1978-1979 Porsche Turbo

The 1978-79 Porsche Turbo -- a.k.a. 930 and 911 Turbo -- had more of everything: displacement, power, thrust, and sheer presence. It had bigger whale-tail, bigger brakes, and a bigger price: $34,000, an eye-popping sum at the time. But most felt it was worth every penny, and Americans made it even more valuable after events forced the Turbo into European exile.

Porsche 911
The 930 was renamed simply the Porsche Turbo in '78. This model is a '79.

Upgrades from the 1976-1977 Porsche Turbo began with a 2-mm wider bore that upped displacement to 3,299cc (201.3 cid). No less important was adoption of an air-to-air intercooler for squeezing a denser charge into every intake stroke, thus extracting more energy from every power stroke.

The intercooler was a squeeze itself. Shoe-horned into the engine bay, it pushed the A/C condenser to the right side of the whale-tail's air intake -- the main reason for enlarging the distinctive appendage. Compression was higher, if still mild at 7.0:1, and combined with the intercooler and extra cc's for 300 DIN horsepower European at 5,500 rpm (253 SAE net) and 303 pound-feet of torque (282 SAE) at 4,000 rpm.

For all this, however, most published road tests showed little improvement to Turbo performance. Again, Porsche fitted the larger engine mainly to keep pace with U.S. emissions limits -- and new European standards that were creeping in.

For the record, Car and Driver timed 0-60 at 4.9 seconds and 0-100 at 12.1, still quite colossal. Braking? C/D reported that the huge, cross-drilled four-piston discs delivered 70-0 mph in just 168 feet. Skidpad performance was as impressive as ever at 0.81 g.

But numbers weren't the whole story. As C/D's Don Sherman related: "Steep first-gear acceleration will jerk one wheel right off the ground if you light the booster exiting a slow turn. The shift linkage occasionally binds up to add a little extra excitement...Speed lightens front wheel loading dramatically, so understeer goes up with velocity. This would be a marvelous safety device were it not for the Turbo's lift-throttle antics. Aerodynamic understeer tricks you into lifting off the throttle when the nose starts drifting wide in a high-speed turn. It's not the thing to do...because this reverses longitudinal forces in the rear suspension. The back wheels toe out, the tail swings wide...The Turbo won't spin easily, but things can get very scary if you don't hang in there with some throttle and lots of steering."

All this may have prompted Sherman's conclusion that the Turbo wasn't so much a car anymore as a "valuable piece of auto-art" -- understandable given its high price and the high skills demanded of its driver.

The Porsche Turbo returned for 1979, then went into exile for five long years. Although the 3.3-liter 930 continued through 1986 for Europe and other world markets, it was withdrawn from the States as a public-relations response to the second energy crunch that began in early 1979. Of course, there are always those with extra will, and the notorious "gray market" provided the way for a few European models to reach determined, wealthy U.S. buyers.

With the Turbo's hasty retreat, U.S. Porsche fans had to console themselves with the "ordinary" SC -- hardly a burden. And despite suffering a few indignities of its own, the "everyday" 911 remained a ray of sunshine amid the general automotive gloom of the early 1980s -- especially once Porsche answered numerous requests by reviving a full-convertible Cabriolet body style in 1983.

Porsche 911
The Turbo had a larger engine that was more amenable to emissions tuning.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see: