Taming the Widowmaker: Porsche 935 K3
Photography by Federico Bajetti
This was no public event or track day for this historic Porsche 935 “K3” race car, as it was a booked testing session for teams at the San Martino del Lago circuit, in the rural outskirts of Cremona. Petrolicious was invited to the testing session, and it was a pure spectacle.
I never been so close to a 935, and spending the whole day in the company of this legendary Porsche is bucket-list stuff. Despite looking huge and massive in pictures, the car is no bigger than a 930 Turbo. Compared to modern racing cars, the 935 is surprisingly simple: remember this was top class technology 30 years ago!
The aerodynamics are limited to the classic low-down front and a huge rear wing on the back. The interior is similar to the one of a road car, except for additional gauges indicating exhaust temperature and turbo boost plus a switch panel on the right hand of the driving position. The rest of the interior is bare metal and a roll cage.
In our age of electronics, it’s hard to believe cars like these competed in the top class at Le Mans: they had no settings for differential lock, traction control, drink/radio/hybrid buttons, no fancy “overtake boost”—except for the scary Turbo boost knob, appropriately called, “The Widow Maker”. The best feature for me? The tall aluminum stick shift!
The 935 K3 has 4 forward gears, a clutch pedal and no paddles! Wonderful. Its top speed is no different modern cars, with more than 200 mph to play with. As I put my head inside the cockpit to take a closer look, I just try to imagine sitting inside for 24 hours of constant on-the-edge-driving, maybe at night, in the rain, with a persistent smell of racing fuel. I literally have goose bumps by looking at it.
During the first session of the car, we’re joined in the pit by Italian Porsche guru and long time racer Mauro Borella, who will help answer some questions.
What is this car, exactly? This is a ’77 “customer version” of the 935, originally made by Porsche with a single turbo and later modified by Kremer to this specification after a crash it had in 1980.
What’s it like to drive? It’s the most extreme interpretation of the classic Porsche driving style. Consider that these cars were originally made to go really fast in the straight line: their limit has always been the chassis, which was developed from the road car. In fact, it twisted under the massive power and torque of these powerful engines, even if it was reinforced by roll bars and other racing equipment! These cars were technically pushed to the limit. Porsche stopped officially making the 935 because it realized it couldn’t sell them to privateers like it did previously without making drastic changes to the chassis. In fact, the last one made at Weissach—the famous “Moby Dick”—had a completely new tubular chassis, and was only a Factory racer.
Where did you find it? In Germany, in this condition about a year ago and we want to bring it back to its full K3 spec. Today, we’re testing its components to see how the car goes and which kind of work it requires before racing.
What’s special about it? Before becoming a K3, it won at the Nürburging with Jochen Mass at the wheel. Later, it was driven by gentleman drivers in other races. We still have the complete documentation about this car, meaning it was never lost somewhere and then found. We know everything about its history, from its first version as a single turbo, to the races it had done after the conversion, including results and accidents suffered. We also have the original Wagenpass technical document and loads of old period documents and photos.
What are the differences between a K3 and a regular 935? They’re much different: the engine has two turbos, the suspension is modified, it has bigger brakes and a reversed “upside-down” type gearbox in order to let the titanium axles work straight and lower the CG, and different bodywork and aerodynamics. In the end, the 935 K3s were basically a new 935 model made by Kremer to keep these cars up to date as Porsche stopped making them because they had so much power they bent the chassis! Oddly, Porsche featured K3s that were not factory-built for their official posters and press releases!
What’s next? Our idea is to keep it original, and do only minor modifications, and have it re-homologated to actual FIA Historic security standards. This car came 5th in class and 13th overall at Daytona, so it belongs back to the Daytona Classic race.
Many thanks to the Owner, Porsche expert and racer Mauro Borella and GT Car Racing of Dario Bonzi for the awesome day.