The Porsche 928 is one of those blessed cars that still seems to pass under the radar of many avid fans simply because it’s bigger, older, louder brother wears all the flashy clothing and has a reputation going back 50+ years. In fact, aside from the 914, I’d hazard a guess that the 928 is the least known Porsche.
So why is a four-seater, two-door, luxury grand tourer from one of the world’s most famous, and prestigious, automotive marques so unknown and undervalued? I’ve no idea. But it makes for a great investment opportunity.
The Porsche 928 is remembered, almost solely, for one specific reason; it was designed to replace the 911, then failed to do so.
As always with history, context is key. And the historical context for the birth of the 928 was the 1970s Energy Crisis. We’re not here to talk politics, but the rising cost of fuel, the shortage of supply, and a model line-up heavily biased towards sports cars was a problem for Porsche AG, even in their strongest market, the US. Something had to change.
After several debates, the direction deemed most realistic for the company, yet in keeping with their DNA, was a grand tourer, and a design study was kicked off by Porsche’s MD, Ernst Fuhrmann, in 1971. It was to be aimed predominantly at the US market and, specifically, BMW and Mercedes Benz; an ambitious attempt at beating the famous German marques at their own game.
Having settled, eventually, on the first front-engined layout in their history, Porsche shunned a rather funky V10 idea (2x V5s derived from the VW Group subsidiary Audi) and settled on a rather wonderful 5.0L V8 with an initial 302 hp (306PS) on tap for the prototypes. But the oil crisis forced the marque to reconsider, and they eventually settled on a 4.5L V8 with 237hp (240PS). It could’ve been worse; a 3.3L V6 had been under serious consideration.
The final product debuted in Geneva at the world-renowned motor show, and went on sale later that year.
With the US receiving only 219hp (222PS) of power compared with 240PS for other markets, and with a novel design unpopular with Porsche enthusiasts, sales were slow. And having changed strategy, and management structure, they backtracked on ending the 911’s production (thank the Lord) and decided to display the 928 alongside the 911 in Porsche showrooms. These were two distinctive products offering different things, after all.
However, as the 928 had a base price much higher than a 911, and a set of performance specs that were, at least on paper, far worse than its older sibling, it took awhile for people to warm to it. But warm they did.
On track, thanks to its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, the addition of the “Weissach Axle” – a variant of the traditional semi-trailing arm suspension that minimised understeer during braking – and a perfect 50/50 weight balance, the 928 handled supremely. In fact, it rendered the numbers irrelevant, competing comfortably with the 911 on track. And having been designed from scratch as a grand-tourer, with around 80% of 928s receiving automatic gearboxes, it was far better to drive long distances than its sibling as well.
In fact, the Porsche 928 was such a technically accomplished car that it won the 1978 European Car of the Year award, and is still the only “sports car” to win the prestigious prize.
Production lasted eighteen years in total, from September ‘77 until early ‘96.
The Porsche 928 oozes ‘70s charm, especially early cars, with those achingly cool rear lamps and the distinctive, but oddly intricate pop-up front lamps. If that’s not enough for you, how about the pioneering steering column-mounted instrument cluster? I mean it moves with the steering wheel! But if all of that isn’t enough to make you fall head-over-heels in love with the 928, and you’re not a fan of the 70s chic looks, it’s also a practical car.
The 928 qualifies as a 2+2, with two small seats in the rear that are perfect for children and pretty acceptable for adults; if you’re popping to the grocery store and back. With its FWD layout, there’s also a sizeable trunk that can be enlarged further with the folding down of the rear seats. And for all those passengers who hate being blinded by the glorious sunshine, there’s row 2 sunvisors as well!
So the 928, in all its guises, offers excellent handling, comfort on long-journeys, typical Porsche performance and a good level of practicality for a luxury grand-tourer, all wrapped up in Aluminium and finished with a generous helping of ‘70s charm. So, which one to invest in?
R&D – Research & Decide
There are several variants of the Porsche 928 that are beginning to draw investor attention, namely the GT and GTS variants. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were the most powerful variants, and certainly amongst the rarest. However, these are also the most expensive versions, which again shouldn’t be a shock to you. This is quite common when investing in the classic car industry. And that’s why we’ve chosen the S4 variant.
Investing in a Porsche 928 is never going to be cheap, and if you find one that is, give it a very, very wide-berth. The wonderful people at Porsche Club Great Britain have an excellent page detailing the dos and don’ts of buying a 928 and you should, as always, do detailed research before you invest in any car. But, needless to say, if something looks too good, it probably is.
Porsche 928 S4
The Porsche 928 S4 was introduced in 1987 Model Year with 316hp on tap, thanks to its 4957cc V8. It came with LE Jetronic fuel injection/EZK ignition, Brembo front brakes with 4-piston calipers and ABS as standard. This is a big deal because the S4 was the first “pure” 928, in that it only came with the 5.0L engine variant. And it was the first 928 in production guise to break the 300hp barrier for the US (Europe and elsewhere were rewarded in 1985 with a 306hp offering).
Not only did it get 316hp under the hood, it came with a complete aesthetic overhaul both inside and out, plus a full reworking of the powertrain; which explains the unfortunate 200lb (90kg) weight gain. But do not let this put you off.
Arriving 10 years into the lifecycle of the 928 gave Porsche plenty of time to iron out all those nasty niggles and problems that are synonymous with early production cars, and whilst the electronics were updated on the S4, and you should be careful when assessing their service history, it’s certainly not something that should stop you investing.
In fact, the S4 proved to be a popular variant in the 928 range, with more than 15,000 produced in a five-year cycle. That’s more than a quarter of all 928s sold.
“So, why is it worth the investment?” I hear you ask, mockingly.
Highs & Lows
Firstly, not all of them are. Normal rules should apply, so check service history, driveability of the car and any signs of mismatched paint that hint at a hasty repair. Depending upon mileage, you’ll want to see evidence of replaced clutches, coolant and steering pumps, whilst oil smoke after start-up could be one of several engine issues. One point to remember is that it’s a Porsche, so repairs aren’t cheap.
Early S4s have fewer accessories, and so are likely to be less temperamental, and the manual variant, which is far rarer and highly desired – especially in the US market – was only on sale for three years, until ‘91.
In terms of aesthetics, paint colours such as grand prix white, lemon yellow, nougat brown and other shades of white, yellow and brown should be avoided in favour of more desirable dark metallic colours such as Venetian Blue, Silver and Ruby Red.
If you do have some extra cash, and you like the idea of investing in an S4 but want something a little more special, keep an eye out for the 1988 928 CS Club Sport. Only 17 were made, in LHD only, and whilst there aren’t too many obvious signs, the Club Sport is 308lb (140kg) lighter and comes with an upgraded engine and twin exhausts.
On August 7th, 1986, American racing driver Al Holbert set a speed record at Bonneville in a pre-production 928 S4. The car delivered a “flying mile” maximum speed of 171.11mph. Though he’d apparently reached more than 180mph in Nardo earlier in the year, this run netted Holbert the United States Auto Club official record for International Category A, Group 2, Class 9, for normally aspirated vehicles. That made 1987’s 928 S4 the fastest non-turbocharged production car in the world.
If that’s not enough to make you want to invest in a Porsche 928 S4, then I don’t know what will.
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And remember, these guides are certainties. They should be considered as part of a general investment strategy. As always, Do Your Research. 🙂