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Turbo v Carrera: 930 3.0 vs 2.7 MFI

After the swing of the 1960s, the 1970s are often lambasted, wrongly viewed as a decade of energy crises, political upheaval and scandal. The reality is that while the 1970s might have been a turbulent decade, they were also arguably a turning point in the modern world. 

Those energy crises did raise global concerns over consumption and, unsurprisingly, the car was in the firing line, particularly in the US. Increasing legislation for fuel economy and emissions, as well as safety, demanded change. That created problems for Porsche with the 911.

The 911s of 1970’s America would feature detuned engines to pass economy standards, EU and RoW cars largely escaping those, though those US regulations would have a pronounced impact on how the 911 would look. 

From 1973 onwards US domestic and imported cars had to survive a 5mph collision without any damage to the headlights, engine or safety equipment. The 911’s bumpers had to change, with the US regulation demanding innovation.

The G-series bumpers were born, revolutionising the 911’s look and ensuring it would pass not just the 1973-onwards regulations, but also the later zero-damage standards that would come into force over the next decade. 

Porsche evidentially thrives on the challenges posed by regulation, and those US rules forced the company’s hand changing the 911’s look. The styling department is credited as being responsible for those iconic bumpers, under then-director Anatole Lapine and a team consisting of Wolfgang Möbius, Dick Söderberg and Peter Reisinger. 

In contrast to so many rivals’ hastily devised, somewhat awkward efforts, Porsche’s solution to the regulations was beautifully integrated and simply engineered. Larger, higher, body-painted bumpers with neoprene rubbing strips were adopted, to which functional ‘bellows’ which compressed on impact were fitted.

The bellows were a neat solution which allowed the bumpers to move as much as 50mm, and were attached to collapsible steel tubes on European cars and hydraulic shock absorbers on US cars. The new bumpers were instrumental in the relocation of the battery, too, the now single battery being located in the luggage compartment in front of the left-hand front wheel, improving the weight distribution.

The rear would see a similarly styled wrap-around bumper hung off a complex aluminium extrusion, the lightweight metal adopted to keep additional mass at the rear to a minimum. Above the rear bumper Porsche adopted a reflective red band, joining the rear lights in with a styling element that’s largely pervaded the 911’s rear visual signature ever since. 

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Classic Porsche test: story of the Carrera 3.0

In many Porsche 911 books the Carrera 3.0 hardly merits a mention. Sandwiched between the revered Carrera 2.7 and all-conquering SC, it’s a mere footnote in a 56-year story. Has history judged it too harshly? Is the ‘Carrera 3’ underrated or simply underwhelming? Only driving one will tell us for sure.

The odds seem stacked against the 3.0 from the start. First, Porsche broke an unwritten rule by launching a new car with less power than its predecessor. And while a 13hp shortfall mattered more on paper than the road, the outgoing Carrera 2.7 also boasted perfect pedigree, being mechanically identical to the 1973 RS 2.7, barring the US model. The new 3.0, conversely, was defined by what it lacked. It was, in essence, ‘a Turbo without the turbo’.

On sale for just two years between 1976 and 1977, the Carrera 3.0 was the middle rung of a revised 911 range. The base model – called 911 Lux in some markets – retained a 165hp version of the 2.7-litre engine. The 3.0, meanwhile, adopted the 2,994cc lump from the flagship 930. This development of the 1974 3.0 RS engine would serve the 911 in various guises until 1984. In naturally aspirated form quoted power was 197hp at 6,000rpm, this versus 260hp at 5,500rpm for the top-dog Turbo. Fuel economy was improved, albeit not sufficiently for US emissions legislation. The 3.0 was never sold Stateside as a result.

Transforming a 930 into a Carrera 3 wasn’t merely a case of unbolting the blower. The N/A engine also had larger inlet ports, while compression ratio increased from 6.5:1 to 8.5:1. Further fettling for the 1976 model year included a die-cast aluminium crankcase, Nikasil cylinder liners, a five-blade cooling fan and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, replacing the plunger-type system. The use of K-Jetronic, which endured until the 1994 964 Turbo 3.6, also meant the demise of the hand throttle, supplanted by a vacuum-operated warm-up regulator. Most buyers chose the five-speed manual transmission, but Porsche also offered the four-speed ‘box from the Turbo and the clutchless Sportomatic – the latter now reduced to just three ratios.

What the 3.0 lacked in peak power it made up for in mid-range muscle. Maximum torque of 255Nm matches the outgoing Carrera 2.7 and is developed 900rpm lower in the rev range, meaning it equals the older car’s 6.3-second sprint to 60mph. Top speed is an Autobahn-friendly 145mph. The 3.0 is a relatively light 911, too. At 1,093kg it weighs 67kg – or a typical adult passenger – less than a 1978 SC.

At first glance the Carrera 3 looks little different to other impact-bumper 911s. ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ alloys in 6×15- and 7×15-inch sizes were standard, with wider Turbo-spec Fuchs for the Sport pack. The latter included a Whaletail spoiler and optional ‘Carrera’ side script, plus Bilstein dampers replacing the standard Koni or Boge set-up. A Comfort pack was also added for 1977 with 14-inch wheels and softer Bilsteins. Coupe versions of the 3.0 outsold Targas by a factor of two to one.

The most significant cosmetic update, however, is hidden from view. 1976 saw Porsche introduce hot-dip zinc coating for all panels, vastly improving the 911’s traditionally rather feeble resistance to rust. Stuttgart then put its Deutschmarks on the line with an industry-leading six-year corrosion warranty, which boosted resale values and reinforced a growing reputation for quality. Sadly the zinc protection is rarely so effective in the longer term; even slight damage exposes the steel underneath, allowing rust to take hold.

Inside, the Carrera 3 made a significant step towards curing another of the 911’s age-old issues: inadequate heating. Until this point regulating cabin temperature had been a hit-and-miss affair, using levers between the seats to mix air heated by the exhaust with fresh air from outside. The new system, standard on the 3.0 and Turbo, used two thermostats and a rotary controller to manage this process automatically. Separate fan and heater sliders were also introduced for 1977 along with face-level air vents, albeit only on the passenger side.

Further improvements to comfort came from extra sound deadening and a plusher interior, including carpeting on the lower doors from 1977. A larger driver’s door mirror was fitted, now electrically operated and heated, and cruise control – called Tempostat in Europe or Automatic Speed Control in the US – was an option for the first time. Porsche even changed the design of the locks to improve security. Now, instead of pop-up buttons that could be hooked with a coat hanger, the 911 had round knobs on the door panels. The Targa’s opening quarterlights were discontinued to deter smash-and-grab opportunists, too.

We could go on, of course. But there are only so many facts about thermostats or carpeted doors even the most committed enthusiast needs. What matters more is how the Carrera 3.0 drives and, ultimately, its place in the air-cooled 911 hierarchy. To find out we visited Classic Motor Hub, a huge multi-marque showroom that at the time of writing has the car pictured for sale at £87,500. CMH is also nestled among some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages
and finest driving roads. If the Carrera 3.0 can’t impress here…

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930 3.0 v 991: evolution of a species

Second gear, just before the apex of the tightly radiused corner. Squeeze the power and wait for the 930 Turbo to spin up and deliver boost. 2,500rpm and nothing is happening. 3,000rpm and still nothing of significance. In fact, it’s feeling like a slightly flat, normally aspirated Porsche. Three-and-a-half grand and finally we’re feeling a shove between the shoulder blades, the boost gauge below the rev counter now stirring. Suddenly that softly sprung rear is squatting down and the nose is lifting, and we’re being pushed hard at the horizon. The revs rise at a disproportionate rate to what was happening a second ago and I’m readying for that long-throw 915 shift across the gate and into third gear, hoping that I can shift it briskly enough that the engine doesn’t fall off boost.

Ahead of us there’s a vivid, gold 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition that only seconds ago was filling our windscreen and has now almost vanished over the horizon. The 930 Turbo, now on boost in third gear, is covering the ground rapidly, yet there’s just so much distance to make up. An awful lot has happened in Porsche technology in the last 40 or so years… and not only in turbocharging technology. In fact, today is proving to be such an education and reminder of automotive technology advancement that it’s going to take some time to gather my thoughts.

These two Porsche 911 Turbos are both utterly beautiful. The fact that they both happen to be shades of gold that reflect the prevailing fashions at the time of their production is a happy coincidence that makes for an attractive photoshoot here in North Wales. They are both equally stunning to behold, and of course both are rear-engined. However, beyond that the differences are so stark that they provide probably the most graphic illustration possible of how the Porsche 911 ethos of Darwinian evolution has brought us to what is probably the pinnacle of internal combustion engine technology today, without the addition of hybrid power. We have here the beginning of the Porsche Turbo and quite possibly the end, together on the demanding roads of the Evo Triangle.

I’ve driven the 991-generation Turbo before, so its performance is nothing new to me. It’s fair to say that I am a devoted fan of the 911 Turbo as a road car. I fully accept the argument that the GT3 line has a purity of throttle response that is linear and telepathic, yet there’s something about the effortless, devastating overtaking capability of the 911 Turbos of each respective generation that has given me many happy memories over my years of 911 driving. Most enthusiasts would admit that if there were only one Porsche to drive every single day for the rest of their life, it would probably be a 911 Turbo.

It’s for the best that I’m driving the 930 Turbo first. At least that way it stands a chance to impress with that charismatic, early generation power delivery. The nicely adjusted 915 shift has only four gears, and I’m reminded as a former 1979 Turbo owner just how often you use first gear around the town. Those junctions where you may normally dip the clutch a little and keep it rolling in second gear need a slow, deliberate shift down to first that ideally requires a little heel toe and timing to achieve smoothly; you’re using first as an actual gear here, rather than something you select once stationary. Leaving it in second can strand you mid-junction in a black hole of performance that can be a little embarrassing if you’re not careful.

The steering is unassisted and heavy, weighting up in the traditional 911 way as soon as the corners become significant. It’s not difficult – unless you’re trying a three-point turn in a side street – but it’s heavy nonetheless and gives your wrists a workout, with the steering wheel doing its unique 911 feedback dance over road imperfections. The ride is certainly firmer that a standard 911, though it’s far from hard.

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How to buy a project Porsche 911

How brave do you feel? Buying a project 911 isn’t for the faint-hearted; we’ve all heard tales of running repairs that snowballed into fully-fledged rebuilds. But for those with sufficient time, patience and money, restoring a car can be an edifying and enjoyable experience.
Here we round up what you need to know and look out for, with help from Autofarm founder Josh Sadler and his 911 2.7 Sportomatic.

Money is, of course, the elephant in the room. Parts availability for classic (1964-1989) 911s is at its best since the late 1990s – one positive side effect of rising values – but many components are expensive, and some still need to be custom made. Also, since most of us don’t possess the skills to restore a car ourselves, the task usually involves paying a specialist. With labour rates typically around £60 to £100 per hour, costs soon escalate.

It’s therefore best to approach most projects as a labour of love: a chance to save an ailing 911 from the scrapyard, rather than a business opportunity. Unless the car you plan to restore is a special model, such as an RS, you may find it hard to make a profit – even in the current, still-buoyant Porsche market. Work out how much you’re willing to invest before you start, not forgetting the cost of the car itself.

Josh’s 1976 2.7 Sportomatic is a perfect example of a project-in-waiting. On the plus side, it’s a very original, three-owner UK car with a verifiable MOT history and no obvious structural rust. Less positively, it’s covered 183,000 miles and hasn’t run since 1999 due to an undiagnosed engine problem. Josh wants £30,000 for the 911 and estimates it would cost a further £30,000 to fully restore. 

 

ENGINE

The engine is nominally the most complicated part of a classic 911, yet frequently the easiest to fix. “They’re a great big Meccano kit,” says Josh. “There are very few electronics to worry about compared to a modern car, and engines are potentially good for 200,000 miles if looked after properly. That said, I’d usually factor the cost of a rebuild into any project.”

The air-cooled flat six doesn’t suffer a pivotal, defining fault like the IMS issue that plagues early 996s. However, it evolved hugely over the years, so later cars are markedly more reliable. Josh singles out the final evolution of the original 911, the 1984 to 1989 model year Carrera 3.2, as having “a very solid and sorted engine”. 

One persistent problem that was fixed for the 3.2 concerns the timing chain. As 911 engines got bigger, torquier and lower-revving, more strain was put on the chain tensioners, partly with emissions in mind. These were pressurised in the 3.2, and many older cars have these upgraded tensioners retro-fitted – including Josh’s 1976. “Ironically, if you rev an early 911 hard, you get dynamic tension in the chain,” explains Josh. “So if you want your Porsche to be reliable… drive it like hell.” Advice we’ll happily adhere to.

Some oil seepage from the engine is almost inevitable, but oily cylinders are bad news. Look carefully at the crankcase: the O-ring seal around the crankshaft nose bearing expires, meaning the entire case needs to be removed and opened up. Cylinder head studs are problematic on earlier 911s with magnesium crankcases and also the 1978 to 1983 SC, as they can pull out or rust. Porsche partially solved this issue with coated studs for the Carrera 3.2, but the best replacements are 993 studs or ARPs.

For the full guide on how to buy a project 911, with specialist advice for engine, chassis, interior and body, plus our ten golden rules to consider before purchasing the project, get your copy of Total 911 issue 165 in shops now or available for direct delivery here

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Porsche 930 3.0 v 3.3 G50: Head versus Heart

If I told you that one of Porsche’s most iconic cars arrived at its motor show debut more than 40 years ago fitted with wooden components, would you believe me?

It may be a far cry from the polished concept cars seen at today’s auto expos, but this particular Neunelfer’s introduction to the world was far from ignominious.

The 1973 IAA in Frankfurt was the first chance for the public to see the new impact-bumper 911 but talk around Porsche’s stand wasn’t about these newly festooned Neunelfers. Instead, it was a show-stopping prototype that had captured the attention of passers-by. Visually, it was hardly a surprise.

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Starting life as a 911 2.4S chassis, Dick Soderberg’s team in the Porsche design studio had fitted flared front and rear RSR-style arches and a new front bumper (from the IROC racers destined for US shores that winter) to the concept car. And then there was the rear wing, sweeping dramatically away from the decklid. It all served to create a beguiling metal skin.

Using the lessons learned from its Can-Am successes, Porsche claimed the new, turbocharged car developed 284hp from its 2.7-litre engine (the same size as the new 911 Carrera that also debuted at Frankfurt) but underneath the attention-seeking clothes, things weren’t all as they seemed.

Many of the components – including the turbocharger – were far from fully functioning. In fact, they were made from wood, painted to appear like the real deal!

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The 911 Turbo at Frankfurt was far from the finished article, but despite the designers’ scepticism, the general public’s imagination had been captured. Even the oil crisis-driven spike in petrol prices that winter didn’t deter peoples’ enthusiasm.

When the production-ready 911 Turbo was debuted in Paris in October 1974, Zuffenhausen’s order book was soon filled with customers whose hearts had been won over by the car internally known as the 930. By the end of 1975, more than 270 examples had been delivered (without the aide of the burgeoning US market where the Turbo didn’t initially meet the strict smog tests).

With 400 examples required over two consecutive years for the FIA’s new Group 4 and 5 regulations, the 930 was well on its way to homologating the 934 and 935 too.

To read our Porsche 930 3.0 v 3.3 head-to-head in full, pick up Total 911 issue 144 in stores today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, own download it straight to your digital device now.

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