On 30 June 1984 a showroom stock Porsche 930 (more commonly known simply as a 911 Turbo) won the title of the world’s fastest-accelerating production sportscar in a time trial held on an old English airfield. A Lamborghini Countach placed second, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage third and a Lotus Esprit turbo was fourth; sadly there was no Ferrari in evidence, since the competition was for current production vehicles only -the BBi had finished and the new GTO and Testa Rossa were not then in production.
Even the new GTO would have to try hard to beat the Porsche’s undramatic performance; the Countach smoked off the line and a considerable distance down the strip, but an appealing power squat was the only evidence of the Porsche flat-six 3.3’s 300hp rushing it to a 23.9-second, 135mph standing kilometer.
The turbo story began in postwar Germany when Ferdinand Porsche was already 72 years old. His work for Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, Steyr, NSU and Auto-Union, not to mention the ubiquitous VW Beetle, had gained him a legendary reputation as an automotive genius. His interests lay directly – and exclusively – in sports racing cars. He had talked the Hitler government into funding a racing team of three cars in the thirties and as soon as the war ended he re-established the Porsche design company – which had been set up in April 1931 -in Austria; the first automobile to bear the Porsche name made its debut two years later, in 1948. He lived just long enough to see the company’s first serious race car – the VW-based 356, designed by his son – win its class at Le Mans in 1951 (in the hands of one Zora Arkus Duntov) before succumbing to a stroke the following year.
His son Ferry took over and continued the great man’s work and ideals; Porsche have never produced anything bearing their badge that wasn’t a fast, exciting, reliable and brilliantly engineered sportscar. The rear-mounted boxer configuration of that first 356 has been retained right up to the present day, although its capacity is now rather greater than the original 1131cc flat four, which was upped to 60hp after considerable cylinder-head modification.
The first roadgoing Porsche was the Speedster, based on a development of the first 356, but minus spaceframe chassis; it had the traditional VW platform chassis with torsion-bar suspension, independent all round. It grew into a four-cam two-liter after racetrack experience which had given the little cars success at Le Mans and Ferrari a fright. But the development through the next stage took the Speedster into its third generation and was fittingly the work of the third generation of the Porsche family to be involved. It was Ferry’s son Ferdinand who did most of the work as the curves of the 356 were trimmed away and flattened and the window area enlarged. The new engine was Ferdinand’s work, a single-cam flat six of two liters largely based on the eight-cylinder race engine. With engine and transmission slung out over the rear wheels – some might say too far aft for comfort and peace of mind – long before the mid-engined configuration became mandatory in the supercar league, extensive use was made of weight-saving aluminum for the individual cylinders and a strong crankcase to hold the forged-steel crankshaft.
It was originally designated the Porsche 901, but by the middle of 1964, when it went into production alongside the 356, it had been renamed the 911. Discontinuing the 356 in 1965 left Porsche without a convertible in their lineup, and the 911 Targa followed quickly. The 130hp engine was uprated for the 1966 911S – which ran 160hp – but the real power came from racetrack development, where winning experience led to the 2300cc unit which was soon fitted with fuel injection. The 2300 911E (Einspritz is the German designation for injection) was soon on the roads, followed by 500 lightweight homologation specials powered by a 2700cc motor and classified as Carreras. This was so successful that the lesser powerplants were dropped in its favour and the 2.7-liter unit became standard throughout the Porsche lineup – with one exception. Yet another racebred special, the Carrera RSR was given a 3-liter engine which poked out an astounding 200hp and was apparently the ultimate development of the 911 series.
Not so: later in the same year there was another step forward which was so dramatic it was officially classified completely differently, although almost everyone outside of Stuttgart refused to recognise its 930 designation. Basically a turbocharged Carrera RSR, years of development had gone into the KKK turbo to deliver a matchless refinement of power. Clutch and transmission had to be considerably strengthened to cope with the 300hp now being developed by this 193-inch flat six. The 930 ran from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, passed the standing quarter in 13.4 and kept right on to a top speed of 160mph. Along the way it kept two adults in luxury in the front and two in comparatively cramped comfort in the back.
The three-liter unit which was the basis of the turbo became 3.3 liters, while the normally-aspirated engines are now 3.2 liters. Even without the benefits provided by the KKK turbo the 911SC kicks out a staggering 231hp, blasts past 60mph in six seconds and has a top speed of 152mph. It’s so close to the turbo top end that the presence of the electronic rev limiter is clearly evident. The 930 is one of the most successful sports racing cars ever available for street use, and in its track-only format – like the Kremer 935 – it is hugely successful in a variety of classes, particularly long-distance endurance racing. Watching the 930 perform at Le Mans or somewhere similar makes it obvious that once the engine is free to rev beyond 7000rpm it is easily capable of a great deal more than 160mph.