Turbocharging: Is It No Longer Cool?


turbos not cool

IF you own a YouTube, and are about as interested into cars as Theresa May is about Brexit. Then I’m guessing that you enjoy and have a slow orgasm over the sound of a naturally aspirated engine of some sort.

You might also have yourself to believe that turbocharging cars these days has killed off the soul and beauty of the engine as a musical instrument.

You may believe that turbocharging is like stuffing a clarinet with sheep’s wool, it’s all going to sound wrong!

But 30-40 odd years ago, we looked at turbocharging in a completely different perspective!  So how on earth did we change our minds?

Well, let’s talk about it.

Heroic Beginnings

turbos not cool
Nobody ever complained about this engine, did they?

You may think that the first turbocharged cars consisted of the Europeans with the BMW 2002 Turbo and the Porsche 911…erm…Turbo.

But the thing is, you’d be wrong!  It was the Americans that introduced it to road cars!

Specifically, it was the 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire (pictured below)

turbos not cool
Believe it or not 😉

Most American cars during the dawn of the Cuban Missile Crisis were generally powered by huge, lopey V8s which had big torque, but were about as fast as an otter in a 100m sprint…

The Jetfire though, was much different.  Instead of saving the world, it was made to shift around it…quickly!  It could reach 0-60 in just under 9 seconds with only 215 cubic inches of that F-85 V8!

Due to reliability issues, it never really caught on.  Plus the big block muscle cars, later in the decade had triumphed over it.  So turbocharging never caught on until a decade later.

turbos not cool
Despite it probably killing you, turbos were as cool as Armani shades!

During the dawn of the early ’70s, turbocharging became a growing trend amongst European sports cars.  And perhaps the most famous of them all, was the Porsche 911 Turbo 930.

With 300bhp on tap, this Beetle with a wing could easily keep up with all the other massive and bulging supercars of the time!  It Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Aston Martin to keep a good eye out!

And this alongside the BMW 2002 Turbo and even spiced up domestic cars like the Saab 99 Turbo, showed the world that turbocharging was the coolest way to power a car.

From turbo vacuum cleaners to turbo spectacles, to even turbo hair dryers.  This was the hugely popular word that replaced ‘swing’ or ‘Iggy Pop’.  Turbocharging was the meme of yesteryear!

turbos not cool
A truly great car.

And if you were a child of the ’70s dreaming that one day, you’d be able to own a car with a turbo.  Then you’d be in luck, because throughout the ’80s, turbocharging was bigger than spandex!

Spandex And Rallying

turbos not cool
You’d need balls of steel to drive this thing quickly!

The ’80s was a wash of bright jeans, frizzy hair the size of Mars, and Duran Duran.  And what a decade it was for the turbocharger, because this little instrument that sucked and recycled air had become the darling of the forest!

I’m talking about Group B rallying!

The Audi S1 Quattro was hugely successful, as was the mental Frankenstein boffins at Lancia, who churned out the insane 0-37, Delta Intergrale and the S4.

Even Peugeot stepped onto the bandwagon with the 205 T16, rallying of this epic decade was made up of two things: big turbos, and even bigger turbos.

Nevertheless, everyone thought that this forced induction thing was insanely cool!  Any car with the word ‘Turbo’ on the back was praised as the one below God.  Take the Volvo 242 Turbo for example.

turbos not cool
I love these things!

 

Then It All Started To Die Off…

turbos not cool
Natural aspiration was making a comeback.

Now, you may have noticed that the Porsche Carrera GT pictured above isn’t actually turbocharged at all.  And that’s obviously right, it’s powered by a 5.7 litre V10 kicking out 612bhp and 435 lb-ft of torque.

What it’s representing though, is the movement of engines throughout the ’90s and the early 2000s.

Turbocharging had become hideously unfashionable, and keen drivers had become fed up of turbo lag.  So engines after the ’80s tended to drift away from turbocharging and were more in favour of natural aspiration or (at some points) supercharging.

Of course, cars of the early ’90s were famously turbocharged.  Like the Jaguar XJ220 or the Audi RS2, or even at a stretch, JDM icons such as the Nissan R32, 33 and 34 Skyline GT-Rs and the WAY over-hyped Toyota Supra twin turbo.

Supercars of the new millennium were free breathers, gone were the days of turbo lag and it was now time for insane engines such as the M156 6.2 litre AMG V8.  Which was noticeably brilliant in the fabulous Mercedes SLS.

turbos not cool
This has to be my all time favourite supercar!

Then Things Went Seriously Wrong…..

turbos not cool
Well…. damn

Now it’s finally time to answer the question which I’ve written at the top of the article, has turbocharging lost it’s cool?

And the simple answer is, yes!

Because instead of a dream that every child acquires, turbocharging has become an essential component in a school pencil case to manufacturers.  They’re now the actual pencil.

Because of emission laws and regulations, every dreary car now has to be turbocharged so it can save a 2 meter iceberg, that floats around aimlessly.  It’s ridiculous!

turbos not cool
Good lord…

The word ‘Turbo’ is no longer strapped to a heroic,flame spitting, 5 million horsepower rally car power-sliding through the Scandinavian wilderness, oh no!

Instead, you’ll now find the word shamefully resting on a fat yank’s Citroen, with the owner hopelessly depressed with his Greggs’ coffee, and disappointing by how his Biro ran out during his shift.  How awful!

You can still buy a Porsche 911 Turbo, but that’s a problem.

Because apart from the GT3 and RS, EVERY 911 is turbocharged!  Confused yet?

They’ve become essential sugar to making fast cars, we just don’t love turbos like we used to.  It’s a real shame.

 

And that pretty much explains why turbocharging has lost it’s cool.

I do hope you enjoyed reading the article!  Leave a reaction if you did.   Thank you for reading 🙂

 

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