It was the future, once.
The rural East Anglian market town my partner and I call home has many fine qualities, but it is emphatically not a nirvana for car spotters. Suffolk and Norfolk people have mainly conservative tastes in matters automotive and even our most affluent neighbours tend to drive pretty understated vehicles. The larger and more expensive ones tend to come in SUV shape, with Range Rover a popular choice.
There is one glorious and anachronistic exception to this rule and that is the car featured today, a 1986 Porsche 928 S2. I walk past this car most days* on my short stroll into town. It is parked in a laneway behind the market square and is still an arresting sight, despite its down-at-heel and neglected appearance.
The metallic silver paintwork is flat and the lacquer is peeling off in large patches. There are signs of significant corrosion beneath the bubbling paintwork on the aluminium front wings. The nearside sill has been crudely welded, the patch inexplicably painted black rather than silver. The rubberised front spoiler is falling apart and is held together by cable ties. Inside, the brown leather upholstery has worn well, but there are two nasty cracks on the top surface of the instrument binnacle.
It saddens me somewhat to see such a fine and once futuristic piece of automotive engineering mouldering away. I’ve no idea who owns it or why they have made such an eclectic choice for what appears to be their daily transport. It passed its MOT test in January 2020 with 87k recorded miles on the clock.
The 928 was introduced in 1977 and was meant, together with the 924 launched two years earlier, to herald a new age for Porsche, moving on from the 911, which was considered outdated and its potential for further development exhausted. The 928 was very much an engineers’ car, with simple, functional lines and no unnecessary adornments. Its body-coloured fully integrated bumpers were a mass-production car first. Inside, it was also coolly rational. A unique feature at the time was the instrument binnacle, which moved in union with the adjustable steering wheel, to maintain the driver’s optimal line of sight.
Unfortunately, the first 928 flattered to deceive somewhat. Its new 4.5 litre 237bhp fuel injected V8 engine was not as powerful as might have been expected given its displacement. The drivetrain, incorporating a rear transaxle to achieve a 50:50 weight distribution, was somewhat lacking in refinement. The aero bodywork actually suffered some stability issues at high speeds.
The early issues were gradually addressed, but the 928 design lost its original purity as a result. Spoilers were added front and rear, as well as a clumsy looking rubbing strip to protect the smooth flanks from car-park damage. Despite the 928 never selling as well as had been hoped and singularly failing to supplant the 911, Porsche persevered with it for eighteen years, updating and improving it. Over its lifetime around 61,000 examples were sold.
With hindsight, the 928 suffered by falling between two stools. It was not large and opulent enough to be considered a traditional GT but was not agile enough to be considered a proper sports car. Many 911 owners regarded it with either suspicion or outright disdain.
The 928 has been extensively and insightfully covered on Driven to Write and I would recommend a visit to the archive to find out more about this fascinating, quixotic car.
* But not at present, of course.