And the Porsche 935 Turbo from Tandy/Radio Shack was a very nice, large model that many still remember, based on one of the world’s most dominant racing machines in the late 70s and early 80s.
Fact: Of the 370 races that the mighty Porsche 935 series of racing cars entered during their halcyon days, they won 123 of them. Including the 1979 Le Mans 24 hours endurance event. No wonder there were so many Porsche 935 toys released when I was a kid.
While I knew little of the results of the great European and US sportscar racing events where these powerful, exotic machines built their legends (save for the occasional clip on TV), it didn’t seem to matter. Sports cars as beautiful as this needed no introduction, even to a 5 year old.
When I first became aware of the R/C cars available at Tandy in the early 1980s, I also learned that the biggest, fastest, and most expensive one they sold was one called the Porsche 935 Turbo. It was a toy I was never going to own and which I could only admire from afar – such as a glimpse or two when we visited a Tandy store, or many hours spent looking at the pictures in the Tandy catalogues that arrived in the mail…
But then one day, I grew up (sort of). And then someone smarter, invented eBay.
The model featured on this page is new in box. I actually bought it from a former Tandy shop owner who had kept a small treasure-chest of old, never-run examples of Tandy R/C vehicles, in storage for many years.
First released at Tandy/Radio Shack stores in 1981, the Porsche 935 Turbo was actually manufactured by a company called Daishin – and sold under that brand in Japan from about 1979 onwards as the “Martini Porsche 935 Turbo”. It was also sold under the Procision brand in the USA. These earlier Daishin and Procision examples featured a different transmitter style (more boxy and grey) compared to the one included with all Tandy/Radio Shack examples.
The vehicle was quite advanced for it’s time. Yes of course the hobby grade kits from Tamiya had been out for a few years already and were still superior (including their own stunning 1/12 Porsche 935 model, after which this model was clearly inspired). But when you’re too small to build a kit comprising hundreds of tiny parts, a nicely finished ready-to-run model such as Tandy’s offering was actually a more tangible object of desire.
And while many early R/C toys were smaller vehicles, here was a reportedly ‘1/12 scale’ (although it’s quite close to 1/10) Digital Proportional machine that actually wasn’t too far below the standard of the early electric hobby-grade kits of the late 1970s. Daishin are a company known to have made a few actual hobby-grade on-road models as well, around that late 70s / early 80s period.
As mentioned earlier, it was Tandy’s most expensive R/C toy – retailing for $89 or $99 in an era when spending that amount was about the equivalent of spending $300 in today’s money. I didn’t know anyone who owned this model.
The car was initially released in white, in a very “Martini” racing colour scheme (except with the Martini branding replaced by ‘Radio Shack’ of course)…
In 1983, a black version was released…
And then finally, the red version featured on this page, which was available during Christmas 1984.
Ah, Christmas 1984…
I tend to be a bit partial toward the red version (although I do own the white one as well) because it’s the one I remember most from the catalogues, and from that particular Christmas when I spent extra time lusting over the toys at Tandy. And now, here it is…
While Tandy sold a different colour each year as part of refreshing their R/C line-up, the white version does appear to have had one internal difference as well – it had a slightly larger motor (Mabuchi RS-380S) compared to the red version – something I learned when snooping around inside them. Obviously this means the white ones will have a little more pace (and ruins the myth that “red always goes faster”). It may have been that Radio Shack cut costs between the initial ones, and the later ones.
However, the red model still performs pretty well enough. Having grown up wishing I had this car, let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed when I finally got a chance to try one out – in a toy-grade sense at least.
Performance is very smooth. The car picks up quite gradually, and with the radio having decent reception quality it glides around on smooth surfaces quite enjoyably (and realistically). The speed isn’t that fast, but as a result comes across as quite ‘scale’-like. Although it does pick up after a few seconds – given the large number of batteries it uses, and on a large, open straight I imagine the top speed would be good fun. Just not explosive.
The ‘Turbo’ in the name doesn’t refer to any turbo feature of the toy’s performance, rather it’s a reference to the use of turbo by the real vehicle.
That large (but unobtrusive) metal bumper is handy, as you don’t want to slam this hard-plastic bodied racer into any walls. There are more than a few of these models out there with those front corner headlight covers, cracked or missing altogether.
As mentioned, this car isn’t too far below the standard of early hobby grade on-roaders. It has a working differential, and some very simple, basic spring suspension, and a Digital Proportional radio. And that was quite a lot for 1981 (let alone 1979!), when some of the most popular $100 R/C toys released in later years still didn’t even have all these features.
Another fun fact is that the Porsche 935 Turbo was once featured in a small book called “Model Cars”, published in 1981, that attempted to give a very basic overview of toy car collecting, from die cast models to slot cars and R/C. In it, they devoted a single page to a basic description of R/C cars, and offered a few ‘Procision’ brand models as examples. (Both the book and Porsche image are shown to the left).
I like the Dunlop tyres and other real sponsors too, like Hays, Champion etc…
All in all, it’s a really nice, well-proportioned and realistic model that a lot of people remember for it’s size, and which I often enjoy just looking at on the shelf as much as driving.
In terms of collect-ability however, it varies. These cars aren’t actually all that rare, and you’ll usually see one come up on eBay somewhere in the world every other month or so. What is difficult though, is finding one that both works and doesn’t have any broken body parts – such as the headlights and side mirrors, not to mention decals that are still in-tact (as they had a tendency to peel). Generally the value will be under $100, and may be as little as $20 for a really rough example. But if you can find a brand new one, the price will be much higher.
It’s definitely a model worth tracking down, especially if you like Porsches (or old school sports cars in general). And the smell of the vintage Tandy RC rubber and plastic takes me back to 1984 as soon as I open the box.
On this page: Tandy/Radio Shack Porsche 935 Turbo (1981)
|Suspension||Yes (Rear only)|
|Batteries||5 x C, 4 x AA (Car). 6 x AA (Transmitter).|