Porsche 928 - future classic

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Unique Cars Archives, Porsche

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Designed to save a struggling platform, the Porsche 928 gave the front-engined series proper clout

In the early 1970s Porsche CEO Ernst Fuhrmann and his senior management team must have had a big session on some high octane schnapps, coming up with the notion it was time to farewell the 911 that had served the company so well since1964.

In a radical departure from making small, light, nimble, bare-bone sports cars and convertibles with rear-mounted, powerful, air-cooled flat four and six cylinder engines, Porsche saw their future in premium 2+2 coupes with the engine at the wrong end, (for a Porsche) and cooled by water.

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While today it’s easy to look back in wonderment at Fuhrmann and his merry men (and the schnapps) for their thinking, there was a good degree of logic to the decision.

| Read next: Porsche 928 review

North America was the Porsche 911’s lifeline and in 1966 the enaction of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act gave the government extraordinary powers. In the early 1970s legislation was mooted that would have quashed the Porsche 911, hence the coupes. Luckily it never eventuated and the 911 continues, very successfully to this day.

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First up was the 924 that saw daylight in 1976. Originally a joint venture between Volkswagen and Audi that was discarded, the 924 was built by Audi for Porsche as a new entry-level into the brand. But, the 2+2 coupe was underpowered, underwhelming, unloved and utterly unPorsche.

| Buyer's Guide: Porsche 928/928S/S4

Six years later came the 944 with a new look, a bigger more powerful four-cylinder engine and the hope that it would have greater appeal. It did win more hearts and buyers but never captivated them in the way the 911 had since day one.

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In all, a total of 61,000 Porsche 928s over six variants 928, S, S2, S4, GT and GTS were made between 1977 and 1995.

In 1971 Ferdinand Porsche requested a production-feasible concept for a new model that ultimately became the 928 and by 1973 a prototype was up and about. Then the fuel crisis hit and sales of big engined cars fell like an anvil as car makers scrambled to build econoboxes. The 928 project was shelved.

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An all new shape for the Porsche marque

Sandwiched between the two baby coupes Porsche rolled out a new brand flagship, the 928 at the 1977 Geneva Motorshow. Designed by Wolfgang Möbius it had a powerful V8 up front, drive at the rear and in between a refined, comfortable, well equipped luxurious interior, a true grand tourer.

When it was finally launched in 1977 opinions were divided as to whether it was a true Porsche or not. But there was no arguing about the striking vista of the beefy, wide and low 928, which was overwhelmingly positive. It was 4.5 metres long, sat on a 2.5metre wheelbase, was over 1.8 metres wide and just 1.3 metres tall. Extensive use of aluminium was made to minimise weight and the Porsche-designed 4.5-litre V8 pumped out around 240 horsepower.

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Pop up headlights a first for Porsche

For all its brilliance, including its ability to effortlessly cover vast distances while setting a new benchmark for future GTs, the 928 was ostracised by Porsche purists who saw just one car worthy of the badge – the 911.

Unique design elements of the 928 include its pop up headlights (inspired by the Lamborghini Miura) and the lack of bumpers front or rear that were incorporated in the polyurethane nose and tail sections and were deformation-resistant against minor impacts.

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Another factor making the 928 unique in the Porsche range was its near as dammit 50/50 weight distribution, a polar opposite to the tail heavy 911.

Porsche’s 928 washed up on our shores February 1978 with a sticker price of $54,000, about the same price as a family home in most capital cities. Add to that a long, long list of very expensive options, air-conditioning being one. Standard was a five-speed manual with a three-speed auto attracting a $2000 premium, most buyers went for the auto.

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Even a V8 couldn’t entice purists

Within a short time Porsche added an S version and raised the engine capacity to 4.7 litres. This gave the V8 300 horsepower, silencing earlier criticisms of lack of urge. Those wanting a more powerful shove back into the seat had to fork out ten grand for the privilege. Differentiating the S were its front and rear spoilers and new style 16-inch wheels.

The bigger engine cut 0.8 secs from its zero to 100km/h dropping the time to 6.2 secs, with zero to 160km/h coming up in just 14.8 seconds. Top speed increased to 250km/h.

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Porsche’s Series 2 928 broke cover in 1983. Its official title was 928S Series 2 but the abbreviated 928 S2 term was adopted globally following its use in marketing the car to the British.

Power was increased by a further 10 horsepower to 310, due in part to the employment of Bosch LH Jetronic electronic fuel injection. ABS brakes made their debut on the 928 S2 and a four-speed auto replaced the three-speed unit. Top speed also rose slightly to 256km/h.

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In 1987 we saw the 928 undergo significant upgrades, price rises and the S4 emblem. By now the four-speed auto was the gearbox of choice of buyers. The rear spoiler was now a one-piece unit and under it were revised taillights. Both the front and rear nose and tail sections were reprofiled and inside leather trim replaced the at times gaudy cloth that looked more at home in a disco.

However the biggest change to the S4 was under the long bonnet with the introduction of the 5.0-litre V8 with four valves per cylinder. Power was boosted once more to 320hp. To cope with the greater urge, bigger Brembo brakes were fitted as were wider rear wheels and tyres.

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Despite a 40kg weight gain, zero to 100km/h dropped to 5.5 seconds, it now took just 13.7 seconds from rest to 160 km/h and top speed rose to 270km/h. Fuel use was a heady 19.6L/100km.

The S4 substantially grew sales with customer feedback asking for even more performance.

Porsche obliged with the GT. A manual only model with the widest rear wheels yet fitted to a 928 – 16 x 9s plus stiffer sports suspension and sharper steering for the track focused model. Naturally power got a leg up increasing to 330 horsepower.

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Saving its best till last Porsche ensured the burly 928 autobahn storming GT went out with a bang, creating the pinnacle of the badge, the $240,000 928 GTS.

Porsche’s engine wizards increased the quad cam V8 engine to 5.4-litres giving it 350 horsepower. Zero to 100 now took a mere 5.4 seconds, 160km/h took just 13.2 seconds and top speed increased to 272kmh. To cope with the extra performance, the brakes were enlarged and it rode on 17-inch Carrera Cup style five-spoke alloys. The rear guards were flared to fit the 245/40x17 tyres and the rear wing now matched the body.

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Over its production life, the 928 continually struggled to win credibility with 911 fans, but in the past decade it has been quietly amassing a huge following who appreciate its sublime performance, driveability and timeless classic design that still turns heads today.

Not that many years ago a clapped outproject 928 could be acquired with loose change, as they are a complex car and restoring one could cost more than the national debt of some countries. So as David Morley always says, buy the absolute best one you can for the money you have. But make sure you take a Porsche expert, not a mate to look at it.

You can still find well cared for examples with service history for at not silly prices, for now, and the driving experience is truly exceptional.

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FOR
• A true classic
• Outstanding performance
• Head turning styling

AGAINST
• Complex car
• Expensive to restore
• Professional inspection by a Porsche specialist a must

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1977-1995 Porsche 928

Body: Galvinised steel, with steel and alloy panels, integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
Engine: 4.5 litre V8 (1st model)
Power & torque: 176kw / 363Nm
Performance: 0-100km/h: 7.3sec)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with upper transverse-links, coil springs (f), Independent with upper links and A-arms(r)
Brakes: Discs front and rear

 

 

 

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