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 passersby. Visually, it was hardly a surprise. 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! 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 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. Looking back, it’s not hard to see why. Generating 264hp from it’s 2,994cc flat six, the 930 3.0 was the most powerful road-going 911 that Porsche had ever produced, eclipsing the 2.7 Carrera by 51hp (and the limited edition 3.0 RS by 31hp). After 11 years of looking ostensibly the same, the Turbo injected some much-needed pomp into the 911’s styling, too, with its wide hips, fat rear tyres and huge ‘whaletail’ wing carried over from that 1973 prototype. Originally designed as a truly Spartan homologation special – initial designs for the turbocharged flat six required the air-con unit and rear wiper motor to be deleted from the engine bay – the Turbo was launched as a luxurious range topper, equipped as standard with electric windows, fog lights and automatic heater control. It wouldn’t be wholly disingenuous to suggest that, with such a high level of performance and comfort, the 3.0-litre Turbo was Porsche’s first supercar. But does such high praise still hold firm with this Neunelfer today?
Registered on 13 January 1977, ‘TAW 714R’ was one of just 36 right-hand-drive 930 3.0s that found their way to UK shores. Sold through AFN, the car (somewhat aptly given the distinctive Platinum metallic hue) originally found itself in the ownership of a certain “Dr Gold” in central London. Fresh off the back of an incredible two-year restoration by Phil Hindley’s Tech 9 concern, I fear I’ve stepped into a time machine bound for the 1970s as I step inside the 930 3.0 for the first time. The re-trimmed dark brown leather and über kitsch red-and-blue MacLachlan tartan is factory fresh (and a far cry from today’s staid colourways). Settling into the driver’s seat, there are few clues though that I’m behind the wheel of such a groundbreaking Porsche; only the boost gauge (an addition from 1977 onwards) hints at this car’s true identity. Then I start the engine. Behind me, the 3.0-litre flat six grumbles into action, a deep, leaden commotion of mechanical thrashing permeating the air.