Disappointing Dads

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This is a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo. I want you all to know, right off, that I feel like an overworked parent who forgets his kid’s birthday. Not that I’m particularly overworked. Or a parent, for that matter (sorry about that to those of you holding out for this blog to turn into a forum for passive aggressive family updates or uncomfortable Christmas videos). No, it’s none of that. I’m torn up because I missed the Porsche 911’s 50th birthday. It probably hates me.

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This isn’t technically a 911, so I suppose I get points back for that. It does, however, create the larger problem of explaining this car in the first place. See, this is a 930 Turbo which, as the name suggests, is a turbocharged car. However, it still runs on the same platform as the naturally aspirated 911, still has the same rear-engined, rear wheel drive layout as the 911, and still has (generally speaking) the same bodywork as a 911. However, for some reason, the marketing department over at Porsche decided when this car was rolled out that they wouldn’t call it a 911, but instead the 930. This, understandably, is a little confusing, so some people just call it a “Turbo” (or a “Turbo Carrera” if it’s an early one). Eventually, after a few years had past, the car became the 911 Turbo. So, to recap: the 930 is just a 911, but with a turbocharger.

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So what’s a 911? Well, conveniently inquisitive reader, the 911 started life as a replacement for the Porsche 356, which itself was a take on a sporty, higher-end VW Beetle. This means that the engine is in the back, past the rear wheels. I’m not going to delve too deeply into the history of the normal 911 in the hope that I eventually come across one that I can take a picture of. However, that “engine in the back” thing is pretty crucial, as it is one of the most iconic facets of the car’s rich history. All that weight from the engine, a 3.0 liter flat-6 in this case, over the back end of an already light vehicle, made the 911’s handling a bit of a handful. And by “a bit of a handful” I of course mean “a pants-wetting, life-altering nightmare.”

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The reason for this, quite simply, is a physics concept having to do with understeer and oversteer (which are explained in this little video). The 911 oversteered, and the reason for that had to do with the weight from the engine causing the rear end to loose traction during a turn, thus causing a horrible accident. Now, many 911 drivers knew this, and adapted their driving to fit the car’s different dynamics. Then the 930 arrived on the scene. In addition to turbocharging, the 930 also got bigger brakes, upgraded suspension and wider fenders, but still made do with a hydraulic steering column. 1976 was the first year Porsche turbocharged the 911, and the results were pretty staggering. In 1976, the Chevy Corvette made 210 horsepower. This made 260, which was, to use a technical term, crazy-town banana-pants.

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These weren’t just any 260 horsepower either. These were 260 unhinged, wild, turbocharged horsepower. I love turbochargers. Effectively what they do is draw air from the exhaust manifold, compress it via turbine, and force it back into the cylinder (hence the umbrella term “forced induction”). This allows more gasoline into the combustion chamber and, to simplify, makes more power. Sounds great, and it is, for the most part. However, turbocharging lends itself to turbo lag. Here’s the thing about turbocharging: all the power it generates doesn’t come immediately. The turbine has to spool up and then, all at once, dumps in the extra power, regardless of how perilous or dangerous a situation the car may be in. And in the 930, with the engine in the wrong place and the oversteer and the general sense of horrible danger, the turbo was, to put it lightly, petrifying.

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I have a difficult relationship with the Porsche 911. The engine’s in the wrong place, whenever any aspect of it changes fans around the world freak out, and nowadays they’re way too expensive. I don’t have that issue with the 930. It has a ragged edge. It’s dangerous. Which is something you don’t get in modern cars so much anymore, and not coincidentally makes the car significantly better. Adding a turbocharger changed this car inherently. The 930 is interesting in that what makes it worse objectively, is the exact same thing that makes it great subjectively. If you watch someone hustle this around a track, they look skilled. They look like they know what they’re doing. They look heroic. I respect the 911, and I find its history interesting, but I want a 930. If only it would forgive me forgive me for forgetting its birthday.

Additional Thoughts

  • The 911 technically went one sale in 1964, so I suppose this is technically the 50th year the car has been on sale.
  • Here’s a diagram of how turbochargers work for anyone who’s interested. This one’s animated!
  • Porsche ran into a bit of a naming dispute with Peugeot right before the 911 came out, when the French company protested that naming the car the 901 (which was the original plan) was an infringement upon their exclusive right to name cars three numerical digits with a zero in the middle.
  • Alright, I didn’t get a chance to comment on it in the actual post, but that huge wing on the back is nicknamed the “whale tale,” which is great.

 

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4 thoughts on “Disappointing Dads

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