The first production turbocharged Porsche 911 (known as the Porsche 930 in America) made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1974. It was Germany’s fastest road-going sports car. Though turbochargers had long been used in motor sport, the 911 Turbo was the first production car to tame the beast. Its genesis was almost accidental.
Porsche disbelieved its own ability to sell the 400 GT sports cars it was required to produce for GT racing accreditation. There weren’t 400 racing drivers to buy them. Instead, the company installed creature comforts and safety measures well beyond the demands of street legality, and aimed at a production run of 1000. Even after a decade of the 911, the new Turbo made experienced Porsche enthusiasts gasp.
Every aspect of the technical and design expertise the company had gleaned from its successes in motor sport had been put to good use. The 911 Turbo body-shape was totally distinctive. The wheel arches were flared to fit the wider tyres; and the rear spoiler was so unfeasibly big it became known as the ‘whale tail’ (in the early models — when it was later shrunk, the nickname changed to tea-tray’). If you learned to manage the alarming turbo lag, and to control the quite stupendous transfer of power from the wheels to the road, the acceleration was moon-shot exhilarating.
The car satisfied the new US regulations on emissions and impact bumpers, but seemed to defy them by opposing convention. Other cars got heavier and slower. The Porsche 911 Turbo used the new minimum weight for GT racers as a convenient guide, and produced power not just to compensate, but to take flight. For a 3 litre engine, its performance stretched credulity — and driving it is one of the greatest thrills you can have outside an aircraft.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Germany
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1975 (until 1989)
ENGINE: 2,993 cc Flat Six Turbo
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 153 mph (246 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Following the unforeseen success of the Porsche 911 Turbo, every subsequent 911 generation has featured a turbocharged version distinguished by its road going modifications of authentic race car technology.