Porsche 911 Turbo (930): World's greatest cars series

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Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)
Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)
Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)
Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)
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Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)
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Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Porsche 911 Turbo (930)

WGC series - Sports car category: Porsche 911 Turbo (930)...

 

Porsche 911 Turbo (930)

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TURBO TRIUMPH

The car that brought serious turbocharging into the mainstream and is forever loved for it.

WHY IS IT HERE?

The original Porsche 911 just has to be the world’s most enduring automotive franchise. The model is 50 years old this year and it still manages to combine sex appeal with proper supercar performance. Just as it always has.

But if the 911 itself is such an icon, then what are the variants that have made the biggest impact? Well, one of them would have to be the 911 Turbo. First seen in 1975, the blown 911 wasn’t the world’s first turbocharged production car, but it has become the best known.

It spawned a craze for putting ‘Turbo’ badges on everything from toasters to telescopes, but more than that it changed the way we think about performance cars and the way engines could be designed and made more efficient. And in 2013, when just about the whole world is heading towards smaller engines with forced induction, the legacy of the 911 Turbo is being fully appreciated.

Oh yeah, and it’s not bad to drive, either.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

Stepping into this 1985 911 Turbo (or any 911 from this era, really) is almost a let-down. It just doesn’t seem as dramatic and flashy as befits one of the world’s greatest sports cars. In fact, it’s borderline disappointing because the interior of an early 911 is some kind of dog’s breakfast. It’s almost as if the designers loaded every switch and dial into a blunderbuss, aimed it through the driver’s window and let her have it.

Even the engine sounds pretty undramatic, especially as the turbo on this 3.3-litre model chops the exhaust note to bits and soothes out the ‘atmo’ flat-six’s metallic clang. The four-speed gearbox seems off the pace, too, but the 911’s casing would only take four of the strengthened cogs dictated by the Turbo’s torque.

That said, it all works fluidly and the suspension retains that wonderful impression of suppleness despite being tied down pretty tightly. But hang on, the engine feels flat and lifeless; hardly the sort of razor-sharp response we’d expected...

Until, that is, the tacho sweeps past about 4000rpm, the turbo lag is despatched and all 300 horsepower comes rampaging down and out through those fat back hoops. You only need to do it once to understand. That’s what the fuss was all about. Still is.

THE OWNERSHIP EXPERIENCE

Rob Raymer buys and sells used Porsches for a living. But you should never mistake him for a hard-nosed horse trader because he’s head over heels with older air-cooled 911s. Which is why this car wasn’t a trade-in, but a car he actively tracked down and badgered the owner to part with.

"I negotiated with the guy for about three or four weeks and he eventually agreed to sell it to me," Rob recalls.

"Then a week later he changed his mind. But another week later he phoned me to say he’d done the wrong thing and he would sell it. I’ve always liked cars with low kilometres, and I love the ’70s and ’80s stuff, even though I sell newer cars to survive."

Low kilometres? Try just 26,000km from new, which helps explain why it’s such an epic example. It also explains why Rob won’t be too sorry if the car hangs around his Melbourne shop for a while. That said, he is a car dealer, so: "If anybody wants the best one around, I’ve got it".

THE RACER'S VIEW: JOHN BOWE

Unblemished by time. Such an exciting and sophisticated car, and in the case of this example from RSR in Richmond, like new and untampered with.

What an exciting revelation the 930 was when launched. Like most first-born models, the original was flawed with a number of quirks, but the 3.3 addressed those and became the symbol of ’80s success.

Like the E-Type in the ’60s, if you did not drive a 930 in the ’80s, well you had not yet made it.

Like a number of cars in this feature, I have owned a 930. I loved the reliability, the look, the sound and the whole driving experience. Except for that turbo lag! It reminds me of the Ford Sierra racecars that Dick Johnson and I drove in the early ’90s.

The Porsche honestly has the worst turbo lag of any road car I have even driven, and it manifests itself in open road cruising because our ridiculous speed limits have the 930 rumbling along well off the boost. It’s a downchange and a wait to pass a B-double.

Having said that, the whole Porsche experience is one I love.

The final 930 models we got here had a five-speed Getrag gearbox, which improved the ratio spacing slightly.

Imagine this car, though, with modern dual-stage turbo and no turbo lag.

It has character in spades, something I think some of the new Porsches have lost, even though they are immensely capable cars.


VALUE GUIDE

1985 Porsche 911 Turbo

$110,000-135,000
Summary: Last of the leaded-petrol Porsches; an unmistakable shape and sound with the cred to keep on climbing in the wake of early 911 price growth.

SPECIFICATIONS

Porsche 911 Turbo

Years of Production: 1975-1989
Body: Unitary
Engine: Turbocharged flat-six
Power: 221kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 343Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.9
400m: 13.2
Gearbox: 4-manual
Suspension: Torsion bars, lower arms (f); torsion bars, semi-trailing links ®
Brakes: Disc/disc


ROBBO'S REAR-VIEW MIRROR...

In 1972, during a race at Hockenheim, Porsche chairman Ernst Fuhrmann watched as the fastest 911 was lapped by a Ford Capri and a BMW. Eventually he asked his race manager, "Why is the competition running away?" That pivotal moment directly led to the creation of the 911 Turbo. By November 1973 Porsche had committed to building 400 cars for race homologation and begun development of the Type 930, the project that became the 911 Turbo.

Within months of the 3.0-litre 911 Turbo going on sale in early 1975 (it was launched at the 1974 Paris show), people referred to it simply as the Turbo, and it’s been that way ever since. Turbocharging became the magic word.

A big-bore version of the aspirated 2.7-litre boxer engine gave 3.0 litres. Porsche also applied a KKK turbo, in conjunction with the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system, to create the first turbo injected production engine. Output jumped from the regular 2.7’s 110kW (150bhp) to 194kW (260bhp) at 5500rpm, with 343Nm of torque from 4000-5000rpm. At 2300rpm, the Turbo pumped out more torque than the 2.7 developed at its peak.

Yet nobody seemed to anticipate the tremendous acceleration: the Turbo cut the 2.7’s 8.7sec zero-to-100km/h time to just 5.5sec, taking only 12.8sec to hit 160km/h.

The torque curve looked flat on paper, so much so that Porsche decided a five-speed gearbox was superfluous, but turbo lag was horrendous. There was no doubting the engine’s flexibility on light throttle openings, but kick it hard in an intermediate gear and the power came with an almighty rush at around 3000rpm.

There was more, as Wheels’ Mel Nichols pointed out: "From 3000rpm onwards the turbocharger keeps boosting so that, even without increased pressure on the throttle, the car accelerates. It isn’t strong acceleration with the Turbo’s capabilities, but it is potent by normal standards. Understanding this self-acceleration and knowing how to adjust to it is the secret of driving the Turbo. You have to keep backing off."

Later, with the 1978 move to 3.3-litres, the Turbo gained an intercooler and that trait disappeared.

The Turbo certainly looked the part. Wider wheelarches were necessary to house the bigger rubber and wider tracks (up a staggering 152mm at the rear). By today’s standards, the tyres are almost comically small: 185/7015s at the front and 215/6017s at the rear, all on forged alloy wheels. Most obvious change was the addition of a huge rubber-tipped and flat rear spoiler, the soon legendary ‘whale-tail’.

The now-vented and drilled brakes came from the racing Martini 911s, the dampers were gas-filled Bilsteins, the springs uprated, and much firmer anti-roll bars were fitted at both ends. Despite this, the Turbo still suffered from lift-off oversteer. Fun, if you could catch the tail. Weight rose 70kg over the 911, but at 1140kg still delivered a mean power-to-weight ratio.

Porsche struggled to adapt the Turbo engine to the new unleaded fuel and initially believed that fitting a catalyst would cut the output from 300bhp to 240bhp. The Turbo disappeared from the American and Japanese markets in 1981, only to reappear in 964 guise in 1990.

The Turbo’s first twin-turbo engine arrived in the 993 in 1995 and brought with it permanent four-wheel drive. The 3.6-litre engine made 300kW and was later supplanted by a limited run of 182 examples of the Turbo S with another 18kW. This final variant of the 911’s air-cooled engine now command a massive premium, if you can find one.

There’s been a Turbo in the 911’s armament ever since, culminating in today’s mighty 383kW and 315km/h powerhouse that claims 0-100km/h in a mere 3.4seconds, despite weighing 1595kg.

Selecting any one 911 from the car’s near 40 years of history is fraught for it means ignoring so many great cars. The Turbo, the everyday supercar, deserves its spot at the pinnacle.

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*****

 

More reviews:

>Driven: Porsche 911 Turbo

> Driven: Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

>Feature: Porsche 911 Turbo in Northern Territory

 

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