“Whatever you do, don’t lift,” Gonzalo warned with a smirk as he tossed me the keys to his lovingly patinated guards red Porsche 930 Turbo. He needn’t have reminded me. The tail-happy tendencies of Stuttgart’s most iconic porker are well documented, and its reputation as a “Widowmaker” precedes it.
And if Gonzo’s knowing comment wasn’t enough to send my heart aflutter, the 930 wasn’t the only rear-wheel drive turbocharged monster I’d be testing that sunny Saturday in the San Gabriel Mountains. AlphaLuxe had arranged for the ultimate Porschephile’s poster car comparison — an evolutionary take on the Witwenmacher concept, from the original 911 Turbo to the modern-day 991 GT2 RS. I was to drive both cars, back-to-back, through the twisted and unforgiving roads of the Angeles Crest Forest. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, my wife phoned our lawyer to review the terms of my will…
* * *
Slapping Snails on Pigs
The history of forced induction at Porsche begins, as do all things sacred, in motorsport. Following the storied success of the naturally aspirated 917 in Europe, including consecutive wins at Le Mans in 1970 and ‘71, the engineers in Zuffenhausen turned their attention to the North American Can-Am Challenge. For that series, Porsche developed the 917/10, a turbocharged twelve-cylinder rocket making 850 horsepower, which promptly won the 1972 season — only to be sent back to the drawing board. That car’s younger brother, the 917/30, with its longer wheelbase, tweaked aero, and more robust 5.4 liter twelve-pot turbo, produced a whopping 1,580 ponies — nearly sweeping its way to another series victory in 1973.
These turbocharged 917’s were the forebears of the equally iconic Turbo Carrera RSR 2.1, 934, and 935 race cars, turbocharged boxer-six units built on the fabled 911 platform. Porsche Motorsport had bet big on turbocharging, and it was paying off in podiums.
And then something miraculous happened.
Changes in FIA homologation rules in 1975 forced Porsche to produce street-legal derivations of the 934. And thus, beginning in model year 1975, the Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera, internal code 930, hit the market — offering a (somewhat) attainable piece of Porsche Motorsport to the masses.
The 911 Turbo was initially intended to be a limited-run homologation special. But like the duck-tailed 2.7 Carrera RS before it, customer demand for the 930 far outpaced Porsche’s expectations. The Turbo was a breath of force-induced air in an auto market starved of oxygen.
To understand how forward-thinking the 930 was in its day is to remember a world before every econobox and soccer-mom crossover had a turbocharger. In 1975, the market was in the throes of an oil crisis, which choked the beans out of so-called “performance” cars — that is, until Porsche slapped a snail on its pig.
The 1975 Porsche 930 made 260 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque from its single-turbo 3.0 liter flat six, dashing from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, with a top speed of 156 mph. For context, a 1975 issue of Road & Track compared three Italian supercars of that vintage — the Maserati Merak, Lamborghini Urraco, and Ferrari 308 GT4, whose 0-60 times ranged from 8.0-10.1 seconds, none of which crossed the 140 mph threshold.
A legend was born in Stuttgart. One thousand Turbos were built and sold in the first two years of production, and for those who couldn’t afford Porsche’s top trim, there were posters aplenty. And what a poster car it was. With its flared fenders, front and rear, its unfathomable “whale-tail” spoiler, and its deep-dish Fuchs wheels — the 930 seared with as much sex appeal as Farrah Fawcett in that infamous red swimsuit. If you were a late-70’s post-pubescent cliché you likely had both posters on your wall. And no one could blame you.
But as time marched on, and the Turbo became a staple of the 911 lineup, it quietly followed the general progression set by the base Carrera — growing larger and softer with each subsequent generation. The 964 Turbo 3.6 was the last on offer with rear-wheel drive, and the AWD-only 993 Turbo was decidedly more grand-tourer than motorsport. Today’s Turbos are blindingly fast, but numbingly luxe.
* * *
Enter the GT2
The softening of the legendary 911 Turbo left a vacuum in the market for a raw, rear-wheel-drive, turbocharged Widowmaker. Porsche filled that void in 1993, producing the first-ever 911 GT2, itself a motorsport-derived homologation car based on the 993 Turbo. Unlike the 930, which was always more street-car than track-rat, the GT2 was the automotive equivalent of a roided-out athlete. With insane bolt-on plastic fenders and a tiered rear spoiler with air scoops in the struts, form followed motorsport function in a design that later inspired Japanese tuner Akira Nakai to create his controversial RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF (RWB) air-cooled body kits.
Water-cooled variants followed as the 911 grew in stature (and curb weight) with the introduction of the 996 and 997 generation GT2’s. These models largely kept the track-focused über-turbo formula in tact, though increasing worldwide safety regulations forced Porsche’s hand in taming its wildest pig.
Fast-forward to today. The 991 GT2 RS, produced in 2018 and ‘19, sports a 3.8 liter twin-turbocharged flat six, pushing 700 horses to the rear wheels. It runs 0-60 in a world-warping 2.6 seconds, producing 553 lb-ft of torque on its way to a top speed of 211 mph. It’s the fastest road-going 911 ever built. But is it still a “Widowmaker?”
With its automatic PDK gearbox and a veritable alphabet soup of safety features, including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Stability Management (PSM), Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV), and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), the 991 GT2 does all it can to keep you on the road. Which makes for an interesting comparison to the relatively underpowered, but strictly analog 930. The Turbo-as-Widowmaker concept may have come a long way, but is it still… fun?
* * *
Before I would find out, it was time to meet my automotive hero.
Gonzalo’s 1980 Porsche Turbo coupe wasn’t the first 930 I’d ever sat in. It was my dad’s 1988 example, a guards red-over-cashmere cabriolet, that birthed my passion for cars in general and for Porsche in particular. Every time my dad took me for a spin in his Turbo, I was awash in smells, sounds, and a general automotive ecstasy I’ve been chasing ever since. That particular car was produced in 1987, as was I, and my developing toddler brain interpreted that fact to mean the car was built specifically for me. He sold it ten years later, just before I was old enough to drive. Lots of good money spent on therapy hasn’t helped me cope with the loss, but I appreciate your concern.
Due to my father’s poor financial decision (have you taken stock of the air-cooled market lately?), Gonzo’s Porsche was the first 930 I’d had the chance to drive. And with sweaty palms, I was determined, for my wife’s sake and for Gonzo’s, not to let my dream car live up to its moniker.
“You don’t need to depress the clutch,” Gonzalo told me as I struggled to turn the ignition. Great start. I lifted my left foot, turned the key, and the engine fired to life. Then I flirted with the awkwardly spaced, floor-hinged pedals. The clutch felt stiff enough to let you know it was there, but not motorsport stiff. And the brakes! An enormous foot-sized pedal hinged so far forward and lumped so tightly between the clutch and accelerator, it was as though the car was daring you to give it a tap as you rounded a corner.
Let’s talk about that whale-tail sized elephant in the room. All air-cooled 911’s, being rear-engined and lacking any computer-assisted stability controls, swing like a pendulum if you brake, or lift off the gas mid-corner. This tendency toward snap oversteer is exacerbated in the 930 by the added weight at the rear. Couple that with a slow-spooling unpredictable boost, which sprinkles a touch of understeer into the equation when it decides to come on, and it’s easy to see how the original 911 Turbo earned its reputation as a husband-killer. The old adage, true for the 930 as it is for today’s modern porkers, has always been “slow in, fast out” – a mantra I repeated to myself throughout the day.
Once we pulled onto the tarmac however, all the 930 baggage I brought into the day went out the window. I found the car very pleasant to drive. Surprisingly controllable. I let the beast rev out, per Gonzo’s instruction, and we ripped down a straightaway with ease. “This is not slow!” I exclaimed as we kept pace with the more modern 996 ahead of us. That car happens to be my current daily driver, and served me well as a baseline for my first go in a 930. In fact, a closer look at the numbers confirmed my seat-time suspicion that Gonzo’s 930 was just a touch slower than my 2002 996 C2. Not bad for a car 22 years its senior!
The one gripe I had with this particular 930 was its finicky gearbox. “She doesn’t like to slide into first,” Gonzalo had warned as he showed me a trick he’d developed to get his car into gear, “Tap the lever back just a bit, like you’re going into second, then push it straight up.” Fair enough. All vintage cars have their quirks. And this transmission, with its four tall gears, the third of which protested with a grind as I tried to throw the lever too aggressively, would clearly take some getting used to. I also balked at the relative difficulty to heel-toe in the 930, given the chasmic depth between its brake and accelerator. “You can only really do it under heavy braking,” Gonzalo confirmed.
But windows down, turbo spooling, I was pleasantly affirmed in my decades-long obsession with the 930 Turbo. Nothing about the car was as overwhelming as I anticipated. Not even the turbo lag, which is more predictable and linear in its power delivery than I’d been led to believe. Overall it is a lovely, comfortable machine – one that I would happily drive daily — if only I could scrape together the $100k premium it commands on the open market. One day…
* * *
With one Widowmaker conquered, I had to sharpen my sword to slay a much younger foe. No expense was spared on our “tester” 991 GT2 RS, which came equipped with the $31,000 (!) Weissach Package. This option adds some carbon bits and magnesium wheels to reduce the curb weight of a “base” GT2 by 66 lbs. (Your author humbly suggests that extra cash might be better invested in a nicely equipped 996, a stable of Mazda Miatas, or better yet — a personal trainer to help you shed some unwanted weight. Just sayin’).
Stepping into the handsomely specced Carrera-white GT2 RS, I found myself swimming in a bath of blood-red alcantara — a not-so-subtle reminder that I truly was entering the belly of a beast. My driving companion was the unflappable Kevin B. of our “Kevin Drives” series. (Check out his in-depth review of the 991 GT2RS here, and while you’re at it, check out his fascinating two-part take on “Bonkers,” a heavily-modded 800hp 996 GT2 here and here).
“Should I slap it into manual or let it do its thing?” I asked Kevin as I contorted myself into the stiff carbon fiber buckets. He laughed, “Why don’t you see what it can do on its own?”
And this is the theme of the 991 GT2RS — it is so fast, so controlled, so overwhelmingly capable that the driver is always its weakest link. Better to get out of the way and buckle in for the ride.
As I pulled out from our off-road position, shaking away any loose gravel that clung to the impossibly sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2’s, I hammered the throttle and shrieked with joy as the GT2 RS hit 150 mph before quickly running out of tarmac.
“Want to try launch control?,” Kevin baited as I pulled over to catch my breath.
Hard on the brake, hard on the throttle, 5,000 rpm rev hang, off the brake and… off into warp speed. This car had me cackling like a kid on a roller coaster — its dynamics twitchier, more lively at speed than I had expected. A welcome antidote to the current market of antiseptic supercars.
* * *
Many editorial comparisons between supercars of any vintage conclude with the sage financial advice: “Get them both.”
The same could be said about the GT2 RS and 930. The younger car may be the evolution of a concept birthed by the original Porsche Turbo, but it is a completely different prospect. Both experiences are valid and, for a petrolhead, necessary.
I can confirm that the 991 GT2 RS is indeed every bit the Widowmaker as its ancestor. Real life incidents continue to serve as strong reminders that computer controlled nannies can only go so far in staving off the laws of physics.
If I had to choose my preferred death-inducing instrument, my money would be on the air-cooled variant. To drive the original Turbo is to travel back to a simpler time. It’s analog and tactile, fast enough to have fun, and more dependent on your skills as a driver to extract its maximum performance. The modern Widowmaker doesn’t need you, and perhaps it’s a shortcoming of mine, but I want to be needed.
* * *
|1980 Porsche 930 Turbo||2018 Porsche GT2 RS (w/ Weissach Package)||2002 Porsche 911 Carrera|
|Max Horsepower||300 @ 5,500 rpm||700 @ 7,000 rpm||320 @ 6,800 rpm|
|Max Torque||304 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm||553 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm||273 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm|
|0-60 mph||5.0 sec||2.6 sec||5.0 sec|
|Curb Weight||2,866 lb.||3,355 lb.||2,959 lb.|
|Engine||3.3 L Single Turbo Boxer 6||3.8 L Twin-Turbo Boxer 6||3.6 L NA Boxer 6|
|Transmission||4-speed manual||7-speed twin-clutch auto||6-speed manual|
Garett Pereda became a petrolhead the moment the boost in his father’s Porsche 930 first threw him back in his seat when he was four years old. He’s been chasing that rush ever since. After graduating from NYU and Pepperdine Law School, Garett worked as an entertainment attorney at William Morris Endeavor before diving headlong into his life’s work — pursuing a career in television writing. He is a proud member and union captain for the Writers Guild of America, having worked on shows for Netflix, Warner Bros., Blumhouse Productions, Ellen DeGeneres, Lawrence Bender, and others. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, step-son, and their long-haired cat, Kiku.