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911 Turbo S 3.6 – 385 ch [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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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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Porsche 964 Turbo X88 v Porsche 993 Turbo S: Legacy of the 959

The financial cost to Porsche with the 959 might have been punishing, but the legacy it created would permeate through the company for many decades. Technologically, the 959 created a seismic shift in the sports and supercar marketplace that would see rivals take years to catch up.

Its resonance is obvious today, and the 959’s legacy would be immediate too, the 964-generation being the first 911 to benefit from the advances it introduced.

Four-wheel drive offered on the standard Carrera line-up, along with power steering and ABS, was offered in 1989. All 964s would benefit from the suspension revisions that the Carrera 4’s four-wheel drive necessitated, with the front and rear torsion bar setup from the previous 3.2 binned in favour of MacPherson struts at the front, with concentric coil springs and cast aluminium lower arms.

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The rear would benefit from suspension derived from the Turbo, with cast aluminium trailing arms with coil springs, the suspension front and rear allowing for improvements in the geometry, and ABS braking contributing to the wheel stability, too, to the benefit of control.

Visually, the 964’s adoption of thermoplastic bumpers and a bonded windscreen would modernise the 911’s look, while improving its aerodynamic efficiency.

Oddly, the teardrop rear mirrors, which improve both the look and airflow, wouldn’t feature on the 964 until 1992. The underbody airflow was managed more effectively, the 959’s influence again helping Porsche improve its core model’s high-speed stability.

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Significant as the 964’s gains are from the 959, they pale when compared to those of the 993. The 993 didn’t just borrow technology from the 959, but its front end has a lot of 959 in its DNA.

The lower bumper section in particular, as well as the shape and positioning of the headlamps and indicators, are all very evocative of the 959 (and the 965 missing-link that never reached production).

The most obvious link though would be technologically, the 993 Turbo adding another turbocharger into the mix (albeit parallel as opposed to sequential), that additional blower helping to drive the standard four-wheel-drive system that was fitted to the flagship Turbo.

To read more about the legacy of the 959 in our Porsche 964 Turbo X88 v 993 Turbo S head-to-head, pick up Total 911 issue 142 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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Sales debate: Which 911 Turbo has the most investment potential?

The 911’s 50th anniversary last year coincided with astronomical price rises for Zuffenhausen’s iconic sports car. With the Turbo variant celebrating its 40th birthday this year, now may be the last chance to jump on the forced-induction train before it’s too late. But what model should you invest your money in?

“It’s difficult, because there’s so many of them,” Jamie Tyler, Paragon’s head of sales explains. While the 996 Turbo may be one of the market’s entry-level cars, Tyler believes it is worth looking at more exotic fare.

“3.6 Turbos (964), 993 Turbos, and obviously Turbo Ss [are all good choices]. Any of the air-cooled ones really, as they’re all on the way up at the moment,” Tyler continues.

Porsche 964 Turbo 3.6

The problem is, despite starting prices of £150,000 for a 964 Turbo 3.6 (more desirable than the 3.3 due to their rarity according to Tyler), and £85,000 for 993 versions, examples of the above sell very quickly.

Talking of a 993 Turbo during the summer by Paragon, Tyler mentions that it “was only on the website for about three hours, and it sold over the phone straight away.”

Porsche Bournemouth’s Karl Meyer, an expert in Porsche’s heritage line-up, agrees that 964 and 993 Turbos are proving attractive. However, he does have a preference.

Porsche 930 3.0 3.3

“I think a 930. It is just bonkers not to buy them,” he explains. “They’re still the most iconic, but they haven’t stretched their legs. Give it two years, and I think a £40,000 930 could be double its money.”

That’s a serious return, but to maximise your chances, Meyer points out that it is the earliest or the latest 930s that make the best prospects. The former “embodies the whole Seventies era,” while the latter gained the excellent G50 gearbox. Either way, your Turbo should be pumping into an air-cooled flat six.

For market advice on any generation or style of Porsche 911, check out our full selection of sales debates, where we ask the 911 experts the pertinent market questions so you don’t have to.

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Top eight rarest factory-built Porsche 911s of all time

Rarity is a huge draw for many Porsche 911 enthusiasts, with Zuffenhausen having produced its fair share of small-run oddities. Here are the eight most unusual cars to have ever rolled off the production line in Zuffenhausen. Have you seen all of them in the metal?

8) Porsche 964 Turbo S
Porsche 964 Turbo S

Production numbers: 81
Ignoring the us only 930 S (which was actually a flatnose 911 Turbo), the Porsche 964 Turbo S was the first car to carry the fabled moniker. 180kg lighter than the standard 3.3-litre Turbo it was the fastest road-going 911 ever released when it arrived in 1992.

Get all the tech specs on the 964 Turbo S in our data file section.

7) Porsche 964 RS 3.8
Porsche 964 RS 3.8

Production numbers: 55
While the 3.6-litre car currently gets all the plaudits, the Porsche 964 RS 3.8 was much, much rarer. It utilised the Turbo’s bodyshell and the 18-inch split-rim Speedlines. Numbers were kept low thanks to a single-year production run in 1993.

Get all the tech specs on the 964 RS 3.8 in our data file section.

6) Porsche 930 LE
Porsche 930 LE

Production numbers: 50
The ‘LE’ stood for ‘Limited Edition’ as this particular Porsche 930 was meant to mark the end of 911 Turbo production. As it was, a 964 version was created but the 930 LE remains sought after thanks to its aggressive looks, formidable performance and G50 gearbox.

Get all the tech specs on the 930 LE in our data file section.

5) Porsche 911 GT1 Straßenversion
Porsche 911 GT1

Production numbers: 25
Is it a true Porsche 911? The mid-engined Porsche 911 GT1 was a thoroughbred racer designed to bend the rules and take on the McLaren F1. 25 examples were needed to homologate the race version which would go on to take second place at the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Get all the tech specs on the 911 GT1 Straßenversion in our data file section.

4) Porsche 911R
Porsche 911R

Production numbers: 20 (plus 4 protoypes)

The Porsche 911R was Zuffenhausen’s first attempt at a homologation special. However, weighing just 800kg and featuring the Carrera GTS’s 210bhp flat six, the FIA weren’t convinced that this was just a variant of a 911S, instead making it race as a prototype.

Get all the tech specs on the 911R in our data file section.

3) Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight
Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight

Production numbers: 22
Build using surplus parts from the 953 Paris-Dakar project, the Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Leichtbau made extensive use of fibreglass to bring the base cars weight down to 1,050kg. It didn’t make financial sense for Porsche but it did give Weissach’s engineers something to do after the end of the 959/961 development.

Get all the tech specs on the 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight in our data file section.

2) Porsche 911 SC RS
Porsche 911 SC RS

Production numbers: 20
Built for the 1984 rallying season, the Group B specification Porsche 911 SC RS wasn’t really an SC at all. In competition guise, the Turbo-bodied car turned out 290bhp though the road-going versions were down tuned to 255bhp. This is the car that helped form rallying powerhouse, Prodrive.

Get all the tech specs on the 911 SC RS in our data file section.

1) Porsche 911 2.7 Turbo
Porsche 911 2.7 Turbo

Production numbers: 1
Everyone thinks that the first Porsche 911 Turbo featured a 3.0-litre powerplant with a single KKK turbocharger. However, the real beginning to Zuffenhausen’s forced induction 911 legend was this 2.7-litre car given to Louise Piëch, daughter of Porsche founder, Ferry.

To read about this incredibly unusual Porsche 911 Turbo, pick up a copy of Total 911 issue 112, available to download now.

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