When you wanted outrageous looking Porsches in the 1980s, Uwe Gemballa's workshop in Leonberg, Germany was the place to be. Having modified many Porsches into special one-offs with custom interiors, special paintwork and glassfibre spoilers, the Porsche 911 Turbo (930) based "Gemballa Avalanche" that was introduced in 1985 really put Gemballa on the map when it came to showcars. The Avalanche was more about looks than performance, even though it was powered by an uprated (by famous Porsche-tuner Alois Ruf) 3.4 litre Porsche turbo engine that now produced 375BHP, about 75 more than the factory engine. And when it came to those looks there were few if any Porsches who could match the Avalanche.


Beautiful or not, there was no denying Gemballa's Avalanche. The wheelarches, mainly those covering the huge rear wheels are downright impressive, especially if you take into consideration the fact that they've been handbeaten out of metal and not made from glassfibre as was the case with many of the widebody conversions in the 1980s. Interesting details are for instance the door handles which aren't visible because they have been placed underneath the bulge in the door, basically at the same height and place as were they used to be. The rear spoiler (which is huge by the way and would cast a great shadow over the original 911 Turbo one) is not a metal piece but merely one made from plastic. The same goes for the strange looking spoiler that covers part of the rear window.


13 Gemballa Avalanches were made in a timespan of about 8 years and it's interesting to see most of them are different in details, some small, some bigger. When Gemballa introduced the 930 Turbo based Avalanche in 1985 the car (at least te first two or three in fact) were fitted with stream line wing mirrors which were later on replaced by rearwards facing zoom-cameras that could by monitored inside the car via a CRT-screen in the instrument panel. Opting for the cameras in stead of the mirrors would cost 30.000 DM alone. Other details in which the cars differ are the noses of the cars. All Gemballa Avalanches are fitted with the trademark of 1980s Porsche tuning, the slant nose. However one of the first cars, the deep purple one, was fitted the standard Gemballa slant nose from their parts program. Most cars, including the famous white-on-white one and the red one were fitted with a special air-dam that moved up or down depending on the speed the car was doing. The most extreme exeption was one car, another purple or dark blue one, which didn't have the air-dam, but had two extra (making a total of four) pop-up headlights. More differences could be found in the interior, types of wheels (BBS or Ronal) used and the way the rear lights were modified. Most cars had heavily tinted windows and some cars a fridge/bar behind the front seats.


Prices of the Gemballa Avalanche varied, depending on the extras that were fitted, but started at 350.000 DM. 30.000 DM was charged for the video-survaillance system, in-car entertainment system with TV and video was yours for 21.000 DM, bar behind the front seats with compressor in the trunk 12.500 DM, tinted windows for 9.000 DM and a personal safe for another 9.000 DM. 80s exclusivity doesn't come cheap.


In the early 1990s Gemballa made an Avalanche spoiler program for the Porsche 911, model 964 (from 1989 onwards) which showed much resemblance with the 80s Avalanche but had some important differences including less spectacular gadgetry, a slanted nose with different headlights which weren't of the pop-up type anymore and obviously a modernised spoilerset (bumpers and sideskirts).



One of the first Gemballa Avanches, from 1985. It has the streamlined wing mirrors and no cameras yet.


The slanted nose and front bumper came from the standard Gemballa range. The wheels are 15" Ronal ones with the centre painted in the special deep purple/blue color.


A good view of the Gemballa Avalanche's huge rear wing and rear window covering spoiler. Due to the heavily tinted windows there's no possibilty to look inside.





Possibly the only RHD Avalanche, this white car with a white interior, almost certainly made for a Japanese or other Asian (Brunei?) customer. This very car was the showpiece on the Gemballa stand at the IAA Frankfurt in 1986. 


Still an early model, with the regular mirrors. This view demonstrates the wideness of the rear wheelarch compared to the front very well. Although very wide, Gemballa managed to retain the cw-value of the original 930 Turbo.



Two spectacular photos of the white Avalanche on a test track.




In contrary to the purple car above, this Avalanche has been equipped with the airdam in the trunk, very clearly visible between the two pop-up headlamps.


These two photos show the 3rd braking light very well, that's been hidden underneath the real spoiler. Also note the new mount for the reflectors, which in contrast to the original Porsche part, don't fill the whole space between the tail lights. 




When it came to the interior Gemballa was one of the best in the business. All white leather with black piping, Recaro type C seats, stearing wheel with buttons to operate the Pioneer stereo and special digital instruments.




This particular car was made for an US-customer. Most likely one of the first cars fitted with the rear-view camera system, which replaced the mirrors.



A great view of the huge wing of the Gemballa Avalanche. The picture also reveals the special paintjob, that consists of two different tones of red, the front of the car being sprayed in a lighter tone than the rear.


A great demonstration of the air-dam in the nose of the Avalanche. When this particular car was first shown to the public it didn't have this feature.


 Same car, different wheels. In the previous photos this Avalanche was fitted with BBS rims, in this one it has the 15" Ronal wheels. This photo is probably slightly older.


A look inside. Compared to the previous cars the biggest difference is the monitor for the camera-system. Gemballa digital guages and steering wheel with buttons to operate the cameras (zooming, switching from left to right).


A look inside. Compared to the previous cars the biggest difference is the monitor for the camera-system. Gemballa digital guages and steering wheel with buttons to operate the cameras (zooming, switching from left to right).



The craziest of all Gemballa 930 Avalanches was this car, mainly because of the headlight arrangement: four pop-up headlamps in a row. This Avalanche was built sometime around 1987.


All those lights made the Gemballa Avalanche a very unpleasing to the eye, but very much a showstopper.



The inner two lamps could be lowered separately which made this Avalanche look kind of normal again.



The rear end showing the typical Gemballa exhaust-system, with three pipes on either side.


A close-up showing the camera fitted inside a streamlined console.



The bowels of the Avalanche: a lot of electronic equipment for the hifi-system, the TV, the camera-system and all the other high-tech components of the car. The top-view shows a very interesting view of the foulded in pop-up headlights.




One of the Gemballa cars that was built in corporation with Pioneer to demonstrate their latest in car HiFi (other Pioneer-Gemballa cars included a Gemballa 930 Cyrrus and the Gemballa Mirage Evoluzione).


Front-view showing the Pioneer-logo on the trunk. This car was Uwe Gemballa's personal.



The interior is the Avalanche standard: all creme leather with special piping, Recaros, digital instruments and the TV in the middle for the cameras. 


The Pioneer-power in the trunk.



Porsche 930 Turbo gets converted: Gemballa Avalanche in the shops in Leonberg in the mid 1980s.


 A nice view of one of the professional cameras used in the Gemballa Avalanche.



In the early 1990s Gemballa presented an Avalanche based on the 964 model Porsche 911. Allthough clearly an Avalanche, the differences are obvious: the more modern bumpers and skirts, the 1990s slantnose with clear headlights and the lack of gadgets like the special cameras. The airvents to the rear wheels seem to be different as well, not as deep as on the old version, following the shape of the original 911 Turbo.


Still featuring the triple pipes on either side, and with the newer Gemballa wheels (photo taken in 1993).





Text: copyright Bram Corts 2013


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