Porsche 911 Turbo (930) Buyers’ Guide
Written by Peter Morgan
The auto industry model year (MY) runs from August 1 to 31 July, so a 1989 model could have been produced between 1 August 1988 and 31 July 1989.
1975 MY: 260bhp 3.0-litre Turbo announced (Oct 1974). All new Type 930/50 engine with new 4-speed gearbox, wide body and (initially) 'whaletail' rear spoiler, but LHD. RHD UK models became available from Sept 1975. Electrically operated driver's door mirror. Turbocharger max boost increased from 0.8 to 1.0 bar. New 6-year anti-corrosion warranty (zinc coated panels used throughout).
1977 MY: Boost gauge in dash for first time, brake servo, 16-inch Fuchs alloys standard. Option M42 Martini limited edition body stripes introduced (GP White cars only, approx 200 worldwide).
1978 MY: 300bhp 3.3-litre model (930/60) with intercooler and 917 derived brakes. 'Tea-tray' rear spoiler (with upturned side fences) replaces 'Whaletail'.
1981 MY: First Special Wishes (Sonderwunschen) slant-nose special model delivered July 1981. Pop-up headlamps replace bumper mounted lights from following year and normal fit from 1985.
1983 MY: Improvements to exhaust for reduced air pollution and noise.
1986 MY: Motronic engine management installed. Rear fog and reverse lights integrated into rear reflective strip. Anti-corrosion warranty increased to 10 years. Turbo SE (Special Equipment, slant-nose, option M506) limited edition available as special order, with 330bhp.
1987 MY: Targa and Cabriolet (with powered roof) introduced.
1988 MY: Slant-nose version (all body styles) available in normal production.
1989 MY: Major upgrade to include G50 gearbox and hydraulic clutch operation. Flashing red diodes in lock buttons. Turbo LE special model with SE rear wings and normal production front end. In June 1989, Turbo discontinued
What's it like?
The first generation 911 Turbo (sometimes referred to by its Porsche internal type number 930) is an icon in the classic car world. It is the car that inspired a generation of car enthusiasts and became the undisputed flagship of the Porsche model line up.
It is a real looker but is a specialised Porsche to buy, not least because its power delivery is very raw and like the other 911s of its era, has its full share of idiosyncrasies.
The early 3-litre cars are very rare today and are probably only for serious collectors. The largest choice will be the 1978-1988 3.3-litre cars with the 4-speed gearbox. 4-speed, you say? The engineers simply assumed that with so much torque on tap once the turbocharger was spinning, drivers wouldn't need more.
And the car does indeed deliver when required, although the slow shift of the Porsche synchromesh does require learning. If you wanted an easier shift, you'll need to stump up for a 1989 model with the slicker 5-speed G50 gearbox.
There is a real technique to driving a Turbo that requires at least 3500rpm any time you want brisk acceleration. There is little usable power below these revs and the car has an almost 'digital' throttle with, by today's standards, an enormous turbo 'lag' - which is all part of the fun.
On the cam and with the turbo spinning, the power surge is ferocious and completely addictive. Nevertheless, the 917 race car derived brakes (from the 1978 models) have massive reserves of stopping power and servo assistance and require a technique to prevent the front wheels locking under heavy braking. ABS was far in the future, but the servo was given a more American feel (softer by 25%) for the 1986 MY.
The Turbo's ride is firm, but by modern standards fairly relaxed. The Bilstein shock absorber based arrangement was derived from the race 3-litre Carrera RSR - a car that had won the Targa Florio on roads not dissimilar to modern day British roads.
Like a good malt whisky, a classic Turbo is an acquired taste.
Which one should I get?
As mentioned above, the 3.3-litre Turbos are the best choice for an enthusiast who wants a Turbo that is a fun drive, has a good specification and offers worthwhile collectability long term.
This isn't a car for drivers who worry about fuel consumption either - with average figures struggling to better 20mpg. Standard equipment included headlamp washers, rear wiper, tinted glass, electric sunroof, automatic climate control and leather trim (with many cars having cloth inlays to the seats).
The 1983 cars enjoyed improved torque compared to the first 3.3-litre cars, these Type 930/66 engines being identifiable by their twin combined exhaust tailpipes. In 1986 there was a further improvement with the introduction of the Bosch Digital Motor Electronics ignition system (930/68), mainly improving exhaust emissions, but arguably delivering a smoother power delivery.
The 1989 MY cars benefited from the 5-speed G50 manual gearbox (the 930 Turbo never had an automatic option). This offered more flexibility and made the car more accelerative (because you could use the upper revs more effectively). Nevertheless, the 4-speed 930 gearbox is a sturdy unit and should not be discounted.
Being some 30-40 years old, all the cars will have covered significant mileages. Low mileage cars (say those with less than 70K miles), will carry a significant premium and their all round value as a practical classic should be considered. The best buys are those cars with over 100K, but which have received ongoing restorative work to maintain them in the top 20%. Some you see will be in poor, neglected condition. Leave these to the professional restorers.
If you are looking for a car that needs no work at all, expect prices that will surprise you. There are no bargains at the top end of the market, although beware of speculators whose cars are either simply over priced or not as good as they should be. Take on a project car only if you are good in the garage and have the essential determination to see a potentially long and costly rebuild through to the end.
What are the running costs?
Despite its iconic status in the Porsche family, the 930 Turbos are relatively simple cars. The engine doesn't really have any trending major issues, but as all are now 30-40 years old, the running costs include not only the regular servicing but also maintenance to replace worn out components.
The service regime for a little used classic car is based around the quality of the fluids. With a lightly used classic car (less than 3K miles a year), the requirement for an annual service is likely to be viewed more pragmatically and the intervals extended.
Nevertheless, condensation can saturate key fluids on a lightly used car and lead to accelerated corrosion and wear, so care is required. An engine oil change is likely to cost around £150 (all estimates are ex VAT) and a brake fluid change perhaps £75-100, so this preventative maintenance can be money well spent.
The engine should run to at least 125k miles without a cylinder head rebuild (for new valves, guides, etc). A poor service record can significantly shorten this. The turbocharger will signal significant wear when a plume of blue smoke is seen behind the car when accelerating. A replacement turbocharger is often an exchange unit and might cost up to £2K (all prices mentioned are ex VAT), but it's likely all the associated pipework will also need to be replaced as well.
Expect a total bill for at least £3K. If the wastegate isn't working, it might be possible to rebuild it (repair kits from £150). A head rebuild to replace worn valves should be costed for around £5K.
The CDI ignition system on the pre-1986 cars is fairly reliable, as is the DME on later cars, but a new DME relay when the car won't start might cost £65. A plug lead set can cost £150.
A clutch should last 50K miles (possibly less for an aggressively used car). Replacement clutches including labour will cost at least £2K.
Interior repairs can be expensive with front seats costing £5-700 each to re-upholster, while a set of new carpets can run to £8-900.
Parts availability is very good through Porsche Classic (at your local OPC), but is a little expensive for some of the less frequently replaced items. There is a wealth of experience in maintaining these cars within the independent Porsche service network.
What should I look for?
The specific model year of a Turbo can be important in terms of its specification. Learn the chassis numbering (VIN) system and how to identify the model year (at the 9th digit - for instance 1986 (the DME cars) is a 'G' and 1989 (G50 gearbox) is 'K').
While all RHD production received full bodyshell zinc coating, today that protection is likely to be aged or compromised by accidents to the point where corrosion can be a significant issue. Over the years, the expensive wide body Turbo wings may also have been replaced with cheaper versions (even glassfibre). Consequently, checking the bodyshell is essential.
The external signs of a cheap restoration are uneven panel gaps, overspray on old black seals and uneven paint matching. A paint gauge can identify where extensive filler has been used (in areas such as the fronts of all the wings, the lower areas of the doors, C-pillars and under the rim of a Targa's rear window).
Estimating bodyshell repairs is very difficult until the outer wings have been taken off, but typically a car that needs new sills and reconstruction of each suspension corner/inner wing isn't leaving change from £15K. Full new paint can cost from £6-10K depending on quality and the degree of previous paint removal/glass out and corrosion removal required.
An inspection should check the integrity of the entire underbody. Use a blunt metal probe for the underbody inspection and be very wary if the underside is covered in fresh looking undersealer. Aged fuel and corroded brake piping piping can split with dangerous results. Cost could be £500-700 depending on the extent of the replacement.
The suspension is likely to look time served, but the best measure of wear is to have an expert drive the car and listen for rattles and clonking noises. Wear is normally confined to antiroll bar bushes, shock absorbers or rear torsion bar bushes. Costs will vary, but shouldn't be underestimated.
As with bodywork issues a turbo engine that smokes, doesn't start or run evenly should be ignored, unless the car is ready for major restoration and available at a project car price. A 930 gearbox that has a difficult 2nd or 3rd gear, probably needs a rebuild that will run to at least £3K.
Don't ignore a rusty exhaust. Replacement heat exchangers cost from £300-500 each with the rear silencer a similar amount, excluding all the turbocharger plumbing. Look at the Carrera 3.2 guide for more tips on what to look for.
Driving a Turbo is essential - not only is this a very different experience to a modern car - even a contemporary Carrera, but your first impression is very important when it comes to the car's general condition. Important issues will show up even in a short drive (5 miles would be typical).
If you don't have the experience to check the car out yourself, get a pre-purchase inspection expert to look at the car. They will advise on all aspects of the car's condition, what needs replacing now and in the short term and whether the car is valued correctly.
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