It was the fastest production car in the world at the time of its launch and it was the flagship of the Porsche carmaker. It was hard to drive and became known as the Widowmaker, with a mystique and speed that captured a new generation of car nuts worldwide. While today’s supercars are fast on an entire different level when it comes to the numbers, remember what the world looked like in the mid 1970s. Cars were slow, heavy and couldn’t handle. Turbocharging wasn’t really a thing.
And here comes Porsche with a 2635 lbs car with no power steering, no ABS, and no traction control and a beast of a turbocharged engine in the back with the most insane turbo lag you can imagine, ready to throw you over the side of a cliff if you were brave enough to keep your foot down mid-corner as the boost spun up. The 930 had a top speed of 155 mph and could sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. It catapulted Porsche into elite performance car territory but the 930 was considerably less expensive than most of its rivals.
Porsche was moving towards 911-based race-cars and away from exotic prototype racers, and thanks to homologation regulations that meant manufacturers were required to build (and sell) a number of cars before the models were allowed into competition. This drove a cycle where many of the innovations from racing made their way into everyday cars much faster and much more obviously. You had a race what you sold to customers and that homologation world is how we ended up with cars like the 911 Turbo. With Groups 4 and 5 in mind, Porsche created their second 911-based homologation special: the turbocharged 930.
Porsche had reached the physical limits of the production-based flat-six with the three-litre competition engine developed during the early 1970s of racing. By this time, the firm were already experienced in the art of forced induction. Using the lessons learned with the mighty 917/30 Can-Am car, the German manufacturer turned to forced induction instead for its racing cars for the next generation of race cars. Side-by-side Porsche developed turbo-charged version of the 911 competition and road cars. To help the development of the new 911 Turbo ahead of its launch for the 1975 model year, Porsche wanted to prove the abilities of a turbocharged 911 in competition, so it built the mighty 911 Carrera Turbo 2.1. The road and race programs were in lock-step.
Ernst Fuhrmann was handed the task of developing the Turbo model. Fuhrmann took the 3.0L flat six from the 1974 Model Carrera RS 3.0 as his base (which was the base model for the dominant Carrera RSR 3.0 race car). He adapted the turbo-technology that was initially designed for the Can-Am racers and took lessons from the Turbo 2.1 engine also, creating the monster that was then internally dubbed the Type 930.
The original plan for the 911 Turbo was to meet the homologation requirements of 400 units that were to be produced over a period of 24 months, at which point Porsche would cease production. When the homologation rules changed and the car was no longer needed to meet requirements, Porsche decided to soldier on and continue development with a goal to produce a variant of the Model 911 that would top the line of production Porsche models and could directly compete with the luxurious powerhouses being turned out by Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The development of Porsche’s first turbocharged 911 began in 1972. A prototype of the first 911 Turbo was unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in the fall of 1973 to test the market potential of the design.
The engine was a 3.0-liter flat-six with one big turbocharger that offered 260 bhp @ 5500 rpm and torque of 254 ft lbs @ 4000rpm. 0 – 60 mph took just 5.5 seconds and the top speed was 155 mph. The 930’s air-cooled all-alloy Flat-6 motor was developed from the 1974 3.0 Carrera RSR power unit and came with dry-sump lubrication and single overhead camshaft two-valve heads. Designated Type 930/50, the new motor featured forged alloy pistons with Nikasil barrels along with a lightweight aluminium crankcase.
Displacement was 2994cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 95mm and 70.4mm respectively. A single KKK 3 LDZ turbo ran at 0.8 bar (later increased to 1.0 bar for the 1976 model year). The compression ratio was dropped to 6.5:1 in order to limit full boost compression to 11.7:1. Fuel-injection was via Bosch’s familiar K-Jetronic system.
The Turbo also got a stronger 4-speed manual gearbox. The new Type 930/30 aluminium-cased four-speed gearbox was installed as Porsche were concerned about stripping gears in the regular 915 ‘box. They deemed the level of torque so great that a five-speed unit was unnecessary. The regular 5-speed from the Carrera couldn’t stand the 254 ft lbs of torque anyway.
The Type 930 was based around the 911’s standard steel unibody chassis. In order to handle the higher power output, the Type 930 was given a suspension revision, larger brakes, larger wheels and wider tires. The suspension was lifted from the 1974 model year 3.0 Carrera RS. At the front it comprised MacPherson struts with lower wishbones, longitudinal torsion bars and anti-dive geometry. The back end used semi-trailing arms with anti-squat. Bilstein shocks were fitted all round and anti-roll bars at either end. Dual circuit brakes ran separate systems for each axle. Discs and calipers were sourced from the 2.7-litre Carrera. Disc diameter was 282.5mm front and 290mm rear.
The forged light alloy wheels were supplied by Fuchs. 15 x 7-inch rims were fitted at the front and 15 x 8s at the back. They were normally shod with Dunlop or Pirelli tyres. Compared to the 1975 model year 911 2.7 Carrera, track was 60mm wider at the front and 108mm wider at the rear.
The 930 was initially only available as a Coupe. The outside of the Turbo looked similar to the Carrera, but the rear fenders were wider by 6 cm (2.36”). A big, fixed, wing in the back over the engine compartment was needed to cool the oil and the engine. The entire engine lid was made out of glass-fiber reinforced plastic. It was used to feed the turbocharger as well. A matt black chin spoiler was also installed along with an adhesive satin black stone guard in front of each rear wheel. Satin black window frames were standard but chrome-plate was a no cost option. The dramatically flared wheelarches and massive rear spoiler gave the Turbo a more aggressive and serious stance than the regular models. The Turbo was also given an exhaust system with twin tailpipe. Exhaust gases only escaped through the left pipe when the boost-pressure control valve of the turbocharger was open.
Inside, the Turbo was fitted with all the bells and whistles, including leather interior and bucket seats in the front and leather seats in the back. The instrument cluster was the same as in the Carrera and there was no turbo-gauge (initially). It didn’t feature air-conditioning though, just a ventilation system. Overall, the interior was a very familiar 911 affair, but with more luxury. The small diameter three-spoke steering wheel was trimmed in leather and extra sound insulation was fitted along with deep pile carpet.
Standard equipment included electric windows, a four-speaker stereo with front fender-mounted electric antenna, a rear wiper, headlight washers and fog lights. Customers could optionally specify a ZF limited-slip differential, rear fog lights, air-conditioning, a sunroof and a centre console.
An Immediate Success
The production version was released at the Paris Auto Show in 1974 and was finally put into production in Europe for the model year 1975 and marketed simply as the “911 Turbo”. With its three-litre displacement and exhaust-gas turbocharger the Turbo recorded new performance never seen before. Porsche had injected all of its sports car experience with exhaust-gas turbochargers into its series production model and the world got very excited.
At the onset only a small number of Turbos were planned, but as we now know, the 911 Turbo was here to stay and went on to become a legend. The first exports didn’t hit the shores of the US until 1976 and were initially badged as “Turbo Carrera” for a short period of time. Soon the designation was changed to Type 930 and was carried through the remainder of it’s production.
As impressive as the stats and performance graphs were for the Type 930, the car proved dangerous and even deadly in the hands of inexperienced drivers. The rear-engine placement was advantageous for traction; however, the severe turbo-lag would create sudden bursts of power during cornering that would break the car loose and cause it to spin out of control. Less experienced drivers would react by quickly releasing the throttle which only amplified the situation – the result was more often than not disastrous. Keeping the engine at high revs ultimately minimized the turbo-lag which soon became apparent to the more skilled drivers who were then able to finesse the cars into producing the outstanding performances they were capable of.
The Type 930 didn’t receive any significant upgrades until 1978 when the engine size was increased to 3.3 liters and an intercooler was added which bumped up engine output to 300hp, becoming the Turbo 3.3. The brakes were also upgraded again, and the spoiler was re-designed and raised slightly to accommodate the addition of the intercooler.
1973 – The Show Car
An engine-less 930 mock-up (chassis 911 330 0157) was displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October 1973. However, this silver and white-striped prototype retained many 3.0 RS features including bumpers, fenders, wheels and seats.
1974 – Prototype Narrow Body
A narrow-bodied 911 2.7 Carrera Turbo prototype was built in early 1974 (chassis 911 560 0042). After serving as a development car, it was refurbished and gifted to Ferry Porsche’s sister, Louise, on her 70th birthday in August 1974. A production-ready 930 was unveiled at Frankfurt in October 1974. It featured cross-drilled and ventilated discs from the 917. For production, Porsche switched to the Carrera 3.0 arrangement.
1975 Model Year – H Series Cars
The initial production car is launch and production starts in February 1975, on the H-series platform. Porsche had expected to struggle selling the 400 cars needed to pass homologation for Group 4 racing. They were wrong. It was a huge commercial success almost immediately. 284 H-series 1975 model year 930s were built, all of which were LHD. The initial model comes with a 260 bhp 3.0-liter Turbo, an all new Type 930/50 unit mated to a new 4-speed gearbox. The Turbo gets the wide body with a whaletail rear spoiler. Initially launched in LHD, the RHD UK models became available from Sept 1975 (as 1976 model year cars).
1976 Model Year – I Series Cars
Production for the 1976 model year started in September 1975 and Porsche was ramping up as demand had shown them they had something special on their hands. The 1976 model year cars were based on the revised I-series platform. Porsche also increased boost pressure from 0.8 to 1.0 bar and the turbo set up was altered, now with a by-pass valve to bring the power in more progressively and tame the initial snap of power. The I-Series cars also got a new standard tire, the new Pirelli’s P7 low profile set.
The rear spoiler’s secondary engine cooling grille was made considerably larger. Electrically operated driver’s door mirrors are also new and the turbocharger’s max boost is increased from 0.8 to 1.0 bar. A new 6-year anti-corrosion warranty is available. New options included the availability of 16-inch diameter wheels (with a 4.222 final drive ratio) and a full leather interior and Turbo decal kit.
1976 was the first year for the USA Version of the 3.0 Turbo. North American customers were supplied with a US-legal 930 for the first time. These cars featured a revised Type 930/51 engine with additional emissions equipment that cost 15bhp. Peak power was 245 bhp at an unchanged 5500rpm.
1977 Model Year – J Series Cars
Production for the 1977 model year began in September 1976 and Porsche continued to iterate on the Turbo formula with more changes and updates.
The Turbo gets a boost gauge in dash for first time, housed in the tachometer unit. 16-inch Fuchs alloy wheels became standard as did the centre console. Thicker 20mm anti-roll bars were fitted (up from 18mm). The synchromesh on first and second gear was revised and the differential assembly was strengthened. A Hydrovac brake servo was installed on left-hand drive 930s to allow easier depression of the brake pedal.
The engine type number was changed from 930/50 to 930/52 and, in the case of US-market cars, from 930/51 to 930/53. In the options department, a new option, with code M42 got you Martini limited edition body stripes. It followed a unique ‘Martini Turbo’ that was produced for the British Motor Show in October 1976. The show car also had special Fuhrmann orthopaedic seats trimmed in Martini colors.
1978 Model Year – The 3.0 Becomes the 3.3
For the 1978 model year, a new 300 bhp 3.3-litre model (930/60) with intercooler and 917 derived brakes was launched. Visually, the ‘Tea-tray’ rear spoiler (with upturned side fences) replaces ‘Whaletail’.
The 1977 model year 930s were the last 3-litre cars built. For the 1978 model year, an uprated 3.3-litre engine was introduced. By the time production ended in August 1977, a total of 2880 three-litre 930s had been completed. 1,623 of these were the 260 bhp variants and the remaining 1,257 were 245 bhp US-bound derivatives.