Turbocharging Pioneers: Porsche 930

Classic Cars / 80 Comments

Simply enough, a Porsche 911 with a turbocharger. The 930 significantly raised the performance bar for sports cars at the time.

As we discussed earlier, Porsche's Type 930 911 was not the first turbocharged production car, but it does play a much more prominent role in the history of turbocharging. This was the car which finally ushered in a whole era of turbocharged cars. It became Porsche's top-end model, and proved so undeniably good that Porsche decided to keep turning out turbo versions of every generation of the 911 since. It seems like that would have been a foregone conclusion, but the 930 nearly ended up a dead end on a couple of occasions.

Porsche had been doing turbo work with its race cars since the late Sixties. This had proven fairly successful, and this work would eventually to the development of the awesome 1973 917/30 Can-Am car. This was a car which produced 1,100 horsepower, could sprint to 60mph in 2.3 seconds and had a top speed of 240mph. Not bad for 1973. So at about this same time, Porsche decided to turn its turbo efforts toward the 911.1973 had also seen the introduction of the Carrera 2.7 RS, a stripped-down, limited production version of the 911 built for homologation purposes.

The original idea at Porsche was that the turbo model would be a replacement for the 2.7 RS. A rule change would kill off the racing hopes of the turbo version of the 911, already referred to internally as the Type 930, but Porsche decided to move forward with development on the car anyway. No longer tasked with racing, the 930 got a big interior upgrade and sat at the top of the 911 range when it debuted in 1975. The car was simply badged as "Turbo", although when it made its US debut in 1976, it was badged for our market as "Turbo Carrera".

It was the only 911 Turbo to have a type number designation different from the rest of the 911 line, but at the time it was such a significant leap forward that the 930 designation made sense. The engine was a 3.0-liter air-cooled flat-six using a single turbocharger, although Porsche would move to a twin-turbo setup for post-930 turbo models. It produced 256 horsepower, which was about 100hp more than the naturally-aspirated model at the time. That's a pretty significant gain, and things would soon get even better. The engine was enlarged to 3.3 liters for 1978 and an intercooler was added, bumping power up to 300 horsepower.

But the 930 was now competing in-house with the 928 model, and the car's future would become uncertain. New emissions regulations in Japan and the US would force the 930 out of those markets in 1980, and Porsche considered killing the car off altogether. Development spending was cut significantly, although an upgraded version still came out for Europe in 1983, featuring a 330-horsepower version of the engine. An uptick in 928 sales for 1985 nearly spelled the end of the 930 and potentially the whole 911 line, but 1986 saw the 930 reintroduced in Japan and the US, complete with emissions equipment.

The awesome 959 homologation car came out this same year, and interest in the 911 picked up, while the 928 simultaneously saw a decline in sales. The 930, as well as the whole rest of the 911 line, was replaced in 1989 by the Type 964. In all, 21,589 units were produced with the 930 designation. There were also a small number of "Flachbau" or "slant-nose" versions of the 930 built. These were available only by special order and were basically the same car from the A-pillars back, but with the front end from the Type 935 race car. This was meant to be more aerodynamic, and came complete with oh-so-Eighties flip-up headlights.

The cost of this option was phenomenal, about 60 percent of the sticker price, so very few were actually built. Official numbers have never been published, but it is estimated that just under a thousand slant-nose 930 units were built. After the Type 930, turbochargers would make appearances on other Porsche models and then would spread to other brands. It is, of course, true that Chevy and Oldsmobile both had volume-selling turbo models before this and that BMW had a turbo version of the 2002 in 1973, but the 930 still deserves some credit for popularizing turbocharging.

The GM turbo models didn't lead to the introduction of any imitators, and BMW's first turbo model was produced in such small numbers that hardly anyone took notice. No, it was the 930 which really caught the world's attention with turbocharging. This interest in the technology would lead to such greats as the 959 and the Audi Sport Quattro. The 930 provided turbo technology with what it really needed at the time, a high-end model which really demonstrated what was possible.

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