So here I am, it’s a damp Friday afternoon and I’m home from work early. The house is freezing cold as the heating hasn’t come on yet and I’m sitting in the front room with the telly off. Every noise in the road outside has me looking over to the window in nervous excitement.
Contrary to that opening paragraph, I’m not insane and will justify this now… It started three weeks ago at the NEC classic car show. The company that I work for was exhibiting a car so I had the Sunday shift on the stand, along with the job of driving the car home. After the first three hours or vermillion carpet and bearded men, I had a desire to stretch my legs and get a cup of tea.
Having recently had a garage clearout I had money burning a hole in my pocket so I promptly set off around the show telling myself that I had no intention whatsoever of spending it – yeah right!
After acres of Triumphs and MG owners with teddy bears zip-tied to luggage racks, I began to relax, safe in the knowledge that I’d be returning home in a state of solvency as nothing had taken my fancy.
Then I saw it… a 1981 Porsche 930, a 911 Turbo.
The evocative Eighties imagery was too much to resist. Espadrilles and huge mobile phones accompanied by Huey Lewis And The News track. I was going back in time.
I’ve had a soft spot for these cars for some time and this had to be fate. It was in dark metallic green with a kind of jade green interior and white piping. It may sound like an odd combination and actually in the flesh it was. But it was so Eighties and awful, it was perfect. To cut a long story short and after lengthy negotiations I bought the car – having never driven it or any other 911 ever before.
Anyway that was three weeks ago and now I’m here waiting for the low loader to arrive with my ‘new’ car on the back.
After the car has been unloaded and the delivery truck has been waved off, it’s time for the first drive. The 911 Turbo is often referred to as the practical supercar and I can certainly vouch for this. Entry to the cabin is easy and once in, the visibility is good. The upright rake of the screen feels a little odd to start with but you soon get used to it.
Much has been said about the driving position in 911s and more specifically the pedal layout. ‘Offset’ doesn’t quite cover it. To demonstrate how far to the left the pedals are placed, hop into your car and imagine the clutch pedal is the brake and you are somewhere near to the placement in the Porsche.
The layout of the gauges is wonderfully competition focused with the rev-counter dead ahead, and oil temp and pressure gauges in clear view. The switches however are a little more haphazard, scattered everywhere and in no apparent order. An example of this is the fact that the electric sunroof switch is placed just above the ignition key. Having said all of this I’m always the first to drone on about how supercars are too easy to drive nowadays. Before I have even turned the key, I sense that this Porsche will be anything but.
It starts first time and makes quite a lot of noise. I check the gauges and all seems well, although the oil temp is stone cold.
As I engage first the length of throw on both the clutch and gearlever is apparent. The clutch feels a lot more on/off than the progressive engagement that many cars offer. Balancing the revs to pull away and the ‘flat-six’ behind you sounds menacing. Once you get moving the steering is light and feels sensitive but no disconcertingly so; it fidgets but doesn’t tramline and the way it weights up, on turn-in, feels wonderful. The steering wheel feels small but quite well placed, it sits lower than other cars but it doesn’t catch your knees despite your right leg being bent at odd angles reaching the brake. When it comes to slowing down, the brakes are responsive but lack feel at slower speeds, not a dead pedal but it lacks precision – something to get used to.
The air temperature today is around three degrees and the roads are damp, not ideal conditions to test a car which was nicknamed ‘the Widow Maker’ when it was launched. The original 3-litre 930 (pre 1977) had 260bhp at 5500rpm with 254lb.ft of torque at 4000rpm, whereas the later 3.3-litre realised 300bhp at 5500rpm with torque being 304lb.ft at 4000rpm. Not only is the 3.3-litre Type 930/60 capable of greater outputs, the car is 66lb heavier with 60 percent of its weight being borne by the rear wheels. A result of the engine being moved further back in the chassis to accommodate a new quieter clutch hub.
The oil takes an age to warm up but I was told by the vendor to allow it to warm up fully before ‘take off’. I heed his advice and also his warning: “The boost in these things sometimes takes people by surprise… be prepared, it’s not like a front-engined car.”
So all is well, the oil’s warm, roads are drying out and there is a straight stretch of clear road approaching.
I’ve driven quite a variety of cars in my time – many with scary reputations and some that should have but didn’t. I felt well prepared to drive this car but my opinion changed when the turbo woke up.
Lots has been said about the power and speed of these cars when they are on boost but take it from me, until you experience it first hand, nothing will prepare you. The car seems to lift an inch off of the road and surge forward with a sense of urgency that I can only describe as bordering on panic. The only thing I’ve experienced that comes anywhere close to this feeling is take off in a passenger jet – and even that is slower! Before long three figures are showing on the speedo and prison is looming, I ease off, look at my passenger with a serious face and say in a low voice, “F**king hell!”
Sat at home later that night reflecting on my new toy, I can’t stop smiling. This car is serious. The 930 Turbo is not like the happy-clappy supercars of today. It’s Old Testament, it’s fire and brimstone.