By Mike Monk with images by Mike & Wendy Monk
The rear-engined 911 was introduced in 1963 and has been steadily developed ever since. A successor to the 356, the 911 has become one of the world’s most iconic cars, even staving off an in-house threat from 1976 to 1995 by the front-engined 924/928/944/968 evolution as the company’s staple sports car offering. Despite having gone upmarket to make room for the more affordable Boxster/Cayman in the corporate line-up, the 911 continues to thrive and there is no sign of any imminent demise.
Harking back to the VW Beetle flat-four that was at the heart of Porsche’s original 356, up until the introduction of the 996 all Porsche engines were air-cooled, which helped create a distinctive sound, especially from the hotter versions. But where does the 930 Series fit in the overall picture, and what significance does it have?
The basic sequence of 911 series numbering is:
Porsche 911: 1963 - 1989
Porsche 964: 1989 - 1994
Porsche 993: 1995 - 1998
Porsche 996: 1999 - 2004 (all-new body and water-cooled engines)
Porsche 997: 2005 - 2011
Porsche 991: 2012 - 2014
Porsche 991.2: 2015 - 2019
Porsche 992: 2019 - present
Despite having gone upmarket to make room for the more affordable Boxster/Cayman in the corporate line-up, the 911 continues to thrive and there is no sign of any imminent demise.
Simply put, it was Porsche’s first turbocharged road car and was a derivative of the first series 911. Because of the changes made to the basic floorpan, it was given its own series number and was in production for no less than 14 years, from 1975 to 1989. The bodywork included the impact-absorbing bumpers that were adopted to meet US safety legislation in the USA, where the car was as much of a success as it was in Europe, until emission laws forced its temporary withdrawal in 1980.
Using technology learnt from the 917/30 CanAm race car project, Ernst Fuhrmann began developing the Turbo motor in 1974 using a KKK turbocharger fitted to the fuel-injected Carrera RS 3.0 single overhead-cam flat-six engine. It delivered 191kW at 5500rpm, compared with the 169kW of the naturally aspirated 2994cc motor, while peak torque was 354Nm at 4000rpm. To handle the increased outputs, a revised suspension and larger brakes were added to the package, as well as a stronger clutch and gearbox. But to the dismay of many, it was four- rather than five-speed. The now infamous ‘whale tail’ was adopted to improve air flow to the engine, as well as adding some aerodynamic downforce. Massively flared rear wheel arches housed 15x8-inch rear wheels shod with 225/50VR rubberware. Fronts were 205/50VRs on 15x7-inch rims. The car was launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1974. Performance figures suggested 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 246km/h. It is thought that no other production car accelerated as fast.
In 1978 the engine capacity was increased to 3299cc, and an air-to-air intercooler added under the slightly raised and reprofiled whale tail. Wheels were enlarged to 16-inch and tyres were 205/55 (front) and 225/50 (rear). With up to 1 bar of boost, peak power was raised to 224kW, still at 5000rpm, and torque to 407Nm, at the same revs. To cope with the improved performance, the cross-drilled ventilated disc brakes were upgraded too. Although the changes increased the car’s weight (to around 1 310kg), the benchmark 0-100km/h time dropped to 5.3 seconds while top speed was raised to 260km/h, figures that many of today’s performance cars would be pleased with. The extra mass and its location had more of an effect on the handling.
All 930s are left-hand drive and typically the floor-mounted pedals are offset to the right, but the slightly skew driving position is not that apparent once behind the fixed, padded three-spoke steering wheel, which sits close to the full-width facia.
Although there is plenty of seat adjustment, for someone who is tall the position is a tad compromised, yet somehow not too problematic. Five dials house the comprehensive instrumentation, which includes a central rev counter red-lined at 7000, a 300km/h speedo and a boost gauge. Oh, and there is even an original Porsche-branded radio/cassette player.
It fires up with a long turn of the key and settles into an easy idle. The gearbox on this 150 000km car is a bit slack so care will be necessary not to hook the wrong gear when pressing on. Pottering around is no real hardship, except for the steering which is ‘sticky’ because of the grip of the tyres. Quiet and civilised. The leather seats have integral head restraints: the +2 rear seats with fold-down backrests are more akin to a child’s seat than anything an adult would fit into. This is not a family car.
Like with any performance machine, driving the 930 quickly requires concentration. All-independent suspension gives a naturally stiff ride around town but as speed rises it combines with the steering to give plenty of valuable feedback. On a clear stretch of tar select third, press the accelerator and watch the revs rise as the notorious lag preludes the infamous kick and, sure enough, at 4000 the boost comes on strong and immediately the 930’s raison d’être becomes apparent. The whoosh effect is electric and as max revs approach, shift into top for uninterrupted urge. Brakes are very effective.
Ah, but that is only part of the story. Twisties approach and the 911’s notoriety for being a ‘widow maker’ springs to mind as gear, turn-in and acceleration need to be balanced to make the 930 go where you want it to rather than kick ass and spin you off into the scenery. But those big tyres and wide tracks manage to compensate for the 911’s short wheelbase and increased rearward weight bias output more than I expected.
It is not even a case of ‘slow in, quick out’ because the laws of physics will apply if there is too much too early. It is all about balancing steering lock with application of the right foot. Find some quiet space to find the limit. Quick application of opposite lock will counter rear waywardness, but the steering is heavy and unless you really want to play hooligan there is more satisfaction to be gained by staying on or close to the limit – not over it.
A ‘flat nose’ version was offered in 1981 as part of Porsche’s special-order programme, and in 1984 the fastest of the 930 Turbos was developed with a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 278km/h. In 1989, the car’s final year of production, a five-speed gearbox was fitted that saw 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 260km/h. The 930 set a turbo benchmark for all future iterations of the 911. By today’s standards it is a handful when approaching the limit: no plethora of driver aids to act as a guardian angel here. Why, it does not even have ABS – but it does provide A Brilliant Sensation.
The main purpose of the Porsche Turbo road car was to gain homologation for the 1976 racing season. The FIA had announced that for Group 4, cars had to be production models available for sale to individual purchasers through manufacturer dealer networks and 400 had to be produced within 24 months to gain approval. Porsche met the target by the end of 1975, and the Turbo quickly became a cult car. By 5 May 1976, 1 000 had been built.