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Dan Trent: Is the 928 Porsche's greatest sports GT?

12th December 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

Apologies if I’ve been writing about Porsches a lot lately. I guess I’m prime demographic given I’m now a 40-something, my personal vintage meaning 70s and 80s cars are looming ever larger on my classifieds radar. 

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My warped internal logic makes writing about a Porsche 928 different from the 911s I’m usually going on about, there being sufficient distinction between Porsche as a brand and its rear-engined models they count as two entirely separate topics. At least to my mind. Which is my justification to be dreaming of a second bronze-coloured 70s Porsche in the space of a couple of months.

Blame this on the unexpected opportunity to drive a rather special 928, this one a race car restored for the HSCC 70s Road Sports Championship in celebration of 2017’s 40th anniversary of Porsche’s transaxle models. It was driven in the series by 1970 Le Mans winner Richard Attwood, who also competed in a 928 at Daytona back in 1984 and has affection enough for the V8 bruiser to return to the driver’s seat. Personally, I’d never driven a 928 before. Starting with one converted for racing is perhaps an odd introduction but, given the HSCC insists on cars being as close to road spec as possible, it wasn’t as outlandish as you might think.

History records the 928 as the car Porsche created to replace the 911, a task it very obviously failed to achieve. Despite being killed off in the mid-90s, I think its influence is stronger than people credit, the concept of a V8-powered Porsche combining the brand’s sporting prowess with a more refined, long-distance GT vibe revived in the four-door Panamera. The 911 has also, eventually, morphed into something rather closer to the 928 in terms of its refinement and sense of luxury.

I digress. I’m here to talk about 928s, not 911s. Production can roughly be divided into the original with its rather lazy, 240hp 4.5-litre V8. This was joined by a 4.7-litre S in 1980, evolved into a 5.0-litre with over 300ps. The smoother-looking S4 of 1987 was based around the 5.0-litre and had 320hp, with the 5.4-litre GTS ending 928 production on a high. The automatic gearboxes fitted to most did an effective job of blunting what sporting edge there was, the five-speed manuals rare but coveted and showing there was indeed a proper sports car under the 928’s smooth, modernist skin. 

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Prices vary hugely. Late-model GTS versions go for big money, nice examples of S4s now chasing hard. The thrill-seeker in me likes the idea of a cheaper early car and, frankly, I prefer the original, late 70s looks. These are not cheap cars to restore though and there are well-documented (and expensive) issues with the engine. But, you know, buy a £16K car like this 1978 manual, budget £20-£30K on a full restoration and… you’ve spent a lot of money. But as those priced out of the 911 market look for other ways to scratch the Porsche itch I’m banking on values creeping up, the mid-50s you see nice S4s up for showing where they’re headed.      

I like this one because it looks original and the bits that have been ‘updated’ like the rims and steering wheel could easily be put back to 70s authenticity. The owner says he has the original teledials, I’m hoping the same applies to the steering wheel too. OK, as a US market car it’ll likely have the smog-strangled sub-220ps power output too but if you’re going full rebuild anyway that can be sorted out.

Certainly, I was impressed with the V8 bruiser vibe of Attwood’s race car. With this car’s manual gearbox a combination of that and the rouched 70s glamour of its mustard leather interior add up to a rather appealing combination in my eyes. Failing that I could, of course, strip it, cage it and take to the grid…  

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