, because it broke down during Dakar that year.

What did Kussmaul do when he lost his support vehicle? Strip out one of his Porsche 959 race cars and pack it to the roof with tools and spare parts. And of course, he drove it himself. The regular 959 race cars finished Dakar first and second. In his overloaded 959 “support car,” Kussmaul finished sixth overall.

Read about more Radwood-era Dakar race cars or see Porsche’s G Wagon in the video below:

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