“Direct descendants of Porsche’s RS/RSR warriors, these wide-bodied, normally aspirated 911s are in a league of their own”
– Paul A. Cadrobbi from Panorama, Racing Pedigree: M491 Carreras
Big Is Beautiful
Let me start by reiterating that I love all 911s. I can sit and admire the understated beauty of an early 911T, the undeniably cool duck tail of a 73 911RS or the sleek lines and timeless design of the 78 SC. But if you ask me (or likely anyone that grew up dreaming of 911s) to draw the prototypical Porsche, there is a very good chance you are going to get a massive rear end, aggressively wide fenders filled with asphalt hugging tires and a whale tail to top it off. This gorgeous 1974 IROC Carrera RSR for example:
Image credit – Alex Anderson
Porsche had huge success in the 70s and 80s racing with the ultra wide 934s and 935s. I’m guessing the design of the wide-body 911 was born from necessity rather than from some designers creative mind. They needed really wide tires and an innovative suspension to keep their rear-engine race cars going around the track at ludicrous speeds without killing the drivers. Wide tires with the 911 design means wide fenders. They needed a spolier and a place for a large intercooler and the whale tail was just the thing. Practical German engineering at it’s finest.
Image credit – Conceptcarz
In Comes The 930 Turbo
In 1974 Porsche unleashed their first production turbocharged 911 on an unsuspecting public, a new legend was born. One look at the 930 and you can see the direct influence of the race cars that inspired it. Ultra wide tires under flared fenders, the massive whale tail and of course that fire breathing turbocharged power-plant. The engine started out as a 3.0L 260 hp turbo, growing over the years to end at 3.3L and 300+ hp. In 1989, the last year for production of the 930, the 4-speed transmission was replaced with the 5-speed G50 transmission. As a result, the 1989 930 is one of the most desirable Porsches today in terms of collectability and appreciation. The 930 was known for many things. It was a true drivers car with incredible acceleration. It was beautifully aggressive to look at. It was also famous for the unpredictable turbo lag coupled with unforgiving handling. Take your foot off the gas at the wrong time in a corner and you were in serious trouble. A great driver could hope to control but never fully tame the car and a lazy driver was likely to wrap themselves around a tree.
Image credit – Gearheads and Monkeywrenches
Finally, We Get To The Turbo Look 3.2 Carrera M491
In 1980 due to US emission regulations the 930 was pulled from the North American market and it didn’t return until 1986. This left a huge hole for any driver in North America that wanted the aggressive looks and increased performance of the Turbo. The aftermarket tuners jumped on this and started turning the 3.2 Carreras into turbo-look cars. The quality of the body work ranged from frighteningly bad bondo jobs to conversions so good they were almost indistinguishable from factory produced 930s. But even with the good ones it was hard and very expensive to go deeper than wide fenders and spaced wheels and tires. The 930s had a very different suspension setup to take full advantage of the wide-body, bigger brakes, bigger wheels, etc. and to replicate this was a massive undertaking. But people did it to varying degrees of success.
Porsche woke up to the fact that they were losing money to the tuner market and in 1984 they began offering the M491 option on the 3.2 Carrera. It remained an option on the 3.2 from 84 to 89. The 87-89 models also have the G50 transmission just like the standard Carreras. Finally, direct from the Porsche factory, you could order your normally aspirated Carrera with just about everything the Turbo had, minus the actual turbo of course. This wasn’t just a Carrera with stretched fenders. It included:
- The wide-body
- The turbo whale tail
- The turbo wrap-around chin spoiler
- The turbo suspension
- The turbo brakes with 285 mm cross-drilled discs and four-piston aluminum calipers
- The wheels and tires
- A slight weight increase but a noticeable handling improvement over the standard Carrera
The M491 option didn’t come cheap. This wasn’t like deciding whether or not to splurge on the electric seats or the sport steering wheel. Prices for the M491 option ranged from $10K to $15K extra depending on the year. The high cost kept orders and production numbers low, making these genuine M491 equipped models very special, very rare and increasingly a good investment.
How Many Were Imported Into the North America
This is a hotly debated topic but the one thing that most people agree on is that the numbers are low. The Turbo Look Registry site seems to have the most comprehensive data:
Total imported between 1984 and 1989: 1852
Coupes: 1984-354, 1985-213, 1986-76, 1987-62, 1988-37, 1989-15
Targas: 1984-0, 1985-65, 1986-58, 1987-45, 1988-32, 1989-15
Cabriolets: 1984-1, 1985-113, 1986-226, 1987-305, 1988-171, 1989-65
Sites like the Turbo Registry are also trying to determine how many of these cars are still on the road. The M491 Carreras were highly desirable as track cars given the Turbo handling paired up with the bulletproof 3.2 engine and they were somewhat overlooked until recently as collectables. This means that the number of great condition, low mileage examples are low and likely to increase in value if kept in original condition. I’ll see if I have the discipline to do that or not.
I did not have the discipline to keep the car. While I loved the way it looked, I wanted something more modern and it was sold to a car collector in California – https://www.911mania.com/87-m491-wide-body-turbo-look-911-cabriolet-for-sale/