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Porsche: a turbocharged history

Porsche have always been fond of turbochargers, and we’ve been flicking the history books finding out why.

Porsche has gone turbo with the latest 911 Carrera and Carrera S, signalling a turbocharged future for the cars of Stuttgart.  Forty years on from the birth of the 911 Turbo, we take a look at how turbocharged Porsches have evolved over the years.

1975: 911 Turbo, the first turbocharged Porsche road car

In 1975, Porsche took the plunge and released their first-ever turbocharged production car: the original Porsche 911 Turbo. Officially known as the Porsche 930, genesis was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1973, while the pre-production model was shown at the Paris Motor Show in October the following year. The car was finally released in 1975, and was the fastest production car in Germany at the time (172mph), courtesy of its air-cooled turbocharged flat-six engine.

Porsche 911 Turbo

1979: 924 Turbo rounds out ‘70s

Porsche’s dipping of the toe with turbocharger soon became a fully-fledged swan-dive, with the 924-series the next to receive turbo-treatment. The car received a 20mph boost, a five-speed gearbox and up-rated suspension, with 45bhp more being produced from the four-cylinder engine than that of the original 924. Over 12,000 were sold over the course of five-years, with the cars improved aesthetics (a lip spoiler and bonnet vents to name but a few) aiding its presence on the forecourts.

Porsche 924 Turbo

1981: SE ‘Flachbau’ special breaks cover

By the time the ‘80s came around, turbo-power was really in its stride across the motoring world, and Porsche were amongst those leading the way. In 1981 Porsche released the limited edition 911 Turbo 3.3 Coupe Flachbau, as a response to the growing number of aftermarket 911-variations flooding the market. Pumping out 330bhp and featuring its famous ‘slant-nose’, the car was both fast and striking, and has since gone down as one of the all-time Porsche collectors’ classics; the car of choice for Porschephiles everywhere.

Porsche 930 Slantnose

1982: Porsche releases hugely successful Porsche 956 sports car

It was the 956 that cemented Porsche’s position at the fore of sports car racing during a 12-year stint between 1982–1994. The 956 debuted in ’82 in adherence to the then-new Group C category and in the infamous Rothmans livery. A twin-turbo, air-cooled 2.6-litre flat-six, slippery body and F1-derived ground effect aerodynamics saw it win six consecutive races at La Sarthe (the 962 winning the final three as a slightly safer updated version of the 956) between 1982–1987. Privateers bought the car in droves, filling prototype grids with the car around the world. By the time it was retired from top-level competition in 1994, the 956/962 had claimed six outright victories at La Sarthe.

Porsche 956

1985: Porsche spools up 944 sales with added turbo

As with the 924, a turbocharged version of the 944 was always on the cards. The addition of said turbo brought with it an increase of 60bhp from the 2.5-litre engine, with an uprated gearbox and clutch to suit. In 1988 Porsche went mad and produced the Turbo SE, which thanks to a larger turbo put out 250bhp. A limited-slip diff and bulkier transmission also made it on to the Turbo SE, with the upgrades all applied to later models of the normal 944 Turbo between 1989-91.

Porsche 944 Turbo

1991: The Porsche 964 brings samples from the space-age 959 to the world of 911

The first sincere update to the 911-range came in 1989. Drawing from the 959’s technology, it was first launched in a four-wheel-drive configuration as the Carrera 4. In 1990, the 964 Turbo was introduced, with a new turbo, better aerodynamics, and power-steering among the revisions. A lack of development time due to the 959s birth meant the engine remained the same 3.3-litre from the 930, however minor revisions made the power-unit less prone to turbo lag and more powerful (313bhp).

Porsche 964 Turbo

1995: Last of the air-cooled 911s

A significant piece in the Turbo-Porsche timeline is the 993, with the 1995 car proving to be the last air-cooled 911 Turbo. Marketed as the 911 Turbo Coupe, the 993 is considered by many enthusiasts to be the best of the breed, being the last to use the air-cooled boxer engine that had been the brands hallmark since the very first 356 model in 1948.

Porsche 993 Turbo S

2000: 996 generation launched

The 996 Turbo debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1999, and was the first 911 to run with a water-cooled engine. The car produced 414bhp, and combined with a new slippery body, a top speed of just under 200mph. Despite it’s figures, the car was badly received by enthusiasts, largely because it did away with the traditional circular headlights, and featured the scornful new cooling system. However, the Turbo variation of the 996 held an ace card, as it was the only one of the range that failed to succumb to the engine faults that plighted non-Turbo 996s, yet nowadays has a price dragged down by its 996 brothers.

Porsche 996 Turbo

2010: 997 Turbo released

The second water-cooled 911 album was released in 2010, with the 997 brought to market as a 996-munching update. An all-new 493bhp 3.8-litre engine was the headline track, while Porsche’s engineers got their heads together to overcome the understeer that plighted the previous model. Just for good measure, the Turbo S was released a few months after the Turbo, with an extra 30bhp and standard interior trimmings added, for an extra £17,309 from new.

2015: Another win at Le Mans

Porsche are the most successful marque to ever step foot in the paddock at La Sarthe, and earlier this year they reaffirmed that with their 17th win at the endurance classic. Piloting the LMP1 919 Hybrid, drivers Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy and Formula One star Nico Hulkenberg took the direct-injected turbocharged V4 engine to victory over rivals Audi and Toyota.

2016: The Carrera goes turbo

As is often the case with Porsche, the Frankfurt motor show is set to be the backdrop for their next big announcement, as the Carrera gets ready to go turbocharged. The new-for-2016 model will feature a new 3.0-litre flat-six engine, with a pair of turbochargers bolted on for good measure. The move appears to say auf wiedersehen to the naturally aspirated engines that have hunkered down in the boot of Carrera 911s for over half a century, with a market necessity for more efficient engines forcing instead of persuading Porsche to make the ballsy move. 

Words: Joe Diamond

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