It shamed every other production supercar of the day.
Of all the Porsche 911 Turbos, perhaps the best -- because they were the direct descendants of the famous 959 -- were the 1995-'96 models. Collectively referred to as the 993 series, they were the last of Porsche's air-cooled 911 Turbo models.
Just how good was it? Back in 1997, the red 993 turbo in the accompanying photos absolutely annihilated a Ferrari 348 in straight-line acceleration. Sorry for the lack of diplomacy, but I was driving the Porsche and that's just how it happened.
Why such a big blowout of the Italian stallion? The 911 Turbo's light weight, its 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque, the all-wheel-drive and a zero-to-60 mph of 3.6 seconds. Basically, Porsche's total commitment to performance.
For these reasons, a used, low-mile 911/993 Turbo can fetch more than the original sticker price of $100,000, a sum that was considered a steal of a deal in the day. But that's what Porsche has long been about.
From the outset in the late 1940s, both Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry built their highly regarded sports/racing cars to perform better in all-important areas -- acceleration, top speed, handling and braking -- than anything else on the road or at the track, even if they rarely induced the same head-turning stares that greet Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin.
But to true Porschefiles, all models, even the front-engine cars such as the 928, are inspired works of art. And the most artful of the group is the ultra-quick 911 Turbo. The Turbo might just as well be called the Special, for it has always appealed to a special sort of driver equipped not just with the necessary cash, but enough skill to pilot the car safely and quickly.
The modern Porsche Turbo is a far cry from the first model that greeted the public at the 1974 Paris Auto Show. The current 911 bears only a slight physical resemblance to the original, and provided a far more luxurious cabin than those rawboned cars of yesterday.
But somewhere in the middle is where you'll find the 993 series. Even still, it had a top velocity of about 190 mph and it had sticky skid pad performance that generated road-holding numbers approaching 1.0 G. That's tough to top, even 20 years later.
The 911 Turbo's beginnings date back to 1964 when the bathtub-shaped 356 was finally succeeded by an all-new 912-designated model. Although the 912 retained the 356's four-cylinder engine, the pricer 911 version had Porsche's first six-cylinder power plant. Initially, it developed 130 horsepower. The horizontally opposed engine (the left bank of pistons fires at a 180-degree angle to the right bank) proved remarkably adaptable, and over the years Porsche increased both its displacement and horsepower.
The first turbo eventually made its way to North America in 1976, marketed as the Type 930 Turbo Carrera. It was instantly recognizable, with its bulging fenders and "whale tale" rear spoiler. This high-performance machine was rated at 234 horsepower, significantly down from the European-spec 260-horse car (because of our stricter emissions rules). The Turbo Carrera was followed by a revised Turbo model (the Carrera name was dropped) in 1977 that boasted 300 horsepower (253 for North America) from its larger 3.3-liter engine.
While Porsche buyers in Europe and elsewhere continued to enjoy unrestricted access to the Turbo, ever-tightening emissions regulations led to the company canceling the exportation of the car to our shores in 1979.
After a six-year absence that must have seemed like a lifetime for Porsche addicts, the smog-reduced Turbo returned for 1986, complete with 282 horsepower and an available (for a whopping $24,000) aerodynamic "slant-nose" front end that was similar to those attached to full-race versions. For the first time, you could also order your Turbo as a removable-roof Targa model or full-blown Cabriolet (convertible), in addition to the standard coupe.
There were even bigger changes for the Turbo in the works, and the extremely limited-production 959 model (1987) provided a glimpse into the future of the 911/993. The all-wheel-drive 959's twin turbochargers helped produce a pavement-peeling 450 horsepower transmitted through its six-speed manual transmission. Although designed for racing, and supposedly available in Europe only, a very few of the 200 or so 959s produced managed to sneak their way into garages on this side of the water.
The 911 Turbo returned for '91 in coupe form only, packing a 320-horsepower, 3.3-liter power plant. From 1991-'95, air-cooled-engine size and power steadily grew, finally peaking at 3.6 liters and 360 horsepower.
The 993 Turbo arrived for the 1995 model year, with 959-inspired dual turbochargers and all-wheel drive. With 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque on tap, this generation of Turbo is considered by many to be the purest 911 on the face of the earth -- even though new models are both quicker, faster and more sophisticated.
Regardless of the year or model, the Porsche Turbo has remained steadfast in its mission to deliver the most fun per mile of just about any other car on the road. But it's the 993 that's praised for its near perfect balance of brawn, finesse, comfort and ability to reduce the Ferraris of the day to mere specks in the rearview mirror.
* Jeff Melnychuk can be reached at www.theoctanelounge.com by clicking the contact link.