Cars We Love: 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo

1976 Porsche 911 Turbo

When you’re hanging out with sports car friends and want to find out who is a true Porsche fanatic, direct the conversation to the 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo and you’ll notice a distinct change in your friends’ demeanor. Most will get big eyes, but the real Porschephiles will start to drool uncontrollably and begin making odd guttural noises. The Porsche Turbo is the king of 1970s performance cars, and just the thought of driving one can push Porsche fans into a frenzy. Following their test of the ’76 Turbo, Car and Driver magazine concluded, “The Turbo Carrera is a Panzer among Porsches, a street racer that will guarantee you a place at the top of the pecking order.”

New Porsche Turbo was fastest German car

The Porsche 911 Turbo, known within Porsche as the 930, went on sale in Germany in 1975, but didn’t reach U.S. dealers until the 1976 model year. Powered by a 3.0 liter, flat six-cylinder engine with a single exhaust-driven turbocharger producing 234 horsepower in U.S. trim, the “Turbo Carrera” as it was initially badged, was the top-of-the-line Porsche then available. The list price was around $25,900, almost double the price of the next-lowest priced Porsche, the 911S.

Expensive? Yes, but what you got for your money was the hottest Porsche on the road that, in European trim, was then the fastest car available in Germany. Even in the U.S. market, Porsche’s performance put it ahead of the pack. The Turbo would go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in12.9 seconds, and run through the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds at a speed of 103 mph. In the mid-1970s, when other, normally aspirated cars were being strangled by ever-increasing emission standards, Porsche’s performance figures were pretty impressive.

So impressive in fact, that when Car and Driver selected the “10 Quickest Cars of the 1970s” based on 0 to 60 mph time, the 1976 Porsche Turbo tied for first place ahead of such cars as the 1971 Corvette LS6, the 1970 Chevelle SS454, and the 1971 DeTomaso Pantera. The only car to match the 1976 3.0 liter Turbo’s 4.9 seconds was its younger brother, the 1978 3.3 liter Porsche Turbo. In fact, three of the top ten cars were Porsche Turbos, with the 1979 Turbo finishing in mid-pack.

Porsche turbocharging experience

Porsche began experimenting with turbocharged engines for race cars during the late 1950s, and started development of a turbo 911 in 1972 as a potential racing project. A prototype was displayed at the Frankfurt Auto Show in the fall of 1973. Homologation rules, then in effect for the class in which the 911 turbo would compete, required 400 street-legal cars to be produced over a period of 24 months. During the ensuing development of the required production cars, the homologation rules changed, no longer necessitating production cars. However, Porsche carried on the production car development with the objective of creating a 911 that could compete with Ferrari and Lamborghini. A production version of the Turbo was displayed at the Paris Auto Show in October of 1974.

To handle the higher output of the turbocharged engine, the 911 suspension was revised, larger brakes added, and wider wheels used, with wide rear fender flares to accommodate the larger rear tires. A large rear wing, commonly known as the “Whale Tail,” was added to create more downforce and push more air through the engine. The only transmission available was a beefed-up four speed manual.

The Porsche Turbo came standard with just about every option that could be squeezed into the car. Air conditioning, AM/FM radio, electric antenna and windows, leather interior, tinted glass, headlamp washers, rear-window wiper, oil cooler, and Bilstein shocks were all included in the list price. The only options were an electric sliding sunroof ($675), limited slip differential ($345), a heavy-duty starter ($50), “Turbo” graphics ($120), and custom paint ($250)

1976 Porsche 911 Turbo

Turbo Porsche not for the inexperienced driver

Today’s high-performance cars are loaded with electronic safety devices, to keep the car under control should an inexperienced driver try to exceed its handling limits. No such electronic systems were available in the ‘70s and if a Porsche Turbo isn’t treated with a healthy respect, the driver will suffer the consequences. When the Turbo is pushed to its handling limits, the short wheelbase, the dynamics of the engine being located behind the rear wheels, and the turbo lag could make the rear wheels suddenly lose traction, causing the car to spin.

The Porsche Turbo soon acquired a reputation as being dangerous to drive fast, especially for those inexperienced or careless drivers. Although the ’76 Porsche Turbo is 40 years old, it’s not a car to be taken lightly; it is still very fast and very unforgiving. Any mistake or lapse of concentration at high speed could prove to be catastrophic.

Value depends on prior ownership

Hagerty estimates an average value of about $198,000 for a 1976 Porsche Turbo, depending on condition. The value also depends on the Porsche’s prior owner. In its day, the Porsche Turbo was sought-after by the rich and famous, and should a car’s provenance include a celebrity or two, expect the price to be significantly higher than Hagerty’s estimated average value.

A prime example is the 1976 Porsche Turbo with the chassis number 9306800408 – previously owned by Steve McQueen. It was the last of McQueen’s special-order cars before his untimely death in 1980. McQueen’s son Chad recently put the car up for auction at Mecum Auctions in Monterey, California. The car sold for – you may want to sit down – $1.95 million. If you’re a car collector who’s also fascinated by celebrities, you may want to put a few more coins in the piggy bank before you start shopping around for a Porsche Turbo.



Photos by Chad Kainz and Curt Smith



How Stuff Works –

Car and Driver Magazine –

Leland-West –

Porsche 930 Turbo History –

Top Speed –

Ottority –

Autoweek –

Hagerty –

Wikipedia –

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