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911 Turbo 3.6 – 360 ch [1993 à 1994]

930 v 964 v 993: air-cooled Turbos

This is the story of an action hero: one who starts as a trigger-happy maverick, becomes all-powerful, then ends up going straight. Well, that’s the Hollywood version at least.

The truth about the air-cooled 911 Turbo – from 930 to 964 and 993 – is harder to sum up in a sound bite. So dim the lights, grab some popcorn and settle in for a saga of sequels without equal.

Posing outside the Paul Stephens showroom in Essex, our Turbo trilogy makes for a great movie poster. They’re The Expendables in four-wheeled form: brimful of testosterone and bulging in all the right places.

The 964 Turbo 3.6 has the most visual clout, crouched like a coiled spring on dished Speedline split-rims. It’s one of the most aesthetically aggressive 911s, on par with the 993 GT2 and 991.2 GT2 RS.

The 930 isn’t far behind, its fulsome hips and signature spoiler immortalised on a million bedroom walls. And the 993 Turbo is equally iconic, albeit smoother and more urbane.

The 964, built in 3.6-litre guise for the final year of production only, is also our A-lister in terms of price. At the time of writing it was offered at £224,995 – enough to buy both the 930 and 993.

Is it the big-budget blockbuster those looks suggest, or does the sweet-spot of this air-cooled 911 line-up lie elsewhere? I’m childishly excited to find out.

I start with the 930. ‘The Widowmaker’ shares its epithet with a movie about a nuclear submarine, and its presence feels equally forbidding. However, it could have been much wilder.

Inspired by the on-track success of the turbocharged 917/30, the prototype 930 was a back-to-basics road racer – effectively a Carrera 3.0 RS with forced induction – and just 200 cars were planned. Porsche’s sales and marketing department had other ideas, though, envisioning the 911 Turbo as a luxurious super-GT.

In the end profit triumphed over purity, and the Turbo debuted in 1975 with air conditioning, electric windows, a rear wiper and a four-speaker stereo. Climbing aboard, this flagship 1987 911 still feels well-appointed today.

There’s supple leather, deep-pile carpet and even heated seats. Only the boost gauge, nestled within the rev counter, offers a clue to its added oomph. Well, that and the four ratios etched atop the gear lever – the SC had switched to five-speed back in 1978.

The original 3.0-litre 930 served up 260hp: a modest 63hp more than a contemporary Carrera 3.0, and Golf GTI power today. Even so, edgy handling and all-or-nothing power delivery made it a challenging steer.

Le Mans-winning Porsche racer Tony Dron said: “Frankly, it demanded too much skill, even from an experienced driver, and that made serious driving hard work… I was far from convinced that selling them to the public was a good idea.” An upgrade to 3.3-litres and 300hp in 1978 also included beefier 917 brakes and a more stable chassis. This had “better handling, but was still something of a monster when driven really fast”, noted Dron.

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’93 Porsche 965 Turbo Wagenbauanstalt… custom !

Ouais… vous ne rêvez pas ! Le gars, pour se taper son délire, il est parti d’une Porsche 965 Turbo 3.6l… Enfin, il l’a confiée à Wagenbauanstalt, un “préparatueur” allemand basé à Hambourg qui ne refuse aucun des délires mécaniques de ses clients, à partir du moment où ils alignent le cash demandé ! Même […]

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The Flying Corkman

Irishman Mel Nolan was a legend on two wheels but after hanging up his helmet the call of the Porsche came loud and clear.

Mel Nolan is smiling. Dressed in a neatly ironed shirt with the outline of a Porsche embroidered on the chest, he rises from his seat and extends his hand, the smile turning to a laugh.

“Another drink over here,” he calls to a barman, before gesturing to the stool opposite him. Even beside the window the light in this southern Irish pub is low, but the spotlight is about to shine on white-haired Mel, as he heaves a heavy box up beside him, layers of newspaper cuttings, old photographs and programmes inside.

Memories spill onto the table, scattering like a dropped pack of cards, and his eyes dance as his fingers reach for a black and white photo of a man sitting astride a motorbike. Clad in leathers, his face partly hidden by a helmet, is a much younger Mel. A Mel who was better known at the time as The Flying Corkman.

In the early Eighties, Mel Nolan was one of the quickest men on earth. Aboard his “crazy, home-built motorcycle”, the industrial chemist set two world records and, after registering 207mph on the speedometer, has kept a tight hold of the Irish Land Speed Record for nearly 40 years since.

“For the past seven years I’ve been a total Porsche fanatic but before it wasn’t like that,” says the 73-year-old. “Before that, I was a biker – and not an ordinary biker but one who loved to race, build new engines, do new things and develop new engineering and new products.”

Having entered – and won – his first motorbike race at the age of 25, Mel filled his home with dozens of hillclimbing and sprint trophies before a powerful mix of mechanical curiosity and ambition propelled him into the record books.

“The bike started off as a road bike – a Honda 750 with a top speed of 118mph – but my friend, Dennis Collins, and I started to work on it. Bit-by-bit the speeds built up to 207mph an hour.

For the past seven years I’ve been a total Porsche fanatic but before it wasn’t like that.

“The bike started off as a road bike – a Honda 750 with a top speed of 118mph – but my friend, Dennis Collins, and I started to work on it. Bit-by-bit the speeds built up to 207mph an hour.

“It took some getting there – it felt like a lifetime’s work – but we had fantastic fun and by the end of 1981 we’d set the world land speed records for a 1,000cc bike over distances of a mile, and a kilometre. We had to pull out all the stops. I believe it was the first turbo and nitrous motorcycle ever run in Europe.”

With three records under his belt, Mel took a back seat from riding and moved into an organisational role. Having developed a love of drag racing, he put his infectious enthusiasm to work, drawing crowds of 10,000 onto the streets of Ireland for the country’s first ever drag race. After a brief stint back in the saddle – “It was killing me to see our Irish riders being beaten by the English, who’d been drag racing for years, so I developed a bike with nitrous oxide and rediscovered my competitive streak” – Mel hung up his leathers at the end of the Nineties. Seven years ago, he pointed his passion in the direction of Porsche.

“I’d wanted a Porsche from a young age and when I bought a Boxster S a few years ago I just felt totally at home. It was like sitting on my sofa, but a sofa with astounding handling,” he laughs. “On the twisty roads of Ireland I could keep up with anything, even cars with a lot more horsepower.”

It was like sitting on my sofa, but a sofa with astounding handling.

The Boxster was followed by a 996 Turbo X50, a 3.2 turbo-bodied Carrera, and eventually a 997 Turbo. All three sit side-by-side in his garage. All three present the perfect excuse to be an active member of the Porsche Club of Ireland.

As organiser of the southern region, Mel’s never been busier. “Some clubs have five or six events a year; by the end of 2018, we’ll have held 58. The camaraderie is fantastic: there’s always something to do and somewhere to go in your Porsche. We’re a very proud club,” he says, pointing at his shirt where the club logo is stitched.

“Motorcycles are a part of me – I’m still heavily involved in drag racing – but there’s a lot of love in my heart for my Porsches. It wasn’t until I’d driven one that I realised a car could feel like being back on a motorcycle. They’re raw, they’re fantastic, they’re happy machines.”

They’re raw, they’re fantastic, they’re happy machines.

As he sips his pint and wipes the froth from his top lip, Mel’s eye falls on a recent photo of his 1984 Carrera on the table in front of him. Mel Nolan is smiling again.

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30 yearsof 964: C2 v RS and Turbo v Turbo-look

Modernity is what the 964 brought to the 911, it arriving on the cusp of a new decade and would, in the then-CEO Heinz Branitzki’s words, “be the 911 for the next 25 years.” It never was, nor, admittedly, was it intended to be, but in the six years it was produced the increase in technology, as well as the proliferation of models, set the template for how the 911 would evolve into the model line we recognise today.

Its massively revised structure and chassis was able to incorporate necessities like power steering, driver and passenger airbags, an automatic transmission and also four-wheel drive. It was tested more rigorously on automated test beds, was built using more modern, cost-effective production techniques and brought the 911’s look up to date, without taking away from its iconic lines.

Such was Porsche’s focus on four-wheel drive it was launched as a Carrera 4, the Carrera 2 following it into production in 1989. Over the six, short years that followed the 964 would proliferate into a model line-up including Targa, Cabriolet, Turbo and RS in the regular series models, with specials like the Turbo S, RS 3.8, 30 Jahre and Speedster models all adding to the mix. It came at the right time, too, replacing the outdated 3.2 Carrera and boosting sales for Porsche when it needed them, the Carrera 2 and 4 selling 63,570 examples, those specials and the Turbos and RSs adding around 10,000 sales on top of that.

It was a successful, important car for Porsche, but just how does it stack up today, and which one to go for? The 964 is the car that introduced the 911 conundrum, one which, in part at least, we’re going to try and settle here today. We’ve four 964s here: a Carrera 2, an RS, a Carrera 4 widebody with its Turbo-aping hips, and a later 3.6 example of the 964 Turbo. The Carrera 2, naturally, is the most available, with some 19,484 sales globally, the RS selling some 2,405, the widebody being very limited (numbers are hard to come by) and the Turbo 3.6 finding 1,427 buyers for the year it was produced.

For many the Carrera 2 is the obvious choice, but take all the numbers out of the equation and things get a little bit different. To digest it there’s a natural split, the narrow and widebody cars, which is why I’m jumping first into the slim-hipped Carreras, and specifically that big-selling Carrera 2.

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White giants

Since the launch of the 930 3.0 Turbo in 1974, the “Turbos” have been the most powerful 911s of any generation. Porsche Classic pitted the two latest air-cooled turbo 911s – the 964 Turbo 3.6 and the 993 Turbo S – against the latest 991 Turbo 150 to compare three of the best sports cars of all time.

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