Best Porsche cars ever: Porsche 935

The Porsche 935 was an endurance racer. Can we keep it together up the hill?

Key specs
EngineTurbocharged, 6cyl boxer
Capacity2.85 litres
Power590bhp
Top speed211mph

In the mid-seventies there was growing momentum in the production-car-based racing categories of Groups 4 and 5, and Porsche had been experimenting with turbocharging to compete within them. The 911 Turbo of 1974 was actually a homologation model to allow the brand to race forced-induction cars, with the most extreme representation of that being the 935. 

Engineered by Norbert Singer, the 935 initially used a 590bhp, 2.8-litre, turbocharged engine, which thanks to a multiplier equivalency ratio defined by the motorsport regulators, allowed the 935 to race in the ‘up to 4.0-litre’ engine-capacity category. That meant its race weight would be 970kg – and because the 935 was built lighter, this allowed Porsche to ballast the car as necessary in order to improve the weight distribution. In time, engine capacity would increase, as would the power, with later iterations having in excess of 850bhp.

“Porsche 935s were war horses,” explains American racing driver and 935 authority Bruce Canepa. “They got a lot of races and a lot of miles because they were so successful. They were endurance cars – there weren’t many race cars in which you could pound it for 12 or 24 hours, but with the 935 they could do that easily.” 

That robustness, combined with Singer’s clever interpretation of the regulator’s rulebooks, would allow the 935 incredible success on the track, with the cars winning just about every race and championship they were entered in. That success wasn’t short lived, either, because the 935 would dominate for the best part of a decade. Notably, the model took an overall win at the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours, its dominance being such that year that 935s scored six of the top 10 places, with a closely related Group 4 934 taking another of those 10 spots.

Today, a 1976 car fresh from the Porsche museum is sitting in the holding area at Goodwood waiting for a driver. That’ll be me, my imposter syndrome high as I strap into the driver’s seat. Despite the recognisably 911 glasshouse, it’s pure racer inside; I sit upright, strapped tightly into the bucket seat, accompanied by a cage, some instrumentation and little else. The large central rev counter shows an 8,000rpm redline, but the car’s custodian says not to worry about anything other than the temperature gauge.

There’s the wonderful paucity of mass that comes with racing cars, the immediacy of the steering, the might of the brakes and the power from the engine. It feels a bit lethargic off boost, although still quick by any measure – but then the turbo kicks in and the 935 absolutely flies, the back shimmying as even those massive rear slicks struggle to manage the engine’s prodigious grunt. It’s all over as quickly as it began, crossing the line at the top of the hill climb with the speed still increasing. The 935 is a monster, but a civilised one. It’s not difficult to understand how it dominated so comprehensively, and became one of the most successful racing cars ever built.

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