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XCAR: Magnus Walker: Turbo Fever

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XCAR: Magnus Walker: Turbo Fever

14:27 /

Magnus Walker talks to us about his dose of Turbo Fever, classic Porsche 911 Turbos.

Let me start the story in 1977 as a 10-year-old kid and that was where I first fell in love with Porsche and first got my taste of what I like to call turbo fever. You know as a kid growing up in the 70's, early 80's, anywhere in the world chances are you probably had a Porsche Turbo poster on your wall. I was no exception so the Porsche 930 Turbo specifically white Martini 1977 edition was the car that I fell in love with Porsche through. Even though I started my collection over 20 years ago or bought my first Porsche over 20 years ago I never actually owned a Turbo until very, very recently. Basically what's behind me is my dose of turbo fever, you know. I sort of finalized my first chapter of Porsche ownership which was '64 and onwards and I'm moving forward slightly to the first generation of 3-liter Turbos, non-intercooled 75, 76, and 77 so my new goal is to own one of each year, 75, 76, and 77 of the early non-intercooled unmolested original Turbos. And what we have behind me are three 76's ironically and one '77. The Silver Turbo on the far right is the first production US turbo life-long California car. The Minerva Blue car in the middle with the gold Campagnolo rims is a Euro version of the '76 Turbo. And then the black turbo behind me is the 13th US Turbo. So the Ice Green '77, Ice Green Metallic Turbo over there is a first year of power-assisted brakes and that was actually the first noticeable difference that I felt between the 4 cars was that one actually does stop slightly better. So now I'm on the quest for a '77 930 Turbo which will be the most difficult one purely because they were never officially imported into the States. They only made a little over 200 I think, 240 of them. And these early Turbos were notorious for sort of getting wrapped around the tree very early on in their life. Very few of them have survived unmolested that either didn't get crashed, stolen, stripped, parted out, or chopped up into slant-nose wide body conversions with the bigger 3-3 intercooler turbo motors. Prior to owning the Turbo, I was a normally aspirated guy all the way through and a lot of my cars as you know are really small displacement motors 2-liter, 2-2, 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, 2-7, and they're really throttle happy, very throttle-responsive. The Turbo is sort of the complete opposite. There seems to be, you know, no real throttle response but what I love about them is it's a completely different driving style. You know the early Turbos seemed to at least on paper and interviews you read seemed to have this notorious turbo lag, but by today's standards you know these cars when they left the factory 35, 36, 37 years ago had an estimated 230, 240 horsepower. You know they'd be lucky to have that in them today. By today's current standards that's really not that much power. So it's a challenging drive because you're always trying to modulate when that boost is gonna come on and anticipate when that boost is gonna come on and keep that boost spooled up. So for me the funny is you know in sort of harnessing when that turbo is gonna come on, but the biggest surprise for me was not turbo lag. It was actually gear ratio. A lot of people don't seem to talk about the tall gear ratios in these early 4-speed Turbos. You know when I think back then Porsche at the factory they didn't wanna put a 5-speed in because they thought they'd be stripping gears, but it's funny how many cars are out there today running a 915 transmission making way more horsepower than these Turbos they're making. So I think they built the 4-speed for longevity and it's just strange because 1st gear is good for at least 50, 2nd gear is good for about 90, 3rd gear is good for about 120, and 4th gear is good for the rest. So in any of my other cars I'm probably in 3rd or 4th gear. In the Turbo I'm still in 2nd gear. So the driving experience you know I describe these cars as great GT Touring cars and they're great freeway car. You know you just get on the gas, wait for that boost to come on. You wait, wait, wait and it's one of those am I gonna pass the car next to me then all of a sudden wallop boost comes on. Then all of a sudden the distance between the car in front of you gets eaten up very, very quickly. So in my other cars you know you just sort of roll off the throttle and engine brake and sort of slows you down a little bit. In the Turbo you can roll off the throttle but that boost is still going. So all of a sudden you waited to pass that car, am I gonna make it, and then before you know it, you're 200 yards down the road and you're almost about to rear-end someone in front of you. So being able to monitor that boost and also the pace and flow of traffic is quite a challenge. So that's where the Turbo excels in my experience. You know it doesn't necessarily excel in the stock format as weaving in and out of traffic, fast through the canyon type of car. In the canyons you know the gear ratio seemed too tall. You're never fully on boost even though, you know, left foot braking is a great tool to have in the tool kit when it comes to Turbos is if you wanna sort of reduce speed slightly left foot brake, grab a little bite in the front end, but keep that boost spooled up. I think we can compare the early cars that we're driving earlier on my '65, my '66 which are, you know, narrow body, very stealth, very slim compared to the 1st generation Turbos. All of a sudden the car is aggressive, it's wide. It's got the big whale tail on it and it's interesting. People really, really respond to the shape of the Turbo. It just looks aggressive standing still. You know on the three '76 Turbos behind me what I've done there is I've lowered them considerably and put them on wider rims with the Hoosier tires and it really all just stands compared to the '77 which is bone stock, stock ride high on a 205, 225 series tire on a 16-inch rim compared to the Silver Turbo on the right which is running 8 and a 9-inch with a 225, 275 Hoosier. So to answer your question there's something really cool-looking about a Turbo because it looks aggressive. It looks fast. Obviously it's unmistakably Porsche Turbo and it's an iconic shape. Yes, my favorite Turbo has to be the Silver '76 in the corner for a couple of reasons. One, it's the first Turbo I've ever owned. Two, it does appear to be the first production US Turbo. It's car number 15 from what I've read. Car 11, 12, 13, and 14 were somewhat known as pre-production press demo trade show cars. Car number 11 and car number 14 have been documented. 15 is the 3rd oldest documented surviving car to this day. So to say that car still in its original format 37 years later to me is pretty impressive. So that is my favorite Turbo. It's a lifelong California car. It was delivered to Bob Smith Porsche in Hollywood in 1976. The car actually was made in October of '75. There's an interesting story to all 4 of these Turbos behind us but the Silver one, my buddy Marty had actually worked on the car for the prior 2 owners. I am the 4th owner. He'd work on that car for 20 years. The story he tells me and the rumor is it was once originally ordered by Robert Redford who never took delivery of the car. Whether that story is true or not, I don't know and then separate of that it's just a great driving car. I load it, I put it on the wider rims. I refinished those spokes myself with the polished lip sort of a RSR inspired look. It's got a great stand through it but it's also got a lot of patina. You know the car is obviously you know got quite a few miles on it, it's over 100,000 miles. It's been touched up in a few different areas but there's original paint on it. It's not actually a color I would've looked for, but like I've said before I don't chase cars for specific color combination, but I've grown to love that sort of sight the patina faded silver paint with that tan interior. And other than lowering it and putting a vintage Momo steering wheel on that car I haven't done anything to it other than drive it quite a bit. And it sounds great. It's got a burble when you back off, you hear the turbo rumble and it's a sensory overload. You're behind the wheel of that car especially on the freeway and going under tunnels when you just get on it and then back off and you hear the turbo wastegate pop, hear some rumble. You know it's sort of a tingly sound so that is what is great about the Silver Turbo and as I said each one sort of does the same thing slightly different. Actually got a little poster down in Facebook that a guy had found what he thought was a '76 Turbo back east so naturally I always ask for a couple of photos. Well, it turned out the '76 Turbo he thought was actually a '77 Turbo in a very rare Ice Green Metallic color. Also not a color I would've originally have chased down, but it must have been a special wishes custom order color combo of ice green metallic which in certain lights looks silver depending on the light, the green really shows through, but what really sets that car off is being very cool, unique, and a little bit special is the green avocado leather interior with green plaid inserts on the seats. One of the cool things when you first acquire a car, I brought a lot of cars sight unseen other than a couple of conversations over the phone and as many photos as I can get from the prior owner. My method is always the same, expect the worst and hope for the best. Well, when that car rolled off the trailer and I bought it pretty quickly. I had it within 5 days and I always go through the car when I first get it and one of the great things about Porsches I often say is it's a language separate of the driving experience. It's the history that each car brings together through the ownership, and one of the sort of nice finds in that car as when we went through it, it turned out there was a 1977 dollar bill folded up in the ashtray. Well, that dollar bill is still in the car 36 years later, has the original tool kit, the original jack, and the car had being sat back east in Pennsylvania in an independent shop for a couple of years, and according to their records the car hadn't driven more than a mile in the past 3 years. My wife and I decided that would be a great car to drive to Monterey. Well, any Porsche enthusiast knows a car that sat for a couple of years and done less than a mile is not necessarily the car you take on a road trip straight away. But the interesting parts of the story is I needed to put a few miles on the car before we ran on an 800-mile road trip and I needed to get it smogged. So I drove it to my buddies in Van Nuys and took it straight to a smog place, car passed first time, no adjustments. So it was just a great running clean car then Karen and I made the road trip to Monterey. Four or five days later we returned with 800 miles on the car. I put more miles on that in the first 2 weeks of ownership than I think the car has had on it in the past 5 years. The interesting thing is the one car out of the 4 Turbos is that it's got hands-down, the most thumbs up views and likes is that Minerva Blue Euro car in the middle, and I think it's a rare color. It's a Swiss delivery car with a white leather interior. That's where it left the factory, but what really makes that car unique is the color combo with the gold Campagnolo rims. You know it's not something that you see every day, certainly something a color combo that you don't really see hardly ever on a 930 Turbo. I'm keeping all Turbos stocked other than lowering them in steering wheels. This car I'm keeping bone stock the way it appears to have left the factory. It looks too tall by about 2 inch, but that is how those Turbos work. You know when you look at original posters back then by today's standards it looks really under-tired but you gotta remember that's how those cars were back in the mid-70's. You know I've restored and modified and hot-rodded and outlawed enough 911's. You know it's nice to actually have something that is close to factory spec the way it left the factory 36 years ago, it's possible.

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