BUYERS’ GUIDE: 930 TURBO THEULTIMATE911
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
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.
DRIVING THE 911 TURBO
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.
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
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.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR ENGINE
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.’
SUSPENSION AND WHEELS
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