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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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Porsche 930 Turbo: Capital gains

This is the oldest part of London; the original Roman Londinium. Its streets have witnessed 20 centuries of congestion, commerce and crime, yet now they are calm. For a few brief moments, the city sleeps. 

Abruptly, an air-cooled engine shatters the silence. Its hard-edged howl echoes along the corridor of concrete, scattering the day’s discarded newspapers in a fast-approaching frenzy. A flash of Guards red races across the mirrored windows of an office block. The Porsche 911 Turbo is back on home territory, and history is being repeated.

The original Turbo (usually identified by its internal Typ number of 930) was launched in 1975, but the 1980s were its high-living heyday. As stocks soared and London boomed, this flagship 911 became the must-have car for a new breed of affluent city slickers. These ‘yuppies’ weren’t shy about their wealth, and Porsche’s excess-all-areas Turbo chimed perfectly with the times.

I don’t have red braces, a Filofax or, regrettably, a bonus-boosted bank balance, but I do – for one night only – possess the keys to a 930: a 1979 3.3 Turbo currently for sale at Carbitrage. The plan is to revisit its old stomping ground, criss-crossing the capital and driving into the small hours. If any car is worth losing sleep for, it’s this one.

I rendezvous with photographer Dan at Greenland Dock, close to the Millennium Dome. The evening sun glints off the 930’s shapely hips as it strikes a pose by the Thames, the tightly packed towers of Canary Wharf twinkling in the distance. It looks like a classic 911 on steroids, oozing latent aggression. Guards red paint – a Porsche staple since 1974 and the Turbo’s signature shade – is the pièce de résistance, perfectly offset by the gloss-black Fuchs alloys.

Four decades ago, this area of east London was a virtual wasteland; now it’s crammed with des-res apartments. The 930 has travelled a similar trajectory in its 43 years, morphing from black sheep to blue-chip classic. Its story starts with the 917/30: Stuttgart’s first foray into forced induction. This fearsome racer produced up to 1,600hp in qualifying tune, winning Can-Am championship titles in 1972 and 1973. Porsche chairman Ernst Fuhrmann saw the potential of turbo technology for the road, saying: “I was of the opinion that racing must have a connection to the normal automobile… I said to my people, why don’t we put this success into our car?”    

Testing for a turbocharged 911 began in 1973, using a 2.7-litre engine and the wider bodywork of a 3.0 RS. The production 930 debuted at the 1974 Paris Motor Show with a 3.0-litre engine, four-speed 915 gearbox and a Kühnle, Kopp & Kausch (KK&K) turbo that delivered 0.8 bar of boost. The figures that mattered were 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 155mph, elevating performance to Ferrari Boxer and Lamborghini Countach levels. For the first time, the 911 could square-up to supercars.

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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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Sales debate: Why are Porsche 930 prices so varied?

When revising our market value indicators in the Data File for issue 134, we noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to label the trends in the Porsche 930 market. Compared to most other iterations of the Zuffenhausen’s darling sports car, prices of classic 911 Turbos are incredibly varied. But, why is this so? We consulted the experts to find out.

“I think mainly because of the condition,” Mark Sumpter, proprietor of independent specialist, Paragon, asserts. “They were unloved cars for so long that most of the examples that we look at are beyond help.

So, the best cars are worth more than double (almost triple) what the cheapest cars are worth.” Sumpter points out that this may have something to do with Turbos historically falling into the hands of “the tuner type market.”

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Another factor that maintains the large gulf in 930 prices is the particularly high cost of classic 911 Turbo restorations compared to other models, something both Sumpter and JZM’s sales manager, Russ Rosenthal acknowledge.

The duo point out that the market naturally favours the very earliest and very latest 930s, as “those are the cars that are always going to rise to the top in terms of value,” the latter confirms.

“But they all cost the same to restore.” Even after restoration however, Rosenthal explains that many people continue to favour unrestored cars, something Sumpter gives an example of.

“If you found a 50,000-mile car (like an ’89), it’s around £100,000. That wouldn’t be the best car but it would be nice, without any corrosion,” Paragon’s founder explains.

930 3.0 TurboPorsche

“We recently sold a very low mileage ’88 (so, four-speed) car for £125,000 but it had never been restored, so it was very special.” Rosenthal believes that this preference for unrestored examples is a result of the 930’s current age.

“It’s a tricky age,” he explains. “Anything pre-impact bumper will undoubtedly have had some form of restoration, whereas with 930s it’s not inconceivable that you could buy a completely time warp example.”

While there may only be a few examples available in a year, the possibility will keep, in Rosenthal’s words, “pushing the spread” between cheapest and most expensive. With the abnormally high number of low-quality cars and the expense of even minor restorations, it looks like we have found our reasons for the gulf in 930 values.

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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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