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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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How Does The Turbocharger In Your Porsche Work?

If you’re a Porsche fanatic, chances are pretty great that some of your favorite cars from the brand’s history are turbocharged. A lot of their greatest hits are powered by engines with exhaust-driven forced induction. Not only was Porsche a pioneer in turbocharged race cars, but they were among the first companies to sell a turbocharged street car as well. To this day, turbocharging remains quite important to the company, as the majority of their cars on the dealer showroom are turbocharged. With the exception of the GT3 and GT3 RS, Porsche does not currently make any naturally aspirated cars, every 718, 911, Cayenne, Macan, and Panamera is turbocharged. So, if you’ve ever wanted to know how the turbocharger (or turbochargers) under your hood (or decklid) work, this new video from Donut Media is for you.

This is an entertaining view of the inner workings of the turbocharger, specifically angled at the layperson. It’s not overly complicated or difficult to understand if you have a modicum of mechanical knowledge. There is, of course, a lot more information than can be conveyed in a 7-minute video, but it’s an excellent place to start.

Porsche’s Turbo History Milestones

Technically, it was General Motors who introduced the automotive world to turbocharging with the Oldsmobile Cutlass JetFire in 1962. Turbos had been used in aeronautical applications for years to help engine power correct for altitude. The technology wasn’t quite ready for prime time in cars, and GM shelved the project for a few more years. Porsche picked up the torch, and they’ve been running with it ever since.

The Can Am 917

Porsche, using the crucible of motorsport to develop this brand new tech, started working on a high-powered 917 engine for Can Am in the early 1970s, and rolled it out in full force for the 1972 season, a full decade after the JetFire engine launched. While their 917 already had a huge flat-12 engine that had dominated at Le Mans, it wasn’t nearly enough power to take the fight to McLaren’s big-block V8s in the North American prototype series. The 917/10 was born, and it was immediately dominant at the hands of Penske Racing.

The First Turbocharged 911 Racer

The car pictured below, Porsche’s 1974 911 Carrera RSR 2.1L Turbo, was campaigned by the Porsche factory in international sports car racing, and paved the way for a street-going counterpart. This exact car raced its way to second overall at Le Mans and Watkins Glen in 1974. It was incredibly fast, having been alleged to produce over 500 horsepower from its relatively small engine.

The First 930

The very first 911 Turbo, seen below, was a gift to Louise Piech in 1973. The car was built effectively from a Carrera 3.0L basis, and fitted with a more powerful turbocharged engine. This same basic design was later adapted for production use and sold in showrooms as early as 1975 in Europe. It was capable of a 5.5-second 0-60 sprint and a top speed of over 155 miles per hour, making it one of the quickest and fastest production cars of all time up to that point.

The Inimitable 959

After Porsche had proved twin-turbocharging could be made possible with the 917/30 and later 956/962 variants, they took things to a brand new level in production supercars with the launch of the 959. While those earlier twin-turbocharged cars used two parallel turbochargers to reduce turbo lag and split each half of the engine into its own turbocharger, the 959 introduced sequential twin turbos. Unlike parallel twins, where each turbo works independently, and boost pressure builds at the same engine speed, a sequentially activated turbo setup features one small turbo, which spools at lower RPMs, and the other is a larger turbo which builds more pressure but operates at higher engine RPMs.

Since then, Porsche has continued to develop new turbo technology, more or less at the forefront of advancement. They’ve worked to pioneer things like variable geometry turbines that work effectively like a pair of sequential turbos, but held within the same housing. They’ve produced electrically-assisted turbochargers to reduce lag in their 919 Hybrid LMP1 racer. It’s a whole new world at Porsche right now, and turbo technology is still at the forefront like it has been for nearly fifty years.

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Adam Carolla Takes His ex-Paul Newman 935 to the Dyno!

The way Adam Carolla idolizes Paul Newman is nothing new to fans of his CarCast program. That reverence, as well as a sizable wallet, pushed the former host of The Man Show to purchase Newman’s red 935 a couple years ago for nearly $5,000,000, and he’s been racing it regularly ever since. The Porsche which took Newman to a class victory at Le Mans ’79 is now Carolla’s regular steed in vintage racing events, and unlike some collectors, he actually drives the 935 quite hard.

For the red-blooded Carolla, this Hawaiian-Tropic liveried 935 is not an expensive ornament to pootle around on racetracks with; he drives his Porsche quite competitively considering the star-studded history—and his performance at Laguna Seca last year is testament to that. Say what you will about Carolla, but he’s no charlatan.

To ensure he remains at the sharp end of the pack, he recently took the 935 to the dyno for a check-up. According to his latest CarCast, Carolla wanted to inspect the 935 after driving it at Laguna Seca, where it felt like it was down on power. The segment which begins at 22:30 describes the tuning process; the plugs, the distributor cap, wires, and rotor were replaced before finding the sweet spot in regard to boost pressure. With nineteen pounds, the engine made 589 horsepower and 437 lb-ft of torque! More surprisingly, the archetypal twin-turbo engine makes power quite progressively considering its age—not too spiky for a motor nearing its fortieth birthday!

Considering its vintage, the twin-turbo mill makes power very smoothly.

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Harry’s Garage Video: “Porsche 911 993 ‘GT2’ Evo review”

Finally! Harry’s Garage is back with another video, we have been checking daily for months now: “Starting life in 1995 as a regular 993 turbo, this car underwent a transformation in a German workshop around 4 years ago into the ‘GT2 evo’ reviewed here. Still 4WD but now sporting a GT2 Evo look and around 500bhp, it’s a serious bit of kit.” Enjoy.

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