1977 Porsche 911 Turbo ‘Martini’ 930/50
Having languished unloved in a garden for many years, this 3.0-litre Martini Turbo is one of just three such cars sold, following the trend set by the star of Porsche’s stand at the 1976 London Motor Show. After following its restoration over the last two years, Keith Seume gets behind the wheel of this amazing example of 1970s design and engineering excess. Words: Keith Seume. Photography: Andy Tipping.
SHAKEN AND STIRRED
THE RIGHT ONE
Sounds and sights of the super 70s: 911 930 Turbo, whale tail and Martini stripes... Porsche’s wide-bodied 930 Turbo was outrageous enough, but add the Martini livery and a mad interior and it became wilder still. We drive a restored original.
1977 Porsche 911 Turbo ‘Martini’ 930/50 — front - Period-correct Pirelli P7 tyres don’t look particularly fat by today’s standards, but the lack of power steering calls for plenty of effort at parking speeds!
If ever there’s been a moniker that has resulted in a degree of confusion and the spread of misinformation throughout the UK Porsche scene, it’s ‘Martini Turbo’. Over the years, the term has been applied to everything from the first factory-built 1976 London Motor Show car, to the later 1978 limited edition ‘Martini Championship Edition’ (based on the then recently introduced 3.3-litre 930 Turbo) and just about any regular 930 bearing the distinctive red and blue racing stripes of the Italian drinks company.
“A rare situation for a car with a ‘widow-making’ reputation…”
1977 Porsche 911 Turbo ‘Martini’ 930/50 — rear — Undoubtedly the most flattering view of the Turbo, with the width of the rear arches highlighted by the distinctive Martini striping kit.
The problem is that option M42 (originally referenced M432) allowed the application of the famous livery to any new 911, coupé or Targa, from humble SC to mighty Turbo. All such cars have become branded ‘Martini’ models, giving the impression that there are many more examples of the rare breed in existence than there are in reality. We have no way of knowing how many 911s had the stripes applied, as they were a dealer-fitted option, mostly on Grand Prix White examples, but available whatever the original hue. It wasn’t until the 1978 model year, and the arrival of the second-generation 930 with its larger engine and big 917-sourced brakes, that the term was applied to an official model, the aforementioned ‘Martini Championship Edition’, which bore the distinctive stripes, along with an interior that echoed that of the original 1976 show car – but we’ll come to that in detail in a minute… With reputedly just nine examples built, each bearing an engraved plaque above the gear lever, those limited edition Turbos from 1978 are among the rarest of all. But they’re not actually the rarest, as we shall see.
Seeking a suitable replacement created “a major headache… ”
Let’s take a step back in time. To September 1976, when chassis number 9307700097 came into this world. It was spec’d with build code Z-468. The letter ‘Z’ shows that it was a special build, in this case to the tastes of Porsche’s marketing department itself at the behest of Porsche Cars GB, rather than a private customer under the Sonderwunsch ‘special wishes’ programme that allowed customers to choose any colour and trim combination they liked – at a cost. #0097 was a right-hand drive 3.0-litre Turbo in Grand Prix White, but one which was trimmed like no other before.
Aside from the distinctive Martini striping along its flanks (at the time referred to as option M432, confusingly the same code that had previously been used to denote the bold ‘safety stripes’ available for use on impact-bumper 911s), 0051 featured the most outrageous interior yet seen on any Porsche. The stock ‘tombstone’ seats were replaced with orthopaedically designed seats, allegedly designed by Dr Ernst Fuhrmann (and henceforth known as ‘Fuhrmann seats’) that featured blocks of cushioning designed to add support to the back and thighs. In the London Motor Show display car – for that is what chassis 0097 was destined to be – these blocks were trimmed alternately in red and blue fine-grained leather, with the sides and back trimmed in white leather. The dashboard top, centre console and rear parcel shelf were also trimmed in blue leather, while the floor was covered with a heavy brushed red carpet. Door panels were also trimmed in red, white and blue to match.
When it appeared on the Porsche stand at Earls Court in London on 20th October 1976 (alongside a similarly-trimmed 924), unsurprisingly the car drew plenty of attention. It went on to join Porsche Cars GB’s press fleet, appearing in several road test features and adverts before being sold privately, still bearing the registration RLL 630R. Sadly that number no longer shows up on the DVLA website, so its current whereabouts are unknown – if, indeed, it still exists.
Such was the interest this car attracted that no fewer than three similar ‘Martini’ Turbos were built to special customer order – the build code Z-504 being applied to what Porsche regarded as ‘London Motor Show specification’. This included options M432 (Martini racing stripes in 3M vinyl), M422 (Blaupunkt Bamberg radio), M650 (electric sunroof) and paint code 908, GP White. The three cars would have set the owners back £21,162 compared to the price of a standard 930 Turbo at £19,499. Today, these figures equate to £146,000 and £141,300, respectively.
The chassis numbers of these three cars, along with their build dates, were #0551 (March 1977), 0557 (also March 1977) and 0633 (May 1977). Of the latter two we have no record although one will have borne the registration number TEL 27R, which is believed to have been written off (see Usual Suspects on page 25 of this issue). The first of the three cars – #0551 – is the one featured here. According to DVLA, it was first registered on 17th August 1977 and then sold to its second owner in January 1980. It changed hands again in December 1988, by which time it had racked up around 57,000 miles.
The story of how or why this rare Turbo wound up languishing unloved in a garden isn’t entirely clear but allegedly the owner went abroad, leaving the car in his garage, the mileage now just 62,622. At some point it appears it was moved outside to make space for motorcycles(!) and left to sit exposed to the elements, much to the horror of its returning owner.
The poor Turbo was sold at auction in 2015, but nothing came of the proposed restoration at a dealer and so it was a year or two later that we picked up on the story when the sorry looking 930 was delivered to Williams-Crawford in Saltash. There it was stripped down for a full assessment of work needed ahead of a complete restoration. The Porsche proved to be something of a Curate’s Egg. It was, as the saying goes, good in parts…
In the more than capable hands of W-C’s restoration guru Graham Kidd, the once proud Turbo was soon reduced to a pile of parts, some good, some rusty and some very rusty indeed. What did immediately become obvious, though, was that the car had never been the subject of past restoration work, meaning there were no badly applied patch panels as is so often the case with older Porsches which have passed through several owners, some of whom cared, others set on running Stuttgart’s finest on a shoestring. It was also clear that the car had escaped accident damage, a rare situation for a car with a ‘widow-making’ reputation.
This isn’t to say that the bodyshell had escaped scot-free. Certainly the common rust zones, such as the floors, rear seat pans and kidney bowls had survived largely intact – the floors remarkably so – but there was still rot to be found on the front inner wing panels around the bumper mounts, the rear crossmember and the scuttle at the base of the windscreen pillars. There was also perforation along the bottom edges of the front and rear wings, and doors. But compared to many other 911s of a similar age, it was remarkably sound and none of the major body panels such as the wings, doors, bonnet, etc, required replacement. The engine lid, with its trademark whale-tail spoiler, did require work. The lid is a glassfibre moulding, bonded to a steel frame. Unfortunately, the frame had rusted badly and begun to separate from the outer skin, meaning that Graham had to carefully cut away what was left and bond in a replacement.
Mechanically, the car was once again something of a Curate’s Egg. Yes, the whole drive train was there, original numbers and all, as were the entire suspension and braking systems, but having sat outside for close to two decades, nature had tried to claim it back as its own. Needless to say, taking into consideration the rarity and potential value of the car, it was agreed that it was important to retain as many of the original parts as possible.
The drivetrain was torn down in its entirety and rebuilt back to factory standards – despite the years of neglect, it was still possible to reuse the original heating and exhaust systems. Mind you, Graham does recall with amusement the first time they went to start the engine, as it spat out what appeared to be a bird’s nest from the silencer. After trying to source a genuine factory replacement (silencer, not bird’s nest), Graham decided to cut open the exhaust box, remove any obstructions, then weld it back up and refinish it as per original.
Rebuilding the entire suspension and braking systems was, of course, a huge task, especially when one considers the condition of items like brake calipers after all this time. But the majority of replacement parts are still available if you know where to look. Importantly, though, what could be saved was refurbished and reused for the sake of originality. But the interior presented a whole new problem.
The unique tri-coloured trim was all there, as were the gauges, switch gear and radio (including a period dictation machine in the centre console!). Refreshing the gauges was a relatively straightforward case of sending them to North Hollywood Speedometer in the USA, with the specific request that the mileage not be reset on the odometer.
The switchgear and other dash accoutrements required fastidious attention to detail to remove all traces of a life spent in the great outdoors, but it was the upholstery which created the biggest headache. After all, as Adrian Crawford says, it’s the interior which gives the ‘real’ Martini Turbos their soul. While the original leather was largely intact, it had suffered from years of neglect and it was obvious that no amount of regular cleaning would restore the interior to its former glory. Had the car been trimmed in more conventional Porsche-favoured materials (and hues), then there wouldn’t have been a problem, but the unique colour and texture of the leather meant that seeking a suitable replacement created a major headache. After discussing the problem with a number of trimmers, Williams-Crawford called on the expertise of Lang and Potter, a Plymouth-based concern with an enviable reputation in the boating world for producing extremely high-quality trim work.
Fortunately, it was possible to rescue some unfaded, unsullied samples of the original red, white and blue leather so that a perfect match could be sought. However, after some extensive research, Lang and Potter managed to go one better than simply ‘matching’ the original: they managed to source sufficient of the genuine item from the original suppliers to be able to retrim the Turbo! Then several trials were carried out so that they could precisely match the stitching used by the factory. Things were looking good. But there remained the matter of the carpet. The bright red carpeting used in the Martini cars was very different to materials commonly used today. Although it was possible to match the colour, replicating the depth of the pile caused another headache. The answer came by way of giving the new carpet a going over by hand with a wire brush! The end result is hard to tell apart from the few pieces of original carpet that remained intact.
Having watched the progress of this restoration for two years or more, it is still difficult to get across what a magnum opus it represents. From a rusting, lichen and web-covered piece of, well, garden art to a factory-fresh ready to drive anywhere 1970s icon, this is an impressive turnaround by any standards. But looks are one thing: driving is another.
I can clearly recall the occasion when, as a 24-year old writer on Hot Car magazine, I was handed the keys of Porsche Cars GB’s silver Turbo press demonstrator back in 1978. With legendary Porsche PR Michael Cotton in the passenger seat, this wet behind the ears journo experienced 930 Turbo performance for the very first time. It was an occasion I’ll never forget. But how would a restored car match up? Over the years I’ve driven several 930s, both 3.0-litre and 3.3-litre versions. I have to say I prefer the original best of all, despite being underbraked (they shared the same brake calipers as the regular 911S models) and with turbo lag as a matter of course. Four-speed gearbox? That’s just fine when you have such torque at your beck and call. There’s a rawness about the original Turbo that echoes that of its track-ready sibling, the 934, a trait that gradually became watered down as time passed by.
Drive an early Turbo today and I bet the very first thing you’ll notice is how heavy the steering is. Without power assistance, those meaty Pirelli P7s (the only tyre for an early Turbo!) do all in their power to resist turning effort at low speed. The gear change is as you’d expect: like a 915 on steroids. Heavy, precise and as far from a rifle-action as you can get. But it feels bulletproof and generally is.
Out on the road, the fat Pirellis want to follow their own course at times, picking up every undulation and demanding that you pay attention even when travelling in a straight line. And if you put your foot down, you’d better be ready to pay attention. Nothing much happens if you try it at 1500 or 2000rpm. The engine note deepens, sure, but not a lot else as the tacho needle lazily climbs round the dial. 3000rpm? Yeah, OK, so what’s all the fuss about?
4000rpm and...Holy Moses! Hold on tight! The tiny boost gauge hits 0.8 bar (roughly 11psi) and the outside world becomes a blur as you’re pinned back in your seat. All too soon, it’s time to grab another gear and repeat the experience again and again. It’s intoxicating – but then drink too many Martinis and you, too, would be intoxicated.
Today, a power output of ‘just’ 260bhp, a top speed of ‘just’ 153mph and a zero-to-sixty time of ‘just’ 6.1 seconds seem like nothing to write home about. But if you could transport yourself back to 1977, you’d have a very different outlook. This was the stuff of schoolboy dreams and the precursor of an era in history when Porsche Turbos dominated the circuits and autobahns. If you’re used to more modern supercars, driving a 930 Turbo today may not necessarily leave you feeling shaken but I can guarantee the experience will leave your emotions well and truly stirred.
CONTACT Williams-Crawford Tel: 01752 840307 williamscrawford. co.uk Other than brief
test runs, our man Seume was the first person to drive the car for two decades, bringing back memories of his first drive of Porsche’s own press car back in 1978… The classic wide-hipped look of a 1970s Turbo was the stuff of schoolboy dreams – that and a poster of Farrah Fawcett…
Engine is the original to the car, pumping out 260bhp at 5500rpm. Power delivery is best described as ‘unsubtle’, but not quite as ‘on-off’ as the very first Turbos to come off the line Use of space-saver spare doesn’t take into account the problem of what to do with the original wheel and tyre following a puncture! Porsche was very proud of the Turbo, and happy to let the world know it…
Imagine waking up to that every morning, especially after a night on the tiles. Sourcing the original leather from Germany proved to be a major breakthrough in the restoration of the interior Blue leather dashboard was a unique feature of these cars. ‘Spaceage’ Fuhrmann seats are designed to reduce fatigue on long journeys but aren’t as comfortable as one might think…
Make mine a Martini! The M432 optional striping kit was applied to many 911s in the 1970s, but it takes more than a splash of red and blue vinyl to make a true Martini Turbo
TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1977 Porsche 911 Turbo ‘Martini’ 930/50
- Engine: Turbocharged six cylinder
- Type 930/50
- Capacity: 2994cc
- Bore x stroke: 95mm x 70.4mm
- Compression ratio: 6.5:1
- Max Power output: 260bhp @ 5500rpm
- Max Torque output: 343Nm @ 4000rpm
- Transmission: Four-speed manual Type 930/30
- Wheels: 6J x 15 (front); 7J x 15 (rear)
- Tyres: Pirelli P7 205/55VR15 (front); 225/50VR15 (rear)
- Weight: 1140kg
- Price new: £21,162
Clockwise from top left: As found, after almost two decades of languishing in a garden, the Turbo looked a sorry sight, with flat tyres, locked brakes and rust around the edges; years of standing on damp grass had done the original brakes no good at all – check the condition of the original ‘S’ style aluminium calipers and front hubs; the interior was all there and largely intact, but damp had done its worst, meaning there was no option but to carry out a full restoration.
Fortunately, enough of the original material remained to allow a perfect match. The real breakthrough was locating a supply of the exact same leather in red, white and blue; as reassembly took place, you could almost hear the neglected Turbo sigh with relief at the promise of a new life with a caring owner; incredibly, bearing in mind how the car had sat on grass for so long, the floorpan proved to be remarkably sound. Considering this is a sunroof model, it’s surprsing that the interior hadn’t filled with rain water over the years; every body panel is original to the car, with only localised rust repairs necessary; the dashboard ‘as found’, with the odometer showing the low mileage of 62,622; the original engine and drivetrain survived, but was in a sorry state…