The Porsche 935 is one of those ubiquitous cars that every enthusiast is at least somewhat familiar with. If you are a motorsports fan, then the 935’s commanding success from essentially its inception in the ’70s to departure in the ’90s is nothing short of inspirational.
A fan of engineering triumphs? Then the clever work that geniuses like Norbert Singer performed between the black and white lines of sanctioning body written scripture is the stuff of legend. If you’re a pop culture nerd like yours truly, then you’ve got a Martini-liveried 935/75 that transforms into a robot sitting safely in a display case behind you.
The 935 is unquestionably a legendary vehicle. It could very well be considered ‘peak Porsche,’ and that is why the German automaker saw fit to both remaster and rerelease the model in 2019.
The original version of the 935 cemented its place in history through hard-earned victories on the track. But despite being cut from the same cloth, the 2019 model remains largely unproven.
In 2018, Trevor quipped that he wasn’t sold on the hype around the new 935. To summarize Trevor’s point, he was impressed with the car on paper, but felt it wasn’t actually ever built to be raced. I’m not good at this whole ‘cars as investments’ thing, but if Porsche prices are any indication, many P cars are in fact better financial shortcuts to retirement than they are enthusiast vehicles.
Only 77 build spots have been made available for the 935, and they are already reselling for double the original price of US$785,998.
Very few people have the means to be OK with wadding up at least three quarters of a million dollars’ worth of car, so instead of having their wheels turned in anger, most of these 935s will simply be preserved, appreciating in financial value while being unappreciated as actual vehicles.If I Could Turn Back Time
The legacy of the 935 began in 1976 with the iteration you see above. Known as the 935/76, the car was conceived solely to compete in the Special Production Cars Group 5 racing class.
The Special Production rules were fairly interesting from a regular car guy standpoint. They required each car start as a road-going vehicle, which is why a 930 Turbo underpinned the classic examples and a GT2 RS can be found deep within the contemporary version.
Although each needed to start as a production model, once modifications were complete only the hood, fenders, and doors had to remain factory items. Essentially, the cars only had to retain their original silhouette, hence the series earning its ‘Silhouette Racing’ moniker.
Watching manufacturers, investors, and engineers interpret rule sets in entirely different ways is an infinitely interesting part of motorsport. No two teams are going to use the same methods to cross the finish line first.
With BMW and Ford making their own drastic changes to their Group 5 entrants, Porsche wasn’t going to sit back on its laurels and accept second place.Enter Norbert Singer
The now famous whale proportions of the 935 didn’t come into the picture until Norbert Singer did. I’ve never met the man, but I am pretty sure he laughs at the notion that there are only 50 shades of grey.
Singer and his team exploited every possible loophole that could be found in the Special Production rulebook, and I’m sure there are still mysteries packed within the original 935s that we laymen will never know.
Loophole one: headlights.
The rules allowed for the front fenders to be modified in order to fit the mandated 16×11-inch Dunlop rubber. Once Singer and his crew made room for the tires, the headlights and their buckets no longer fit, so they ‘had’ to be moved to the bumper.
Moving the headlights to the bumper ‘accidentally’ created a slant-nose version of the front end. This slanted front also happened to be more aerodynamic.
Obviously the performance changes were not simply limited to the front of the car. The 935’s ‘Moby Dick’ nickname has to do with the vehicle’s generous posterior, where extended fenders and the rear glass were designed to reduce drag and increase downforce.
The design was similar to one proven successful with the previous Carrera RS.
In another fast-thinking workaround, the original cars wore 19-inch diameter rear wheels. Yes, 19s on a race car, because they allowed for the most rubber to hit the ground (fore and aft), while again working within the rules.
As the outside of the car evolved, so too did the power plant. In ’76, the 935 got a boost assist from a single turbo running between 17 and 21psi to generate 550 to 630 horsepower.
With competition becoming increasingly fierce at each outing, the original single turbo configuration was ultimately jettisoned in favor of two smaller ones. This was done to reduce turbo lag, but according to everything I’ve read, although improved, it still took a while for the boost to come on.
The addition of two turbos over one, water-cooling, and a lot of trial and error eventually saw the engine producing upwards of 750 horsepower.
Running optimally, the 935 did the 3-kilometer-long Mulsanne Straight at 227mph (365km/h). Damn.Put Up Or Shut Up
In competition, the 935 was a very successful car for a number of different teams. In 1979 it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche Kremer Racing, then impressively, the top spot went to a 935 in both the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona six times. Each.
Similarly, the FIA world championship for makes – a combination of production cars from a variety of FIA series – went to Porsche every year from ’76 to ’79. In 1982, Moby Dick saw success in the Australian GT championship at the hands of Alan Jones. Jones remained undefeated for the entire season.
Group 5 eventually ended in 1982, but the 935 was raced for a few years more. However, at this point the car began to exist outside of any accepted specifications making it far from the perfect competitive choice.
GTP cars took over in 1985 and the last significant win for the 935 was at the 1984 12 Hours of Sebring in the IMSA GTP class. There, it competed against a field made up largely of prototype vehicles.
By all counts though, the 935 had an incredible run, which again brings us back around to its legendary status. The 935 is an impossible car to hate, so why did Trevor – and Speedhunters by association – dislike the idea of it returning?Cars Are Cooler When You Drive Them
Our malaise comes from positioning than anything else. Porsche has intentionally – or perhaps unintentionally – marketed the new 935 as more of a collectors vehicle over a buy-it-and-thrash-it race car.
In 2018, we were wholly convinced that not a single new 935 would be driven in any truly competitive manner. Because the fastest way to become a millionaire in motorsport is to start with a billion dollars, right?
Well, thank goodness for Bob Ingram. Bob is a Porsche collector like no other. In fact, he’s generally regarded as having the largest private vintage Porsche collection. Bob took ownership of one of the 77 935/19s with no intention of letting it collect dust.
Cue Jeff Zwart. Jeff, if you’re unfamiliar, has a long history behind the wheel of Porsche vehicles. He learned to drive in his father’s 1964 901, so you might say it’s in his blood. On top of being a weapon behind the wheel, he’s also an accomplished photographer and film director. Being a fellow LA resident and creative, Keiron and Jeff have crossed paths several times.
On one such occasion they did so in the shadow of Bob’s 935. Of course, by this time ‘Zwart’ had been placed on the windscreen, because over a dinner Jeff and Bob hatched a plan to send this particular car up Pikes Peak, hopefully in a record-breaking time.
Not wanting to be left out, Bob’s son Cam Ingram also joined the party with his company, Road Scholars.
The Ingram family and Jeff preparing a 935/19 to tear up Pikes Peak is the perfect response to our own article. Yes, we’re crazy enough to play both sides of the same argument.
Much like the Porsche engineers of yore, the Ingram/Road Scholars 935 isn’t factory stock. With the new 935, Porsche has removed much of the guesswork, but if you’re going to push a vehicle to the end of its limits it needs some level of chassis tuning.
Today, the car has been tuned by Joey Seely at E-Motion Engineering.
Joey is another notable Porsche aficionado, earning his accolades tuning chassis for a wide number of successful race teams. His Luftauto safari/rally cars are nearly as legendary as the 935, as is his work with vehicles that have competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This is to say nothing of his own Project Nasty, an ultra-light ’85 Carrera.
Joey and Jeff also collaborated previously in 2015. Joey was responsible for the suspension geometry and overall build of the record-breaking GT3 you hear, and partially see, in the video above.
One of the new 935s ending up in the hands of true Porsche driving enthusiasts is the perfect tribute to the ethos in which the original cars were created.
Through test outings at Willow Springs International Raceway, Joey saw to it that the KW-based suspension was dialed in to perform at its absolute best. With Pikes Peak now being a paved course, one might argue tuning for it is now somewhat easier, but I’ll leave that debate to the theoretical engineers among us.
When Jeff races he leaves nothing on the track, and the car is now set up to allow him to do exactly that.
Out of respect for the original 935, in 2018 we stated: “Instead we’ll get awesome special edition cars which turn out to be boring and, thus, purchased exclusively by boring people.”
With everything 2020 has served up so far, I guess we shouldn’t at all be surprised at the giant piece of humble pie we’re now being demanded to consume.
The pie tastes a little funky, but it’s great to know that at least one of the 77 new Porsche 935s will see proper competitive track time.
Photos by Keiron Berndt
Archive Photos courtesy of Porsche AGPPIHC-Ready