A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2

It was the future, once.

All images courtesy of the author

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with the 924 launched two years earlier, to herald a new age for Porsche, moving on from the 911, which was considered outdated and its potential for further development exhausted.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.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

10 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2”

  1. Thank you Daniel for a wonderful tribute to this particular car in all its wonderful faded glory. Clearly it is still a daily driver; the cable ties and basic welds prove to me that the owner still loves the old lady despite her age and wrinkles. And that patina on original paintwork is class; it adds to the true value of the car, in my opinion. What a shame it would be to see her sold to an “enthusiast” and “restored”. Some cars are perfect just as they are.
    (I dearly loved my aged last car which also featured cable ties and lower body welds galore).

  2. The fading lacquer above the headlights lends this Porsche some “eyebrows”, almost as if the car has just completed a huge road trip around the Balkans, dust covered , travel stained and now resting in quiet contemplation after a thorough workout around Dubrovnik and the surrounding passes. This car must brighten up the otherwise staid car choices and I too would look forward to seeing this car, Daniel. Shame to see it down at heel but heartwarming knowing someone still enjoys driving it, however short a journey.

    1. Good morning and thanks both for your thoughtful comments. As someone who has reached the stage in life when, like the 928, I am ‘elegantly patinated’, I do appreciate its character and can’t help but wonder about the life it has led, from the day it rolled out of the Porsche dealership into the care of its first proud owner. I imagine it could tell some stories.

  3. The 928 has aged very well indeed. The body colored integrated bumpers weren’t a mass production first, though. The Toyota Crown had them in 1971.

  4. The 928 was unloved because it compared unfavourably with the contemporary 911 which at that time still was a lean and narrow hardcore sports car with lethal handling and a chainsaw wail of an engine sound. Compared to a 1,100 kg 911 the 1,500 kg 928 was too heavy, too long and too wide. It is only now that a 928 looks small compared with a BMW 6 and other two ton monsters.

  5. You stated “Its body-coloured fully integrated bumpers were a mass-production car first.” What about the 1973-model Corvette C3 front bumper? And for the MY74, Chevrolet did the same for the rear of the Corvette.

  6. Good morning Gromit and Douglas. Thank you for your comments. I stand corrected, although it’s a moot point as to how ‘fully integrated’ the Crown’s bumpers were:

  7. thanks for this Daniel, yes, the stories it might tell. in the
    Australian country town I live in is an unashamedly eccentric
    friend who owns two 928s, one red, one silver. he keeps both on
    the road, at considerable expense, and brushes off my suggestions
    to replace them with a Toyota 86, adament that they suit his need
    to draw attention to his humanitarian work in the community.
    I’ve ridden in them a few times, lots of straight out leg room,
    plenty of thrumming grunt, but I’m still waiting for a drive.

  8. A nice read on a wonderful car. But then again, having known Anatole Lapine personally, I’m biased.

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