Flattery only goes so far…
For a brief moment after its introduction at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, it seemed that Porsche’s 928 was THE car. Very much the antithesis of everything traditionally Porsche by being front engined and watercooled, the 928 was a bold move by the German manufacturer. The ingenious Weissach rear axle and the instrument binnacle that moved with the steering wheel as it was adjusted were testament of the amount of thought put into the intended, over time at least, 911 successor.
With a body composed of mostly rounded forms and compound curves the 928 also went against the stream of the vast majority of late seventies car designs. Being crowned 1978 European Car Of The Year; that title carrying considerably more marketable prestige compared to today, was icing on the cake, although the events would illustrate that the 928 would not be the answer Porsche, or many of its customers, were looking for.
Success, either genuine or perceived, inevitably stimulates imitation and emulation. Probably the first was the weird Rayton Fissore Gold Shadow shown at the Turin Motor Show in 1978. Based on the Autobianchi A112, the portion aft of the B-pillars left nobody in doubt of its stylistic inspiration.
A few years later Zagato presented the Alfa Romeo Zeta 6 at Geneva as a proposed successor to the GTV6 upon which it was based. Here again an unmistakeable 928 flavour permeated the overall appearance; neither vehicle would lead to series production.
The unfortunate AMC Pacer of 1975 is shown here as well for completeness’ sake since some feel the 928 borrowed some of its styling cues, being so far apart in concept and intended market, simple coincidence seems to be a more plausible explanation.
Across the Atlantic however, a startling little 928-inspired car did make it to (admittedly limited) series production. Paulo de Aguiar Goulart was owner of a large VW dealership and importer of Ferrari, Maserati, BMW and Porsche for the greater Sao Paulo region; the company located at the Avenida Cidade Jardim was named DACON (Distribuidora de Automoveis, Caminhoes e Omnibus Nacionais).
In the seventies Dacon started to offer conversions based on various Volkswagens: pickups, stretched limousines and the fitment of Porsche engines to Brasilias. Soon, de Aguiar Goulart established a separate company since he intended to produce cars, VW based, of his own design; the name PAG which stood for Projects d’Avant Garde but conveniently also were his initials. The somewhat unusually named Nick and Chubby were two of the cars PAG peddled on its home market.
De Aguiar Goulart also had an idea in his head to create an extremely compact car; he had been tinkering with the idea in his workshop since the mid seventies and near the turn of the decade had readied a crude prototype on a shortened VW Beetle chassis. So much had been taken out of the wheelbase that the rear bench had become the driver’s seat.
Anisio Campos, a friend of de Aguiar Goulart who was a domestic car designer (of the Puma sportscar for example), noticed the car during a visit and expressed his interest in the contraption. Campos suggested refining the basic concept, and the two men agreed to develop the idea further and more seriously. The result of their work was ready in 1982 and cheekily named Dacon 828. De Aguiar Goulart explained that 828 stood for the year 1982 and the eighth Dacon project but anyone looking at the little vehicle of course knew better.
The rear of the 828 was simply a smaller rendition of its big brother from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen; what looked like 928 taillights were in fact Volkswagen T2 Bus items mounted horizontally – a clever and effective touch. The tiny light alloy wheels mimicked the famous telephone dial alloys of the real thing as well. To create the interior Dacon raided the Volkswagen Gol and T2 Bus partsbin.
The fiberglass body of the 828 rested on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis shortened by no less than 31 inches. To facilitate access to the front suspension, steering and brakes the front portion of the vehicle was removable by unfastening six screws; the bottom part of the rear bodywork could also be removed in similar fashion if the regular engine compartment lid provided insufficient access, and it of course also made extracting the entire engine easier.
The front suspension was taken straight from the Beetle, but the rear suspension was from the Volkswagen Variant II in the interest of improved stability. Initially there was talk of a range of different engines but ultimately only 828s with the 1.6 Litre Volkswagen aircooled flat four were produced. This powerplant delivered 65 hp which resulted in a maximum speed of 88 Mph which was probably enough for this type of vehicle.
Just 104 inches long but 63 inches wide, the 828 was extremely compact yet offered room for three people. It was marginally longer than the later Smart ForTwo but quite a bit lower and wider. Not many fellow Brasileros shared De Aguiar Goulart’s enthusiasm as just 47 were sold until Dacon called it a day in 1994. There are no records of Porsche’s reaction to the 828; they must been aware of its existence but either saw the humour of it or did not consider it worth the trouble of legal proceedings.
Another product from Dacon displayed an even stronger likeness to the 928 but was made in even more limited numbers. Simply named PAG Dacon and first shown in 1984, this vehicle was based on the more contemporary Volkswagen Gol floorpan and thus front wheel driven. The windshield and internal door skins of the Gol were also utilised in its construction, as were several elements of the interior. As was the case with the 828, the body was made out of fiberglass with a steel frame inside of it; the same trick with T2 Bus taillights was applied here.
The larger PAG Dacon had room for four and its front mounted 2.1 litre watercooled inline four cylinder VW engine put out 99 hp, enough to propel the 910kg mini-928 to a maximum speed of 114 mph. Reportedly Dacon produced about ten of these cars per month but there is no other reliable data available, what is known is that Dacon became defunct in 1996 – PAG had already preceded it five years before.
Together with the disappearance of Dacon, its home-made automotive products were thought to have expired as well, but in 2003 a Brazilian company by the name of Obvio! presented the 828/2 – a slightly restyled Dacon 828. Its body was made from a special bio-plastic reinforced composite developed by GE Plastics.
Under its skin the 828/8 was quite different from the ancient VW Beetle since it featured an aluminium chassis, four-wheel independent strut suspension and disc brakes on all four corners – a prudent decision since the tiny 828/2 was now powered by decidedly more powerful Brazilian-built Chrysler Tritec engines with between 115 and 170 Hp. A ZF Ecotronic CVT transmission provided drive to the rear wheels and the redone interior, with room for three as before, featured airbags.
In 2005 Obvio! made the news when the American distributor of alternative vehicles ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) announced that it had purchased a 20% share in Obvio! and planned to bring the little 828/2 to the United States even though apart from a couple of prototypes Obvio! had yet to put a single car on the road.
The usual optimistic press releases and a projected price starting at US $14,000 followed, but no 828/2 was ever sold to the public. The fact that the Smart ForTwo was not exactly setting the sales charts alight since its introduction in the USA should have been a clear warning sign. On top of that the Tritec engine factory closed its doors in 2007 which presented another hurdle.
Obvio! continued to show variants of the car, including the 828E -an electric plug-in version with a range of 200 to 240 miles, and hybrid powered 828H. The car was also restyled once more, this time more thoroughly with Lamborghini-style scissor doors. So far no production of any 828 variant has ensued however.
Many thanks to Daniel O’Callaghan for his kind assistance in creating the lead illustration of this article.