Though the 935 is really just a ‘roided 911, it carries a totally different weight entirely. As one of the formative turbocharged racecars, it typifies all of those characteristics that made the word “turbo” both prevalent and synonymous with outrageous — and dangerous — performance in the 1970s and 1980s. Hell, even vacuum cleaners marketed to public consumers were often seen with Turbo scrawled on the side of their bags. They were dangerous times.
Leh Keen ought not be a stranger to any red-blooded motorsport fan. The man has owned a number of wild cars, including a Rauh-Welt 911, raced in numerous GT categories and made a success of himself in just about all of them. The quick hands and courageous late-braking is known to serve him well as he wrestles with this monster chucking out nearly 800 horsepower. Plenty of requisite sawing at the wheel, a laggy turbo setup and monumental acceleration give this old-school bruiser a real character of its own, and allow the tall talent from Georgia to excel through a field made up of talented drivers in eye-catching and very capable machinery.
Keen’s 935 K3 was a modified version that, built by Cologne-based tuner Kremer, tried to emulate some of the 935 Evolution’s bodywork. It also boasted an air-to-air intercooler, and with the talent of Klaus Ludwig behind the wheel, won Le Mans in 1979 in sodden conditions against some of the prototypes. That rear-engined design was far from optimal and it shows as Keen really struggles to get the front end to turn-in precisely, but once it has and a little mid-corner correction has been made, that incredible engine really comes on-song and few cars have the grunt and the rear traction to outrun it.
It’s wonderfully compromised and clearly flawed in some respects, but its seems that the driver who manages to work around these rough edges is rewarded. Even against modern, demonstrably nimbler cars like a 996 GT3 Cup, which has half the K3’s power but runs very neatly through the corners, is not much of a match for the 935 and its sci-fi acceleration.
At 3:35, Keen finds himself nipping at the heels of a modern Cup car despite the 935’s antiquated brakes. Every braking zone in the 935 is relatively long by today’s standards, and what’s aurally noticeable is the slow rate of downshifting. With only four gears to harness 800 horses and long straights, the gearing is noticeably taller than that of a contemporary 911 racer.
The modern GT3 exudes class in the slower corners, and pops away with rapid-fire, staccato gear changes and a normally-aspirated engine, but it is never so responsive as to disappear from the push-prone 935. Mid- and high-speed corners are something else entirely, but they require a specific technique. By turning in early, monstering the curbs occasionally and applying the throttle with little delicacy, a usable amount of oversteer helps point the 935 in the right direction without much wheelspin.
Keen’s bravery and certainty behind the wheel is impressive. Carrying immense speed into Road America’s notorious Turn 11, known affectionately as “The Kink,” Keen continues a rambunctious charge with both turbos whistling and a worrying amount of steering lock on well-past the apex. The car seems to relish in the abuse Keen hurls at it, and it shows as even after he turns the boost down, he manages to keep up with some of other competitor’s cars with Apollo-levels of acceleration. Those old Porsches weren’t the easiest to drive, but they were certainly workhorses.