Turbocharged classics are some of the coolest cars ever produced. Here's a selection of the best
Today, we live in a world where turbocharged cars are the rule rather than the exception. Thanks to rapid development of the technology over the last 30 years, turbocharging has gone from being a the way of making a car go much faster, to making a car much more efficient. They're always more powerful, and considerably torquier too.
In fact many still yearn for the days of natural aspiration, but during the 1970s and 1980s when turbocharging was still in its infancy, boosted cars were created with one purpose – to deliver an incredible amount of power. With a laggy and often difficult to anticipate power delivery, driving a classic high performance turbo car often requires some serious concentration, but the reward is an exhilarating hit of torque when the turbo spools up.
It would be easy to fill the list with the most the exotic turbocharged supercar, however the real beauty of the technology was that it brought increased power and torque to more humble machines, offering performance that was generally reserved for large engines sportscars. We've tried to include a selection of the most iconic, important and of course the fastest. Got any other suggestions? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
BMW 2002 Turbo
Subtle it was not, but the BMW 2002 Turbo was Europe’s first turbocharged production car, so it had a right to brag. The reversed ‘Turbo’ decal featured prominently on the front to shoo lesser cars out of the way on the Autobahn. Performance was mind-blowing at the time for a humble saloon, although it would take a while for the automotive world to adapt to the concept of turbo lag. >Take a look at BMW 2002s for sale in the classifieds Saab 900 Turbo
Although the 99 was the first turbo model from Saab, it was the über cool 900 T16 that really made the formula work. The triumph-derived slant-four engine was given a new DOHC 16-valve cylinder head, as well as a clever new boost management system that allowed higher levels of power without risk to the engine. The Convertibles were popular for cruising about, but it was the three-door ‘Combi Coupe’ hatchback that was the true star. >Take a look at classic Saabs for sale in the classifieds
Renault 5 Gordini Turbo
What's cooler than a Sierra Cosworth? How about the special edition RS500, a limited run homologation car built to sneak in a few worthy Evolution upgrades necessary to keep the Sierra competitive. As implied by the name, just 500 were produced by Tickford, bringing with it a number of track-orientated improvements – including a huge Garrett T04 turbocharger and intercooler. Most were black, although a handful of white and Moonstone examples were also built. >Take a look at Ford Sierra Cosworths for sale in the classifieds
We could have chosen the mid-engined rally monster, but the Gordini Turbo was the affordable hot hatch. Conceived as a way to bolster the performance of the regular Gordini model, squeezing a Garrett T3 into the Five’s engine bay ensured the model wasn’t left behind, without the cost of developing an all-new engine. It also paved the way for the (arguably even more iconic) 5 GT Turbo… >Take a look at Renault 5s for sale in the classifieds Audi UR quattro
Four-wheel drive, in a high-performance road car? Heresy! This is perhaps what the sceptics thought at the time, but Audi proved them all wrong by destroying the competition in the World Rally Championship. As a road car, the Quattro combined healthy 200bhp performance with almost unstoppable all-weather performance, and is a legend to this day. >Take a look at Audi quattros for sale in the classifieds Lotus Esprit Turbo
The mid-engined Esprit always punched above its weight, but the extra 50bhp provided by the Turbo model propelled the Hethel sportscar into supercar territory. A short appearance in For Your Eyes Only gives it Bond car kudos too. >Take a look at Lotus Esprits for sale in the classifieds Lancia Delta HF Turbo
The Integrale might have become the rally star, but the HF Turbo was the original hot hatch. Launched as a performance model to capitalise from Lancia’s rallying success with the Group B S4, it wasn’t long before the car’s original 1.6-litre engine made way for the 2.0-litre version, with four-wheel drive… >Take a look at Lancia Deltas for sale in the classifieds Porsche 930 Turbo
This was the car that transformed the Porsche 911 from capable sportscar to monstrous supercar. Porsche had gained quite a lot of knowledge working with turbochargers on the racetrack, and putting that into the this pumped-up 911 road car instantly created a legend. One to be treated with respect in the wet though. >Take a look at classic Porsches for sale in the classifieds
We couldn't put together a list of turbocharged cars and not include one of the best-loved supercars of a generation. The F40 wasn't the first Ferrari to make use of turbocharging, it's predecessor the 288 GTO and the even older 208 GTB broke that particular taboo, but the F40 made it a success. While turbochargers generally muffle the sound of any engine, the F40 shrieks as any thoroughbred Ferrari should. Thanks to lightweight construction and that wild power delivery, it's one of the most exciting supercars ever produced.Take a look at Ferrari F40s for sale in the classifieds
Launched as a special run-out model when the Buick Grand National was nearing the end of its life in 1987, the GNX quickly became a bit of a cult hero. Powered by a 3.8-litre Turbo V6, this special model could apparently crack five-seconds to 60mph in standard form, thanks to 300bhp and 355lb ft of torque. Just 500 were built, which has made this quite a valuable car today. >Browse the classifieds for a classic Buick here
The Lotus Carlton caused quite a stir when it was new, with many calling for the a 176mph saloon car to be banned for being a danger to the public. Vauxhall launched it any way, and in doing so created a legend. Lotus developed the Carlton's standard engine, adding two turbocharged and increasing capacity to 3.6-litres. To handle the massive 377bhp and 419lb ft of torque, a six-speed gearbox from the Corvette was used, while Lotus also worked its magic on the chassis. The best part? It was just as comfortable and refined as the standard Carlton. >Want more? Read the full Lotus Carlton buying guide, and browse the classifieds here