PH Heroes: Porsche 911 Turbo
Matt Rigby gets to know the ultimate bedroom wall decoration of the 'me' decade
There's something about the Porsche 911 Turbo that taps into the very core of what makes a car look fast. And I'm not talking about some namby-pamby, sophisticated four-wheel drive nonsense. I'm talking about the original, whale-tail 930 Turbo. The car that in poster form, along with the equally horny Lamborghini Countach (and not forgetting the 'tennis girl'), probably did more in the 1980s for Athena's profits than all its other products put together.
The epitome of eighties performance
Perhaps it's because I'm of a certain age and was one of those kids with images of 911 Turbos plastered all over their bedroom wall, but for me the look of the 1980s 911 Turbo captures the essence of fast car design more effectively than anything that has come before or since.
Despite the fact that the original 911 Turbo was one of the defining products of the 1980s, the car was actually revealed to an unsuspecting public at the 1974 Paris motor show and was on sale as early as 1975.
By the time Porsche got around to building the 1989 F-plate car you see here, the 911 Turbo was a fifteen-year-old design and not long for this world. The engine had grown from 3.0 litres to 3.3 litres, power was up to 296bhp from 260bhp and, for the 1989 model year, the Turbo got a fifth gear ratio.
As I step across the low, slim sills and lower myself into the narrow but immaculately stitched seats, the age of the design is immediately apparent. There are switches scattered all over the dashboard and cabin in a genuinely hilarious haphazard fashion, the upright windscreen feels as though it's a few inches from my nose, and the spindly gear lever sprouts straight from the carpet. It's all a far cry from the efficient, logical modernity of contemporary rivals such as the new-for 1989 Mercedes SL or BMW 850i, let alone the futuristic-yet-practical Honda NSX that was doing the rounds of international motor shows in 1989.
At first, driving the 930 is an exercise in forgiving its flaws. But once you get over the offset pedals, uncomfortable heat soak and laggy power delivery - it feels like a 1.8-litre Mondeo until the turbo begins breathing hard - the 930 reveals a much more modern character.
In other words, if you're prepared to work hard enough and keep the turbocharger on song, the 930 is still quick enough to keep with all but the fastest modern machines.
The 911 Turbo's reputation as a car prone to spit you into a hedge backwards might put you off exploring the car's upper limits, but persevere; treat it with respect and the 911 Turbo demonstrates a surprisingly high level of ability when you get to a corner.
Once you've wiped off enough speed, the key to cornering in a 911 Turbo is the time-honoured slow in, fast out method. Pitch it in too quickly and the heavy engine slung out behind the rear axle will make you intimately acquainted with the wildlife of your local hedgerow. Turn in gently, however, allow the car to settle at the rear, and use the prodigious torque from the turbocharger and stunning traction that only a rear-engined, rear-drive car can provide, and the 930 will fairly catapult you out of the corner, with grip and traction to spare.
It's a car of contrasts, the original 911 Turbo. The thoroughness of its engineering is remarkable, but the layout of its cabin is so laughable it ought to win a Perrier award. It has a reputation as a bit of a ditch-hunter, but treat it with respect and it still feels fast, grippy and capable. It's also a car that mixes the air-cooled charm and general idiosyncrasy of an old-school 911 with enough power, ability and creature comforts to keep drivers used to 21st century performance cars thoroughly happy.