9 November 2015

A Whale Tale

THE FIRST PORSCHE 911 TURBO SOLD IN AMERICA IS RIGHT WHERE IT SHOULD BE — IN THE HANDS OF TUNER AND COLLECTOR MAGNUS WALKER

AT A TIME when the OPEC oil embargo was having a massive impact on the worldwide auto market, engineers at Porsche were pursuing the unthinkable — a high-performance, turbocharged production car. After showing a prototype in Paris in late 1973, the Porsche 911 Turbo project team, under the guidance of Ernst Fuhrmann, fought for the Turbo to make its way into production.

Although the 1975 model was marketed as the Turbo outside of the United States, the American-market version was launched a year later as the Turbo Carrera. The new Porsche was both a press sensation and a revelation to speed enthusiasts. Its wide-body stance, whale tail and abundance of power made it a car like no other. And with its turbo lag, it was a handful for even the most skilled drivers.

The high-performance and revolutionary design came at a price of roughly $25,000, which was an exorbitant sum in those days. Upon launch, the Porsche sales department feared the Turbo too pricey. Unperturbed by their concern, Fuhrmann asserted, “If we’re not in a position to sell such a superb product, then it’s time for us to get out of the sports car business.” His confidence in the company’s product proved correct, as the Turbo became a rock star of the era.

This Turbo Carrera matters because it is car No. 15 (s/n 930 680 0015), the first U.S. production model sold to a private owner. The first four cars (numbers 11, 12, 13 and 14) were press cars. Today, Turbo Carrera number 15 resides in the collection of renowned Porsche enthusiast Magnus Walker. Originally sold through Bob Smith Porsche in Los Angeles, it has never left the state. It is still largely in its original condition and configuration. While not pampered, it certainly skirted the hard life that befell most of the early Turbos. Many were upgraded, modified, raced or simply wrecked. In fact, Walker says “An unmolested early Turbo is very hard to find.”

For him, purchasing this particular car three years ago fulfilled a lifelong dream. “The Turbo was the Porsche I fell in love with,” he says. “I owned 50 911s before I owned my first Turbo.” About 18 months ago, Walker visited the Porsche archives in Stuttgart, where he was able to review the handwritten records on No. 15. It was finished on November 8, 1975, and was confirmed as the first U.S.-spec Turbo available for sale to the public. According to Walker, “The guys at Porsche were pretty excited that the car still even existed,” and for him, the fact that it was the first customer car made it even cooler.

Walker’s Turbo Carrera wears a patina that only the passage of 40 years could produce. Over time it has been given wider wheels, lowered suspension and a more sporting steering wheel that looks and feels just right. As a well-preserved example, it is an important testament to the quality and care of the original factory workmanship. From day one, this Turbo Carrera possessed a quiet command of the roads and has provided its four owners with over 100,000 miles of joy. Walker calls it “the iconic Porsche,” and No. 15 may just be as good as it gets.

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