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Car Lust--Porsche 928

Porsche9281It is inconceivable to me that the Porsche 928 doesn't have a more glorious reputation than it does. What was one of the all-time great cars of the 1980s (with some spillover from the 1970s and into the 1990s) is remarkably often regarded as a bloated, fat, ugly failure of a car, somehow barely worthy of the Porsche name.

Bah! The 928 was a fantastic car that helped define the sports GT category, marrying supercar performance with comfort and everyday practicality. The 928 had such an embarrassment of ability that it captured the imagination. Considering the standard of its time, it had incredible top speed and high-speed cruising ability; married to its relaxed nature and natural comfort, that made the 928 the perfect choice for bombing along the Autostrada at triple-digit speeds while listening to Chopin, or for compressing a trans-Montana drive from five hours into three. Think of it as an executive Lear Jet for the road.

Porsche purists, conditioned to rear air-cooled engines, never seemed to warm up to the 928; its water-cooled V-8, front-engined configuration, and relaxed athleticism made it an anethema. What they never seem to remember is that while the 911 was unique for its ability to make an outdated formula work, the 928 was unique for being dramatically ahead of its time. In many ways, the 928 provided similar performance without the 911's hard-edged compromises. The 928 offered one of the first truly modern high-performance V-8s in the late 1970s and, by the end of its run in the early 1990s, the 928 S4 was one of the fastest cars on the road. All this and a hatchback to boot!

The 928 doesn't have a great reliability record, and parts are expensive. Plus, its bloated styling came in for some abuse; some uncharitable folks compared the 928 to a bar of soap left in the shower too long. It should come as no surprise that I find the 928 unique and beautiful--its zaftig lines are aggressive without looking like every other car on the road, and the laid-down headlights give the car a unique personality it would not otherwise have had.

Porsche9282The 928 continued to get faster and more refined through its life, but from a stricly aesthetic perspective, I think the early 928s are the prettiest. Later in the car's life, Porsche seemed to try to flatten and sculpt the 928's characteristic soft curves, and for me that goes counter to the car's basic appeal.

But early or late, I'd proudly drive a 928, and to heck with the people who just don't get it. The amazing thing is that older 928s are remarkably affordable for what they are--thanks no doubt to the lack of public respect for the car and their evil reliability reputation.

All of these fantastic photos came from Flickr. The first two came from user Gwagenrally, the third from aMT, and the gorgeous moon shot from joscii.

The video is an original Porsche marketing video for the 928 S4, with typical 1980s marketing flair. A few of my favorite moments:

Porsche9283- I love the unsubtle elitism at play in this video. "Since good taste and exlusiveness have always had a cosmopolitan flair, Porsche's sucess is international. ... the car is an expression of exclusiveness and individuality." The car is later pictured driving at about 20 mph into a mansion's driveway. Way to play up the car's capabilities, guys.

- The Amiga-era computer graphics--especially the slow-motion animation of the combustion cycle that kicks off around the 3:30 mark--is just fantastic. You know that cost Porsche a pretty penny.

- There's a truly puzzling sequence that begins at 4:21; a guitarist and flamenco dancers take center stage and begin a musical number, with only an occasional shot of the car behind the dancers. There's no narration, no context, and no focus on the car. It lasts 30 increasingly confusing seconds and is completely inexplicable.

- That's immediately followed by an equally long dissertation on the history of Spain--the country where "all roads lead to the sun. ... The hardships of travel even in recent times, and the comforts one enjoys in a Porsche 928 S4 are worlds apart. A simple comparison of costs and time spent on the road would probably help even a time traveler to choose the century in which to visit Spain."

Porsche9284_2Um, yeah. Not enough car companies use that kind of language today to sell their cars.

- At the very end, after waxing eloquent about Spain and the safety and comfort of the 928 S4 (no comment on its performance), the narrator concludes, with a significant tone of voice, the non sequitor "Driving in its purest form knows no bounds."

Not only is that maddeningly vague, but it's also completely out of character with everything else in the video. I imagine some enterprising copy writer came up with the line, and the marketing team liked it so much that they threw it in as the final line even though it didn't really fit.

--Chris H.

Comments

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Knowing that you like SVXs, it makes sense that you like this car. Many, MANY svx enthusiasts have a daily driver SVX, and a weekend 928. They're very similar to drive, I've heard, with the 928 being the faster one, and the SVX being more reliable, and a better daily driver. Both are great touring cars, and both cruise quite comfortably at 80-120mph for hours on end. In fact... I got my SVX out last week, and after driving my late 80s hondas for a few years, I really hate the way it drives until about 70mph. After 70mph, the whole thing wakes up, and I become one with the road. It's a shame that speed limits are so low, because it really was meant to cruise at 80+. Everything feels more responsive, exciting, and 'right'. I'm sure it's the same with the 928.

Both economical and environmentally compatible?! Buzzwords all, I say. This is a truly bizarre video, but the obviously nice Porsches (Apparently not driven by Rally drivers) and Flamenco dancers apparently make up for it. Owning a 928 would be a challenge, but driving a trans-axle car with a European V8 would certainly be fun. Perhaps more fun than a Buick station wagon. Not designed entirely by Audi, this one.
I don't think I'd go for a late one, the early one had a non-interference engine and mechanical fuel injection, late had EFI and an interference engine. It's definitely a sweet looking car, and possibly a trouble-maker.

A car I've always liked. Whenever I see one, I'm reminded of the movie "Risky Business" -- a teenage Tom Cruise engaging in illicit hoonery with his father's 928, and later dumping it in a lake because he didn't quite set the parking brake. (After it's fished out, the service guy at the Porsche dealer asks, "OK, who's the U-Boat commander.")

If I had the money, I'd get the 928 over a 911. "Money" as in time and money for the upkeep, though I don't know if the reliability thing is really true or not.

Was this the one the guy had in the movie "Looker", one of my fave early '80s films? Whatever, I'd love to tool around in one.

I've always lusted after a 928GTS. But the cost of service and repair is astronomical. Here's Top Gear's take on the car:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVQt_RCyjcs

There is only one way to explain the Spain thing in this video. August holiday. The time when every good German packs his gear and heads south to the Mediterranean coast of Spain. German tourists form an invading horde. Their antics are well known, despised, and broadly parodied. The Germain tourist has much the same reputation as "the ugly american". I'm guessing that at the time this video was shot Spain was becoming the hot destination and exotic local that was close enough to drive to, and had a very favorable exchange rate with the then Deutsche Mark. I'm pretty sure the idea was to create a sort of aspirational vacation/travel video, and encourage wealthy germans to pony up some cash, and head on down to the coast.

Even the line about "Driving in its purest form knows no bounds." starts to make sense in this context. With a 928 you can "shorten" the distance to the beach. It conveys the sense that you can jump in your 928 and travel in luxury as you invade the still rough recently post-Franco Spain.

I like the 928. I actually like the 924 better from a styling perspective. But the front engine rear trans-axle layout was really smart. It's a great sports touring machine. I know everyone is lured to Porsche for the rear engine thing, but the 911 is a killer. It's a great car but not well behaved. The 928 would be a comfortable and quick ride with good road manners.

I'm all for barbaric cars like the 911, but I think the porsche purist thing is kind of a joke and a pretty silly perspective. There are all these cars that are supposed to be "not a real porsche". My question is "is it a good car".

The 914 is another one of those cars that gets a lot of snorts. It's a really cool little ride.

Speaking of which, reminds me of dashboard design. Cars from the early 70's had really minimalist simple dashboards that were confined to the area immediately below the windscreen. Sometimes an optional console was added for things like secondary gauge clusters. The 928 has a complete wrap around dash console system - which is the current standard for almost all modern cars. It's no big deal really, but I'll tell you something, I really miss the old, confined, and minimalist dashes on cars like the 914 and the Squareback. There was so much room under the dash you could set up a small apartment in there - complete access to everything - and very light.

Very nice page!
I own a 1992 928 GTS, 1991 944 S2 and a 1972 911 Targa. They are all driver cars and I like them all. BUT if I could only keep one Porsche it would be the 928, a no brainer.
The 928 is a real Porsche no matter what others say. My GTS is 16 years old and has 121k miles on the engine. The car still runs fine and feels like it just came of the assembly line. Sure it is not state of the art anymore and other cars are probably better...
But show me a 16 year old car that can outperform nearly everything that is on the road today. As soon as you hit the triple digits on the speedo, you understand what this car is designed for. The 928 and especially the GTS is the best GT car that was build from 78 until 95 in the world. Timeless design on the outside and inside, paired with an all aluminium V-8.
What else do you need in the fast lane on the Autobahn?

I had an '87 928 S4 for several years, and I've been looking ever since for that combination of performance and comfort.

I'll never forget a 150mph blast up the road to go and visit a friend, who was shocked that I got there in one hour instead of the two he expected. Early Sunday morning, nobody on the road, no towns between, a perfect time to enjoy her capabilities.

the following week, I routinely pulled all the wheels to check on the brakes and a rear brake disc had a BIG CRACK in it.

I'm lucky I didn't make a two mile long streak of red smoking bits on that trip! Imagine a shattered exploding disc at 150 mph... locking up the rear wheels, cutting lines and electric wires, maybe even lopping off the rear wheel entirely...

I think I've found my middle-aged practical 'settle for it' combination of performance and comfort in the Infiniti G35 coupe. Not quite the same level of power as that old DOHC five liter V8 monster, but nearly 300 hp, in a car with useable back seats and a trunk, wide space between the seats so both can use the armrest comfortably, and swoopy lines and great handling sort of reminiscent of that great old car.

Meanwhile it doesn't have vacuum-line driven accessories or a hot wire 'air mass flow' fuel meter or any of the things that inexplicably failed to work properly on that 928. Don't get me wrong though.. if I find one for the right money, I'll jump right back in.

What a car.

You sit in my 928, with sheep-skin covers over the wide seats, and you just expect to be comfortable. But there really is nothing very comfortable if you were in the passenger seat last weekend when I left a friend's house deep in the desert and pointed the shark's nose down a very empty, straight and apparently flat road toward the Salton Sea. Somewhere past the 100-MPH mark, it's clear the road really isn't as flat nor as straight as it looked. This is a very heavy car, with weight in the front, but past 130 MPH the waves and ripples in the sun-baked pavement were enough to make my passenger feel very uncomfortable. The good news: the 60-mile ride to the intersection and the traffic didn't take long. I have a friend who used to drive his 928 in comfort from LA to Tucson in about as many hours as he has fingers... The Porsche people hate this car - to them, this car looks like it has two four-cylinder engines and they don't get what's up with the Merscedes automatic transmission. It's built for comfort and for speed.

I was slightly acquainted with Tony Lapine back at GM Styling in the fifties and, if I am not mistaken, he was chief of design at Porche when the 928 was
done. I was impressed beyond words when it came out but I don't believe it has held up as well as the 911, 912.

I own a 1995 Guards Red 928 GTS with 35,000 miles. http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y159/WizzoTFTS/1995%20-%20928%20GTS/07Concours.jpg

It is no more expensive to maintain than any comparable quality vehicle. The 1995s, BTW, are even appreciating!

Normally I hate driving as I find it totally boring. Not in the 928. You become one with the car. I can drive it for hours and never lose the edge of pleasure.

The 928 was Porsche's own 911 killer. That it failed was pure karma. I don't have a huge amount of sympathy for the 928. It didn't have the dynamics of the 911 it was supposed to replace and it didn't have the nimbleness and almost perfect balance of the 944 (which I race).

But it was the car that Tony Montana drove in Scarface, so that counts for something.

There is no possible direction you can do a trans-Montana journey in just 3 hours, even with a 928.

On the major east-west route, if you kept it in triple digits, you might get all the way across the state in about 7 hours.

North-south, on I-15, you might do it in 4, most likely closer to 5.

Trust me. That's my home state.

That was a very nice write up about the 928! I could hardly agree more! As you might guess from my screen name I am a BIG 928 fan! I currently have SIX of them. TWO GTS's (1992/1994)! They are FREAKING AWESOME!

As noted above they are no more expensive to keep up than other Porsche's or other cars in general in that price range. In fact today they are probably cheaper than when new because of all the 928 specific dismantlers, retailers, and customizers! It really is amazing how the 928 community has grown and changed over the last 15 or so years!

They are SUPER to drive on streets but on a fairly open track if you are a good driver you will scare the heck out of the pre-997 911 and Boxster guys with how fast this car can go! I have over 10,000 track miles on my '88 S4! AWESOME car on track! Of course it is NOTHING compared to the 928 race car! Built for the GT class with Porsche Club of America racing!

You guys sitting on the fence GET OUT THERE AND GET A 928! It might take awhile to find the right car for the right price, but you can find them in decent driveable and liveable condition for $4000 and up! Of course if you want you can spend $45k+ on a late model GTS!

I prefer the GTS's looks, but the original body style (OB in 928 speak) handling! My race car is set up more like the OB cars with non staggered wheel sizes and wider front track so the car does not understeer like the later cars. That is of course safer, but much less fun on a race track!

I think the car has fared quite well in terms of style too! Back in '99/'00 people would ask me if my '88 was new! It just looked so right, so modern, so current!

Oh, Tony Lapine is the FATHER of the 928! He GOT IT RIGHT!

Maybe you guys will enjoy some pics:

http://s280.photobucket.com/albums/kk185/pcar928fan/?albumview=slideshow

Run the slide show in reverse starting with the car in white and ending in blue, that is how it should go...

Best!

The styling of the Porsche 928 copied the ground-breaking AMC Pacer. Other than being lower and longer, the shape of every 928 panel, glass or steel, finds a counterpart on the Pacer. Even the headlight and tail light placements are nearly identical.

The 928 is ugly and awful, and your pictures look like a 924 which was even worse.
Joe

I was going to say something exciting, but I think someone used up the site's exclamation mark budget for the next 5 months...

:)

I want one!

I've never understood why people didn't like the styling of the 928. I've loved its looks since it first came out, and I think it's the 2nd-best-looking non-exotic (i.e., non-Italian) ever, after the 64 Jag XKE. The rear end, IMHO, is the best-looking ever.

Thanks for the fine write-up on a great car. But I wish I hadn't learned (from Pcar928fan's comment) how affordable they are now. Now, the little wild man inside my head is thinking how much more fun a 928 would be than my sensible SUV. Is my mid-life crisis finally here? ;-)

Richard, your SUV is anything BUT sensible. It's a stupid vehicle driven by mainly posers who live in the suburbs, and commute with it. If you realize the folly of your ways, sell the SUV before nobody wants it thanks to gas prices (oops, too late), and get the 928. Life is short. Why drive some boring soccer mom SUV with crap handling/acceleration/braking? Drive something unique and fun. :)

Rob, your enthusiasm is all well and good, but calling people names is usually not a good way to win them over to your side.

I don't live in the 'burbs, but from time to time I have a need to haul big, bulky things. And to traverse miles of high-clearance 4WD roads to get to a remote trailhead or campground.

Those needs may be stupid to you, but not to me. So until I go crazy and decide a divorced man living alone can justify 2 vehicles, I'll stick with the Pathfinder. And reminisce from time to time about the fun I had in my Datsun 2000 when I was young.

Richard, if you've got the capital, go for it! My wife and I (no children) have two vehicles in the garage and two in the driveway. They range from 8 to 41 years old, and the lowest odometer reading amongst them is 112K. Like you, I'm seeing the 928 (and others) as potentially high return on investment vehicles, the return being the incredible potential for fun. I just can't decide what car to get rid of . . .

I had always wanted a 911, but when my brother in law bought a 928 anniversary gold one of that year, it changed my opinion. The car was fast, comfortable,
and less hard-edged than my sister's 911. I bought one of the first American "S" models from very late '82. It has been a perfect vehicle. The friend that sold it to me had to make room for his other vehicles; he knew that I admired it and let me buy it. I have never regretted it. It is capable, generally forgiving of mistakes, and years ahead of it's time. Great machinery is a passion; it ranks with the very best.

This is the Porsche I've always wanted. I fell in love with it after seeing Phil Rudd driving it on the AC-DC clip of "Walk All Over You":
http://tinyurl.com/3we4vt

In the last shot it is evident how small it is, when Bon Scott sits on the front of the car. I was just a child, but this video still resonates in me as a lover of both the 928 and AC-DC.

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