The 911 Turbo, it even sounds fast. Back in 1974 the Turbo was a revo­lu­tion and planted the 911 firmly into su­per­car ter­ri­tory along­side Lam­borgh­ini and Fer­rari. Un­like the Ital­ian duo, though, the Porsche was a gen­uinely use­able ma­chine and fa­mously dura

911 Porsche World - - Buyers’ Guide -

At the Paris mo­tor show 43 years ago Porsche launched the first 911 Turbo, and the rest of the mo­tor in­dus­try may well have won­dered if Porsche man­age­ment had taken leave of its col­lec­tive senses. If there was an in­ap­pro­pri­ate time to launch a fast, thirsty, ex­tro­vert and ex­pen­sive sports car, this was it.

The cost of fuel was go­ing through the roof, and with coun­tries’ economies af­fected by the un­cer­tainty cre­ated by an­other Mid­dle East cri­sis, it was jus­ti­fi­able to won­der just what sort of mar­ket there would be for the 911 Turbo. But within a year the cri­sis had passed, and the flag­ship Porsche that had seemed al­most a pre­pos­ter­ous idea was now seen for what it was, a very de­sir­able su­per­car.

And the ‘930’, to give the orig­i­nal shape its fac­tory num­ber­ing, has al­ways been a charis­matic car, even if val­ues were down to around £20,000 in the 2000s. Since then, though, prices have risen dra­mat­i­cally, av­er­age cars well over £60,000 and top ex­am­ples achiev­ing £200,000. But oc­ca­sion­ally they pop up for sale looking like old cars rather than garage queen clas­sics, so what should you be looking for if con­sid­er­ing buy­ing one?


The out­line of the Turbo is an en­dur­ing im­age from the mid 1970s, with its mas­sively bulging wings, eight-inch rear and seven-inch wide front wheels, deep front spoiler and ‘whale-tail’ rear wing. The black paint­work some came in em­pha­sised the Porsche’s men­ac­ing stance. How­ever, there wasn’t a great deal to dis­tin­guish the Turbo in­te­rior from the reg­u­lar 911, the Turbo even lack­ing a boost gauge.

Es­sen­tially there were two stages of the early 911 Turbo: the orig­i­nal cars, and those from Septem­ber 1977. The for­mer’s 3.0-litre en­gine, with its low­ered, 6.5:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio and Bosch K-jetronic fuel-in­jec­tion pro­duced 260bhp (though 15bhp less for North Amer­ica) and 253lb ft torque. At a time by which all man­ual 911s had a five-speed gearbox, the Turbo used a spe­cially adapted four-speeder based on the ex­ist­ing 915 ’box; at the time Porsche said the en­gine’s wide spread of torque meant four speeds were suf­fi­cient, a state­ment which some might have in­ter­preted as a fear that the five-speed gearbox wouldn’t be strong enough.

For the 1978 model year the 911 Turbo en­gine rose to 3.3 litres and gained an in­ter­cooler, this mounted un­der the rear spoiler which was re-de­signed (the ‘teatray’) and en­larged to ac­com­mo­date it. Nu­mer­ous other mod­i­fi­ca­tions were made in­clud­ing a re­vised crank­shaft, new con­rods and pis­tons, a big­ger oil pump and the ad­di­tion of an ex­haust air pump for emis­sions pur­poses. In Euro­pean spec the new mo­tor de­liv­ered 300bhp, and 303lb ft torque at 4000rpm, 15 and 20 per cent more than be­fore, re­spec­tively, al­though for North Amer­ica and Ja­pan, out­put was an emis­sions-con­trolled 265bhp and 291lb ft.

The orig­i­nal, un-ser­voed brakes were up­rated, now ven­ti­lated and cross-drilled discs with four-pis­ton calipers, and with servo as­sis­tance. Wheel di­am­e­ter went up an inch to 16-inch, partly to ac­com­mo­date the larger brakes, re­main­ing at seven and eight inches in width, al­though a nine-inch

rear rim was op­tional. How­ever, of greater sig­nif­i­cance is that by now the Turbo was run­ning Pirelli P7 tyres – the world’s first low-pro­file tyre. The sizes were 205/55 at the front, 245/45 rear.

In 1983 the en­gine gained a new ex­haust and waste­gate, which raised Euro­pean model torque to 317lb ft. Since 1979, the 930 had been with­drawn from North Amer­ica, re­turn­ing in 1986 with re­vised en­gine man­age­ment and 282bhp/289lb ft.

A num­ber of equip­ment up­dates were ap­plied: in Au­gust 1982 the heat­ing sys­tem, al­ways can­tan­ker­ous on a 911 due to it run­ning off the ex­haust heat ex­chang­ers, was re­vised; in Septem­ber 1984 the 930 gained cen­tral lock­ing as stan­dard, a four­spoke steer­ing wheel and elec­tric seats; as from Septem­ber 1986 all cars came with an elec­tric sun­roof. A five-speed gearbox was in­tro­duced in Septem­ber 1988 for the fi­nal model year pro­duc­tion.

In 1986 Porsche in­tro­duced the 911 Turbo SE, or “Flat­nose”, a road-go­ing salute to the iconic 935 en­durance racer of the 1970s, whose flat­tened out bon­net sec­tion was part of the over­all aero­dy­nam­ics. The build process in­volved trans­fer­ring nearly fin­ished cars from the Zuf­fen­hausen assem­bly line to Porsche’s spe­cial­ist engi­neer­ing unit at nearby Weis­sach, where they were re­built to SE spec. The en­gine was the Turbo’s reg­u­lar 3.3-litre unit, ex­cept with a big­ger turbo and in­ter­cooler, and higher lift camshafts, out­put ris­ing 30bhp to 330bhp, but torque un­changed. The year be­fore that Porsche in­tro­duced a Targa op­tion for the 911 Turbo, and Cabri­o­let ver­sions of the Turbo and Turbo SE.


The 911 Turbo still feels a very spe­cial car to drive, but also quite ba­sic. The lack of power-as­sisted steer­ing in nor­mal 911s of the time wasn’t an is­sue, but the Turbo’s wider front wheels stiffen up the steer­ing con­sid­er­ably; how­ever, the rack-and-pin­ion sys­tem feels re­spon­sive and ac­cu­rate.

The as­pect that most dates the early, 3.0-litre 911 Turbo is the brak­ing. The alld­isc sys­tem does stop you, but a mighty push is re­quired. It’s es­pe­cially no­tice­able at low speed, and rolling neatly and com­fort­ably to a halt is a del­i­cate op­er­a­tion. But the car rides more com­pli­antly than might be ex­pected.

Early Porsche turbo en­gines are of­ten con­sid­ered to have crude, on-off power curves, but this sim­ply isn’t the case. True, noth­ing much hap­pens below 3000rpm, but from there on the boost surges in quickly but progressively. What you don’t get is the ever present, shrill note of the at­mo­spheric air-cooled 911 en­gine, the turbo unit feel­ing quite sub­dued.

Driv­ers of early 911s will be fa­mil­iar with the Turbo traits: a clonky and vague gear shift and a none too light clutch, seats that are com­fort­able if per­haps not quite sup­port­ive enough, and a heat­ing sys­tem that is a thing of mys­tery. But it’s un­doubt­edly a charis­matic car to be in.


It does seem ex­tra­or­di­nary that un­til as re­cently as 2010/2011 you could buy a 930 Turbo for around £20,000, whereas now you might need to bud­get four times that. ‘They were £20,000 for years, and at one point, they were down to about £12,000,’ re­calls Robin Mcken­zie, pro­pri­etor of Bed­ford­shire-based clas­sic Porsche spe­cial­ist Auto Um­bau, and who has owned one since 2000. ‘When I started this

busi­ness I of­fered my 930 to a well known Porsche spe­cial­ist for £23,000 but they weren’t in­ter­ested.’

Most of the 930s de­liv­ered in the UK were Lon­don cars, Robin reck­ons, and prices now seem to start at around £80,000. It’s surely a sign of just how col­lectable they’ve be­come that the places you’ll find most of those for sale are the high pro­file in­ter­na­tional auc­tions held by the likes of RM Sotheby’s and Good­ing & Com­pany. Lon­don clas­sic car dealer Hexagon was of­fer­ing a 1989 Cabri­o­let in black with 30,250 miles for £159,995.

There are three cat­e­gories of 930. First, the orig­i­nal 3.0-litre, which are very rare now. ‘Val­ues are dic­tated by con­di­tion, and not nec­es­sar­ily his­tory, as peo­ple didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to keep­ing full ser­vice his­to­ries, es­pe­cially if they were com­pany owned,’ Robin says. Sec­ond is the most read­ily avail­able 930, the 3.3-litre four­speed. The third is the five-speed and last of the 930s, which now com­mand very se­ri­ous money.


When in­spect­ing a 930 flat-six there are some things that are easy to spot, such as vac­uum hoses that are break­ing up. But the main thing is to lis­ten to the en­gine, and 911 & PORSCHE WORLD de­cide whether it’s run­ning cor­rectly, Robin Mcken­zie ad­vises. ‘If it isn’t, this can be down to many rea­sons, from the sim­ple to cure, such as old or in­cor­rect RON petrol, to ig­ni­tion prob­lems. 930s need 98 RON, so do not be tempted to put in 95, as there is no knock sen­sor or ig­ni­tion ad­just­ment.’

Bro­ken cylin­der-head studs are a com­mon fail­ing, but hard to di­ag­nose un­less the cam cov­ers are re­moved and the head studs ac­tu­ally checked. Valve guides can wear, and you can tell this be­cause the en­gine will smoke un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, as oil is forced into the com­bus­tion cham­ber and burnt. The tur­bocharger is re­li­able, but can be ru­ined by care­less own­ers. ‘Peo­ple are tempted to change the boost spring up to 1bar, which will ul­ti­mately de­crease turbo life, and poor oil can cause oil star­va­tion,’ Robin ex­plains.

The ex­haust sys­tem cor­rodes and can be dif­fi­cult to change, be­cause it bolts onto the turbo, which gets ex­tremely hot, and the fix­ings be­come very cor­roded. Fuel pumps fail on un­used cars, and there are two of them.


The four-speeder is a good gearbox, but the syn­chro­mesh rings wear, es­pe­cially on sec­ond. Re­builds on the four-speed are ex­pen­sive, even more so on the five- speed. Worn bushes in the link­age, not an ex­pen­sive fix, can make an oth­er­wise good ’box feel bad. ‘Driv­ing the car is the only way to find out what con­di­tion the gearbox is in,’ Robin ad­vises. ‘Don’t ex­pect a quick, mod­ern shift, al­low the ’box to warm up a lit­tle and do not force the gears.’


Not a great deal goes wrong with the sus­pen­sion. ‘Shock ab­sorbers do go, but the sim­ple bounce test should give you an idea of how much life is left in them,’ in­structs Robin. ‘Driv­ing the car will also tell you – a well main­tained car is firm but com­fort­able.’

Pay close at­ten­tion to the con­di­tion of the road wheels. ‘Some peo­ple will have


Gone are the days of the 930 Turbo as the dis­cern­ing hooli­gan’s run­about. It is now a blue chip col­lectable that has to be kept locked away safely. Val­ues have risen mas­sively in just a few years, and in the long term will prob­a­bly go much higher.

Judged as a car, the Turbo is a mixed bless­ing: it’s faster than its con­tem­po­rary, the Car­rera 3.2, but the blower robs the mo­tor of some of its shrill char­ac­ter, which for some is more im­por­tant than ex­tra horse­power. But with the bulging wheel arches and huge rear wing, 911 brag­ging rights don’t get much bet­ter. PW

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