Let's put the '80s behind us and forgive the Porsche 911 Turbo

9

Author: James ElliottPublished:

While the modern motoring press is getting overheated at the Frankfurt Motor Show, digging deep into the cliché tombola and complaining of sore feet, at C&SC we tend to think back to previous years.

In my case specifically 1973 when a certain silver prototype appeared on the Porsche stand.

Could it really be 40 years ago that someone slapped a Turbo on the even-then-venerable 911, which it has to be said seemed to be doing OK and going plenty quick enough with a normally aspirated 3-litre engine?

What mayhem was unleashed, what cultural divisions were made. Was any car ever more revered and reviled at the same time?

By the time the Porsche Turbo slipped into the late 1980s, like Zagat's, espadrilles and white Testarossas, in the public eye it seemed to simultaneously represent everything that was good, evil and ridiculous in the world. Contemptuous and contemptible in equal measure.

I often wonder if even Porsche regretted its success, rued the hands the whale-tailed driving machine fell into… and then promptly out of as it disappeared backwards through a hedge quicker than you could say Merrill Lynch.

I have been a car nut all my life and think the 911 Turbo one of the motoring world's shining stars and guiding lights, but even I can't entirely ignore everything else in the world to the point that it isn't somehow tainted. To declare your love for a 911 Turbo as a car seems to be akin to bigging up Charlie Manson as a great singer-songwriter.

But I still want one. Surely anyone with a millilitre of petrol in their veins would want a blast in a Porsche motor sport-derived 3-litre single-turbo, rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Porsche 911. 

Motor magazine certainly did. It called it: 'The finest driving machine you can buy.' 

Yet somehow that reputation got usurped along the way and even Porsche didn't seem to envisage its fate. After all, having launched into an era of glam rock and coming-down hippies, its 911 Turbos had been in production for more than a decade before its brilliance was compromised by its ownership demographic and the rabid tabloids hare-coursing the new privileged.

So I am delighted to note that Porsche sheepishly put out a discreet little press release to mark the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Turbo's debut. 

Well done Porsche. After all, I've recently bumped into several ardent enthusiasts who drive a 1980s 911 Turbo and they are like the cats that got the cream.

When rehabilitation is complete, I may have to indulge myself. Until then, let's just celebrate it as a great car and jettison the cultural baggage it brings with it.

Here are some stats from that Porsche release… 

  • The original Turbo features the ‘Whale Tail’ spoiler, developed from the 3.0 RS. Later 3.3-litre cars have the ‘Tea Tray’ intercooler spoiler, identified by a flat deck area and a thick rubber lip around the edge
  • Porsche overcame the pause in acceleration in the lower engine speed range (so-called ‘turbo lag’) by charge pressure control via an exhaust bypass valve, which until then had only been used in motor sport. This complex control system made it possible to size the turbocharger so it built up more pressure at lower engine speeds and generated more torque
  • The price of the first 911 Turbo in 1975 was £14,749 in the UK
  • Production of the 911 Turbo 3.0 totalled 2,876 units by 1977
  • When Motor achieved 160.1mph during its road test of the 3.3 Turbo in 1979, the car became the fastest production car the magazine had tested to date. At 12.3 seconds to 100mph from rest, it was also the most accelerative
  • ‘Group B’ 911 Turbos finished 11th, 13th and 15th at Le Mans in 1983, winning the category outright. They were effectively lightly-modified road cars
  • The original 1973 911 Turbo concept car displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show survives to this day: its 3.0 RS body now clothes a 3.0 RS engine.
  • 930 sales in America were halted at the end of 1979 due to emissions regulations. The model returned in 1986 with a catalytic converter.
  • When it was launched in Feburary 2000, the 996 Turbo was hailed as the ‘world’s lowest emitting automobile’ made possible by itsengine featuring four valves per cylinder, water cooling and the first use of VarioCam Plus valve timing
  • The 997 Turbo was the first petrol-powered production car to feature variable geometry turbochargers, hitherto only available on diesel cars
  • The first 911 Turbo to feature four-wheel drive was the 993-based model introduced in 1995
  • The first 911 Turbo to be available with an optional automatic gearbox was the 996-based model introduced in 2000. PDK arrived in 2010
  • 20,664 of the original (930) 911 Turbos were built, split between 3,227 examples of the 3.0-litre model and 17,437 of the 3.3-litre. Later production included Targa and Cabriolet derivatives, along with rare ‘slant nose’ models incorporating ‘pop-up’ headlamps
  • The most powerful, air-cooled, production line built 911 Turbo ever was the 993 Turbo S model of 1997, featuring 430 hp
  • Continuing the tradition of the 911 Turbo as a technology pioneer, the latest Type 991 model features the world’s first variable front spoiler – powered by pneumatic actuators depending on vehicle speed
  • The latest 911 Turbo S can lap the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in 7 min 27 secs – in 1997, the lap time for the Type 993 Turbo was 8 min 12 secs
  • The 911 Turbo had an especially prominent fan very early on: Professor Ferry Porsche drove his 911 Turbo with chassis number 930 770 088 until 16 June, 1980, for a total of 8,200 kms. Equipped with a steel sliding sunroof, air conditioning, brown leather upholstery and many other extras, this car has since been part of the Porsche Museum collection

Comments

jasper3934

James your time lines are distorted
The 3.0 litre Turbo which was on sale from 1975 did not really catch on (mega lag for one thing)
The 3.3 caught the public imagination but in many ways from about 1979
By the time of yuppiedom it was really only the 1986-89 models which were labelled and frankly only then in the Home Counties.

The car itself whilst excitingly fast at the time was real handful in every way. It would understeer/oversteer alternately through any fast corner in an alarming way. The power came with a whoosh but only after a pause for breath.
I swapped an SC for one and regretted it deeply. No delicacy poise or balance.
Mind you a 1.26 lap of Donnington in a road spec 3.3 proved what a real driver could do with one. But even he alludes to the power delivery being a pause and then the "zoomies"

No not a great car just one being talked up like many others currently by speculators and dealers. An interesting historical footnote for Porsche but hardly a land mark car I think

Chris Martin

James really nailed that whole eighties vibe there.  As a car nut who lived through the era, (and unashamedly voted for Maggie) I can appreciate everything you say about the reputation and the tabloid view of the red braces wearing owners.  I was about town in the City, Guards Red was the favoured colour, closely followed by black, the cliched w*nk*rs were all over town and highly visible, but that is not the car's fault.  Hard to believe how crap the eighties really were, and I hope James, who I suspect is a few years younger than me, does not now view the Thompson Twins with rose-tinted nostaglia, but I suspect Jasper's comments are also true - what was always a flawed 'supercar' now being talked up by dealers.

Top blog though!

 

Big Iain

Well I still think it's a great wee piece,really enjoyed it,well composed and venerable is such a great description of the Turbo.
I remember going to a Porsche national day in the late 90's in my 87 Carrera Sport,performed without fault the entire 350 mile journey as it always does to be honest.
I got talking to a few Turbo owners and told them about my plans to buy a Turbo at some point,to my suprise quite a few of them advised me against it which I must say I wasn't expecting,one owner in particular offered up his view that I may not like the raw almost primitive Turbo experience,saying it was a hard car to get used to.
I grew up driving RS Escorts,top spec Escorts,one had a BDA fitted and were always well sorted cars,slip diff,bilsteins the whole nine yards,so the bloke's picture that he painted of The Turbo didn;t scare me off.
I finally got my 930 a few years back,in white the same as my Carrera,the plan was to sell The Carrera and keep The Turbo for good,well that's what I told the Mrs.
Initially the signs were good even with the horrendous lag,but slowly the flashbacks to that sunny day in Englandshire and that natter to the anonymous wise Turbo owner,became more regular.
I didn't want to concede,I wasn't giving in,no way,but.....even with that amazing Turbo body in my fave colour of white,just like my Escorts and remember all the experts said that white was out...oh is it really
the stark truth was that and maybe it was because I was a bit older and not a daft boy anymore,but the truth of the matter was...my Carrera was a better motor,not in every aspect obviously,but to me it was better than it's intended replacement.
So I'm getting fed up noo as are you probably,but to stop any more rambling,the long and short of it is this,I've just taxed the Carrera today and that's me into my 17th year of ownership,The Turbo is lying next to it in the garage...it never managed to usurp it.how I wish it had...but it just never...

Zagato

The 911 Turbo deserves to be an all-time classic on looks alone. The fact that it is an evil bastard and needs a firm hand to control it just adds to its appeal. It is the .44 Magnum of classic cars - point it carefully round the corners and fire it down the straights. "Are you feeling lucky, punk?" Totally cool in my book...

Zagato

jasper3934

so,Zagato ok if Michealangelo painted the Sistine with a yard brush ?

PIHP

Having read the article and comments and, on the whole, being somewhat disheartened by their complete misunderstanding of what is one of the all time greats.
I grew up being hurled around the country in a succession of 930's.
I now own one.
It is a car that needs to be driven, taken by the scruff of the neck and enjoyed.
Equally it can be docile, pootle around town and soak up the smell of leather, the noise , the latent potential. Now it enjoys admiring looks and OMG from those under 25.
It is also small, compact and agile compared with all super-cars of today.
Astons, DBS and Vanquish, 997 turbo, 996, 911 Club Sport, Conti GTs, Cayman, etc all owned and have their attributes but the 930 is the one that puts the genuine smile on the face.

PIHP

alvin

Porsche has won many motorsports, it is a world largest race car manufacture.having successful with water cooled Turbo engines.

KatherineNorman

This car is looking very nice and i am not now about any thing of this brand.
Luxury hotel booking

condebob

I came late to Porsche. During the 80s I fell in with the wrong crowd and went the poseur route. It took me a while, but I eventually discovered Porsche and started to understand. There is something about porsche, you either get it or you don't. I don't get the 356 cars, not a bit. Sure, they are light and fun, but not that fast. A friend has 3 and refuses to drive anything else. He says I just don't "get it".
The 3.0 turbo is very rare in Australia, only about 26 came here, so I hadn't had much chance to see one , let alone drive one. I had messed about in a 3.3, but it didn't impress, the back felt too heavy, I hated the power everything. It is a luxury car.
Then one track day I DROVE a properly setup, very original 3.0 turbo.
It took me 3 years to find one, but it is without doubt the finest sports car I have ever driven. A vicious little animal.
My friend with the three 356s just doesn't get it...

Bob

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