Car Lust--Porsche 928
It 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 What they never seem to remember is that while the 911 was unique for its ability to make an outdated formula work, the 928 was unique for being dramatically ahead of its time.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.
The 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.
The video is an original Porsche marketing video for the 928 S4, with typical 1980s marketing flair. A few of my favorite moments:
- 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."
- 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.