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Turbo Lag, Whale Tails, Widowmakers: Celebrating 50 Years of the Legendary Porsche 930
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By Dean Kirkland
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 2, 2024
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The year is 1974. While David Bowie is recording in Berlin and the LA Dodgers are battling the Oakland A’s for a World Series title, Porsche unleashes a silver streak that will leave an indelible mark on automotive history — the 930 Turbo.

Launched as the turbocharged variant of the legendary 911, the 930 Turbo took racetrack technology and molded it into a street-legal supercar that would capture the hearts and blow the minds of enthusiasts for generations to come.

Dean Kirkland Portrait

Dean Kirkland

Central Octane

Fast forward 50 years to 2024, and I find myself in the presence of one of these storied machines — a beautiful 1979 Porsche 930 Turbo, owned by none other than ex-MLB player turned Porsche aficionado CJ Wilson. As the owner of Porsche Fresno, CJ is no stranger to Stuttgart’s finest. But even amidst a sea of modern 911s, the classic 930 holds a special place.

“The 911 Turbo is one of the most iconic cars Porsche has ever produced,” CJ tells me as we admire the curvaceous fenders and imposing whale tail spoiler of his ’79. With its Fuchs wheels, frog-eye headlights, and that signature silver and black color scheme, this car is the epitome of late ’70s/early 80s cool. It looks fast just standing still.

But the 930 Turbo was more than just a pretty face. It packed serious punch under that sloping rear hood. The original 3.0L flat-six pumped out 260 horsepower, a heady figure for the time. Coupled with a 4-speed manual gearbox and that unmistakable turbo lag, the 930 quickly earned a reputation as a beast that demanded respect.

CJ fires up the flat-six and the Turbo barks to life with a throaty growl. “It doesn’t feel like anything’s happening until 4000rpm, then suddenly, wham! The turbo hits and it’s like a Saturn V booster kicking in,” he grins as he blips the throttle. In an era where every family crossover has a silky smooth turbo with virtually no lag, experiencing the raw, explosive power delivery of the 930 is a vivid reminder of just how far technology has come.

The whale tail of a 1979 Porsche 930 Turbo. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

The Classic Heart-Pounding Widowmaker

And yet, there’s something undeniably appealing about that classic turbo experience. Modern cars are almost too refined, too easy to drive fast. They lack the sense of occasion, that heart-pounding feeling of wrestling with a machine that wants to bite your head off if you’re not careful.

Combine the sudden onset of turbo power with the 911’s rear-engine weight bias and you had a recipe for trouble for even experienced drivers if they weren’t careful. It’s no wonder these cars were briefly outlawed for being too powerful for America’s roads.

The 930 forces you to be engaged, to think ahead. You need to start building boost while braking for a corner so that you can rocket out the other side. It’s a delicate dance of throttle, brake and steering that, when done right, is incredibly rewarding.

Of course, get it wrong and you may find yourself getting intimate with the scenery. The 930’s tendency to swap ends when the boost hit in a corner quickly earned it the grim nickname “The Widowmaker.” Combine the sudden onset of turbo power with the 911’s rear-engine weight bias and you had a recipe for trouble for even experienced drivers if they weren’t careful. It’s no wonder these cars were briefly outlawed for being too powerful for America’s roads.

This untamed nature only added to the 930’s mystique. It was the ultimate bedroom poster car — a street-legal racecar for the road. With its roots in the legendary Porsche 935 racer that dominated endurance racing in the late ’70s, the 930 brought Le Mans winning technology to the hands of doctors, dentists and thrill seekers worldwide.

And what a thrill it was. The 930 could run with supercars costing twice as much, yet it was comfortable and refined enough to drive daily. With just four gears, you could realistically drive across the country, blasting past 150 mph in 4th on the Autobahn, then burbling through the Alps in 2nd and 3rd. It was as close as you could get to a race car for the road.

Over the years, the 930 evolved, gaining displacement, power, an extra gear, and various special editions. But the fundamental formula remained the same — take a 911, add a big turbo, flare the fenders and hang a giant wing off the back. By the time the 930 bowed out in 1989, it was putting down over 330 horsepower, enough to strike fear into the hearts of Ferrari and Lamborghini owners.

1979 Porsche 930 Turbo
This classic 1979 Porsche 930 Turbo wants to bite your head off if you’re not careful. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

Spirit of the 930 Lives on Today

Today, the legend of the 930 lives on through the modern 911 Turbo. With 640 hp in Turbo S form, it’s nearly three times as powerful as CJ’s ’79, yet far more manageable thanks to all-wheel drive, active aerodynamics and a myriad of electronic nannies. But the spirit remains – that sense of a racecar tamed just enough for the street.

“Driving this car, you feel everything. There’s no electronic safety net. It’s just you and the machine.” — CJ Wilson

“New 911 Turbos are incredible,” CJ admits, “but they lack the rawness, the visceral thrill of the 930. Driving this car, you feel everything. There’s no electronic safety net. It’s just you and the machine.”

As we wrap up our shoot, I can’t help but reflect on the enduring legacy of the 930. In a world obsessed with the latest and greatest, it’s refreshing to see a car that has stood the test of time. Its impact can be felt in every modern supercar, from the McLaren 720S to the latest 911 Turbo S.

Climbing back into my thoroughly modern daily driver, the 930 experience lingers in my mind. The weightiness of the unassisted steering, the mechanical clack-clack of the shifter, the whistling and whooshing of the turbo spooling up – it’s a feast for the senses that you just don’t get with modern cars.

In an era where cars are increasingly becoming appliances, the 930 remains an icon of a time when driving was an event, an occasion to be savored. It’s a reminder of why we fell in love with cars in the first place: The thrill, the challenge, the rewards of mastering a machine that demands your full attention and respect.

Fifty years on, the Porsche 930 Turbo remains as captivating as ever. It’s a testament to the brilliance and foresight of the engineers at Zuffenhausen, who created not just a car, but a legend. As long as there are petrolheads who appreciate the purity of the driving experience, the 930 will live on as the original racecar for the road.

Here’s to another 50 years of turbocharged thrills. Happy birthday, 930.

About the Author

GV Wire Producer Dean Kirkland is the founder and director of Gas and Gears, an independent film production company that has produced numerous television series and feature films, including the award-winning documentary “Racing Through The Forest” (2014).

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