911SC vs 993 Turbo
There’s an email in my inbox. “The 993 Turbo has exactly twice the power of the 204bhp 911SC, but is it twice the car?” asks editor Raby. A fortnight later, we’ve got nice examples of both in a North London car park to compare and contrast.
Limply badged by Stuttgart, the 911SC suffers from a lack of Carrera kudos. While its Carrera 3.0 predecessor could trace its bloodline back to the 1973 RS via a crankshaft and those famous sidestripes offered as an option, the SC sits between the Carrera 3.0 and the later 3.2 Carrera, with no go-faster tag to call its own. Les Turner, owner of this Guards Red SC, has attempted to address this shortfall.
“Legend has it that SC stands for Super Carrera,” offers Les; a theory I am happy to accommodate. “Perhaps Porsche felt that, as the first SCs lost power compared to the Carrera that went before, Super Carrera was a moniker too far so they used an abbreviation instead.” Whatever the story, I’m no graphics geek. The potentially contentious stripes look good on this well-preserved SC.
A polished Fuchs alloy wheel sits in each corner. Porsche shipped SCs with an anodised rim painted with a satin black centre, but Les’s wheels have been daisy polished to give a brighter, early-car effect. Inoffensive and easily reversed, the shiny petals lighten the profile. The treatment looks even better when twinned with bright window surrounds and mirrors.
Ducktail over impact bumpers is the Porsche world’s crispy seaweed; you either love it or you don’t. Although I’m a fan of properly fitted duck, such occasions are few and far between. Les’s tail is nicely finished, but a tad short in the corners; one worry when dealing with glassfibre. Proper Porsche ducktails have metal frames and fetch a fortune, but many of those lightweight skins are now splitting away from the carcass. Invest in the real deal only after careful inspection.
The upside of the ducktail is a weight drop where a 911 needs it most. UK SC Sport models came with the Turbo’s ‘teatray’ tail: 25kg of steel and rubber, a wiper you don’t need on a weekend car and a lardy visual emphasis on the back end. The ducktail takes minimum 20kg off that, unloading some high rear ballast. Smooth rear lids are more attractive, to my eye, but even the modest aero effect added by that little flip is worth having at track speeds.
This SC is a trackday regular. The latest outing was at the new and revised Snetterton circuit, where Les boiled the brake fluid but survived to drive another day.
“A big advantage to Snetterton’s remote location is acres of run off to play with,” he says. “I didn’t need much of it but it was good to know it was there!” The SC’s heat-retaining dust shields have since been removed and race fluid installed, which should solve the problem.
The SC is Les’s second 911. First was an immaculate 3.2 Targa with the G50 transmission. Fitted with an H&S exhaust, the Targa was reliable but just too nice to tweak. Advertising it quickly brought a buyer, and Les found the coupe within easy reach of his Essex home.
“I’d wanted a coupe for a long time; something I could play with, adding hot-rod bits and pieces and build for fun, rather than as a museum exhibit. This came with the stripes and polished wheels and I’ve added classic touches like the SSI heat exchangers and a Dansk silencer, plus the ‘tombstone’ Recaro sports seats, trimmed in classic tartan.”
The seats are perhaps my favourite part of Les’s work to date; eminently period-correct in an impact-bumper car. Found on eBay for sensible money, I was an early bidder but Turner beat me to them. Classic Porsche tartans are very much in vogue, but the straight back of these chunky Recaros may not suit every spine on extended road trips.
“Road trips are this car’s forte,” insists Les. “A recent camping weekend at the Silverstone Classic was an eye-opener. Mistakenly pitched among the Triumph Owner’s Club, my son and I brought everything in the 911; tent, beds, stove, plenty of food and clothes, just in case. Packing the Porsche at the end, a Herald-owning neighbour stared open-mouthed as everything went in and left the back seats free. As he pointed to the Vauxhall Zafira he’d been forced to use for overflow luggage, it brought home just how practical these 911s are.”
I’ve owned two SCs – coupe and Cabriolet – so I know the models intimately. A simple SC on plain old Fuchs with a flat engine cover is a treat to look at and a delight to drive. Though I’ve been searching California websites for another SC to buy ahead of an impending US trip to Rennsport Reunion 4, the opportunities look slim.
Clean SCs have been getting harder to find for a while. Porsche made tens of thousands, but accidents, rust and rally conversions have eaten into the population. Owners lucky enough to possess pristine SCs are understandably holding onto their investments, while lesser cars have been leaving the USA for Europe in droves. Good SCs in the USA are now asking as much as $20,000, while a decent original UK car could be valued at £15,000 or more for insurance purposes, depending on mileage.
Les’s car looks modified but stripes peel off, and wheels and tail are easy to remove. Despite the modified look, bringing this 911 back to most valuable standard condition would be an easy job, so none of these mods have cost money. As prices for ducktails and Fuchs are rising all the time, the parts are also in a depreciation-proof zone.
The 993 Turbo
The 993 Turbo has similarly strong residual values to the SC. Sought-after as the last air-cooled Turbo, and the closest production cousin to the groundbreaking 959, good examples of this car are now knocking on for £60,000 in the UK.
The three-owner, 52,000-mile example seen here has come from Hendon Way Motors in northwest London and is an absolute peach. Hendon Way has three of these in stock and always tries to hold around that number. “I love these cars and own one myself,” says Hendon’s Anthony Pozner. “They have engineering values and a build quality you just don’t see any more.”
Study the reaction of Les and Lipman to the Turbo’s arrival at our secret shoot location, and the demand for these cars is self-explanatory. Lipman is all over the ‘bad boys’ Turbo and Les demands a drive.
Tiff Needell demonstrated the Turbo’s tremendous skillset when he test-drove one for ‘old’ BBC Top Gear in 1995. The Arena Red press car was fired around Millbrook’s handling course with unbridled enthusiasm; vaulting crests, drifting corners and tackling the 85mph slalom with aplomb. The footage left a deep impression on young men of the era; more than one friend confesses he was converted to Porsche and dreams of 993 Turbo ownership by that review.
Simon Kelly was such a man. Putney property developer Simon bought his 993 Turbo at the tender age of 25 and immediately contracted hooliganitis. “It was such an easy car to drive quickly,” he remembers. “Flat out to the braking zone on track, a quick dab of brake to flick the back out, then power on and let the four-wheel drive sort it out. By the end of my ownership, I was going through sets of tyres like there was no tomorrow, but what a rush! I wish I’d never sold it.”
Needell waxed lyrical about the Turbo’s grunt and grip, but was even more impressed when the car managed 0-60mph and back to zero in less than seven seconds. The Turbo brakes have since become a prized upgrade on other 911s.
The 959 supercar brought a shedload of innovation to Porsche road cars, much of which ended up on the 993 Turbo. The six-speed transmission is an obvious starting point, ABS is another and those twin turbos are a third (albeit working in parallel, not sequentially). The 993 adds an Active Brake Differential system and a less complex four-wheel-drive system.
Weight on the 959 Comfort versus the 993 Turbo is very close, giving evenly matched performance figures: a circa four-second 0-60mph time and ample top speed. There aren’t many road cars on sale for £50,000 that can match a bona fide Porsche supercar for out-and-out performance. Internet sources claim the 993 Turbo was the fastest production car in the world when released, but the McLaren F1 held the record at the time, claimed in 1993. Argue among yourselves whether the F1 was a ‘production‘ car…
Performance isn’t just about speed, though. Multilink rear suspension in lightweight aluminium, the associated wider rear track and that terrific four-wheel drive-system give this 993 handling hitherto unimaginable on a 911 Turbo. The driving experience is perhaps the main reason for the 993 Turbo’s legendary status in Porsche performance circles.
Although the Turbo packs a lot of tech, its appearance evokes its classic forbears, especially inside. The gauge faces might be different, but the 993 dash layout is very familiar to an SC driver. That side window profile is instantly recognisable, and the scuttle panel under the windscreen differs only by wiper arrangement.
On the road, the Turbo lives up to its legend. From the minute the car starts rolling, power is on tap. Whether a shirt squirt to the next traffic light or an autobahn burn between cities, the performance is electrifying. Shoehorning such apparently effortless capability under a skin essentially designed over 30 years before the 993 Turbo’s introduction was the real masterstroke of Porsche engineering.
Ride quality on Hendon Way’s beautiful 52,000-mile example is very nice, although there’s not much ground clearance for speed ramps. The grey leather trim wouldn’t be my first choice but it sits well with the black exterior and the three previous owners have clearly cherished it. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating; those sports seats could be the finest ever fitted to a Porsche 911.
If you think half the horsepower will make the SC feel comparatively slow, think again. The standard car hits 60mph in under seven seconds, and the power added to this red example by
the SSIs and Dansk muffler shave a couple of tenths off that. The ride height and 16-inch wheels and tyres are more forgiving than the low profiles fitted to the Turbo, so a decent speed can be maintained over broken surfaces. The Turbo’s got some grunt, but an SC is no slouch cross-country.
Bearing all of the above in mind, let’s reconsider the original question. The 911SC at 204bhp versus the 993 Turbo at 408bhp; twice the horsepower, but is the Turbo twice the car? It depends on your perspective.
If a car is summed up solely by the driving experience – how quick, how grippy, how confidence inspiring – then even a die-hard SC enthusiast like me would have to concede that the awesome Turbo is twice the car a standard SC will ever be. If you look at it as power per pound, then the £15,000 SC trumps the £50,000 Turbo hands down. But these are not just cars, these are 911s.
A 911 is more than numbers on a sheet of paper. It’s the smile it puts on your face when you open the garage door, the tingle in your spine when you floor it, the camaraderie offered by owning and running a legend and the sense of connection to a lineage that has just unveiled its sixth iteration in almost 50 years. When both are seen as part of the great scheme of things, the fight is more even than it looks.
Money no object, we’d probably all have the Turbo. But for most of us, the SC is all the 911 we’ll ever really need. If the 911 budget limits you to a straight and simple SC, don’t feel too bad. Bang per buck, it beats some of the best.
This was taken from issue 80, for all Total 911 back issues visit www.imagineshop.co.uk/