August 20, 2018

000 Magazine – Turbo 3.0 Book Review by Kerry Morse

Review of the Turbo 3.0 book in 000 Magazine, issue 006/Summer 2018, by Kerry Morse:

A few months ago, I picked up a rather large package at the post office, brought it home and—it being the end of a long day—put it aside. After dinner, I opened the box and discovered a book full of boost.

You may be familiar with author Ryan Snodgrass’ freshman effort, Carrera 2.7, a first-rate reference book that fit right in with the new edition of Carrera RS from TAG. Both titles are considered go-to-books for settling matters of originality, and there was every reason to expect that the long-awaited sophomore offering from Snodgrass would follow the established format.

This time, however, Snodgrass enlisted as art director Richard Baron, whose body of work would fill a few bookshelves. Baron’s stylistic shift has given Turbo 3.0 a separate identity, in much the same way that a 1976 911 differs from a 1976 930. The core remains, but the differences are immediately apparent and very pleasing.

The organization seen in the previously mentioned books was used to form this one’s structure: chassis numbers, color codes, optional equipment, promotional campaigns, literature, tool kits, racing variations. All are where they should be, along with a narrative of the concept, development, introduction, and production run for 1975–1977. A more suitable title for this comprehensive study is The Really Big Book of the 3.0 Liter Turbo.

Turbo 3.0 is offered in a Limited Edition with a print run of 2,500, priced at $395, and the Publisher’s Edition of 300 for $595. Between the two, I feel Snodgrass got the print runs wrong: With its extra supplement and archival features, the Publisher’s Edition is so far superior to the Limited Edition that that additional $200 should be considered a smart move. When the 300 editions are gone, I expect to see the prices get up to a couple of grand on the various online outlets—and I don’t need a Magic 8 Ball to convince me this is a certainty.

One of the clever design aspects of the Publisher’s Edition involves the supplement and the archival folder. Think of the book as a published DVD, where you scroll down the menu and click on the special features box. The supplement takes the reader through a behind-the-scenes look at how the book was put together—it’s informative while avoiding any self-congratulatory traps.

Reference books often take up shelf space without justifying their presence. After the initial excitement while surveying such books, they’re usually put away because few of these reference titles are enjoyable no matter how engaging their overall story. The details might be accurate, but a lack of context robs them of the emotional connection that gives them meaning and allows them to evoke memories like your first car or first kiss—which can provoke an awareness that life is ever changing. For me, Turbo 3.0is just such a catalyst, one that prompted me to revisit a rewarding array of experience. 

For those who can recall the early to mid 1970s, there was a great deal of unpleasantness, both in general life but especially in a car culture plagued by environmental issues, oil shortages, mandatory smog equipment, and a lethargic attitude toward design. For many of us who were VW enthusiasts, modifications were a way of life—and the aftermarket was an escape. We followed the major sportscar races, and we were thrilled by the 917s and successes of Follmer and Donohue. But, given a choice between a new 911 and a 914-6, it was the VolksPorsche that spoke to us. Few remember that, by 1973, the 911 was considered an old man’s car, one owned by aerospace engineers and dentists. Long before it was a deemed a class or “iconic,” the 911 shape had looked the same for almost a decade. In contrast, the 914, especially the “Six,” was a youth statement. It was different and almost within reach financially…almost.

Remember, too, that the 911 ST and 911 Carrera RS were not road legal in the U.S. Unless you read AutoWeek or Road & Track, those 911s didn’t exist. The news traveled considerably slower back then, and print magazines were often three months behind in delivering the latest trends from over the pond. When the 911 Turbo was announced, BMW had already produced the 2002 Turbo and a few U.K. manufacturers made attempts, but none of these ever hit our shores—so this market was unprepared for one of the most influential cars to ever reach production.

Porsche was not only build a road-legal 911 with forced induction, it would provide a version for the U.S. One of the strengths of the new 911 Turbo came about because of a change in safety regulations that required alteration to the bumpers. Design chief Tony Lapine and crew got it right and then some, transforming the 911’s aura and making it cool again. We didn’t just have a 911 and 911S we even had a Carrera with rear spoiler—but it was the Turbo we all wanted, knowing damn well only a few of us would ever own one.

This is where Snodgrass and his book come in. They bring all of the memories back—the anticipation, the yearning, and, most of all, the first time I drove a Turbo, in 1976, when a friend trusted me with his new car for a couple of days. Silver on tourist delivery plates, it was beautiful. It was also, as I was quick to learn, one of the most dangerous cars ever built. Learning about turbo lag was a new experience, and boost was to be respected—because you absolutely had to know when the power was about to come on. What really caught my attention were brakes, because brake pads the same size as those introduced on the 1969 911S were no expected to stop the boostmobile. Even so, I loved every moment in that car—and Snodgrass’ book provided an emotional ticket back to those times.

What distinguishes the 930 from almost every other Porsche is its cultural influence. When the word “turbo” came up in conversation, chances were high that it was in reference to a Porsche. The impact the 930 had when it came to extending the lifespan of many used 911s cannot be overstated. Dealers sold thousands of 930 flares, and the aftermarket quickly offered up complete body kits in fiberglass to give your 1966 912 that “Turbo look.” No Porsche model—before or since—has made the singular impact that the Turbo in its original, 3.0-liter form did.

The high point of the Publisher’s Edition may be its archival folder, which has accurate reproductions of internal memos, production numbers, FIA documents, a price listing for each model, photos, and color proof sheets. It is as if it’s 1975 all over again, with a twist Snodgrass’s mammoth book has taken something familiar and made it an original, much as Porsche did when it transformed the 911 into the 930. As a reference book, the roots are permantent. As a time machine it’s a bargain.