Used Car Buying Guide: Porsche 928
20 Oct 2004 by: Martin Buckley

 

The idea of a cheap out-of-fashion Porsche is nothing new. The 914 and 924 will probably never shake off their entry-level image - nobody really aspires to a Porsche with a VW engine - and as the myth of the 911 grows stronger they are destined probably never to have their moment of glory. But what will become, I wonder, of the 928? This V8-engined GT, far from being a subservient weakling to the older rear-engined car, was the Stuttgart flagship of the late '70s. A fashionable hatchback, it was a real Porsche groomed to be the 911's successor.

Yet, despite its excellence it somehow never captured imaginations to the same extent. It was developed only in a limited way - it gained 50 horsepower over an 18-year lifespan - and ended up playing to a different constituency of buyers looking for a supercar that was a little less edgy. 4000 928s were imported into the UK out 40,000 built in total. America got most of them but funnily enough they are worth more in the States than they are here, and even more in Australia, where a 928 will command up to six times the UK price

2005 will be the 10th anniversary of its demise. Although there is talk of a 'new four-door 928', the focus of enthusiasm for all things Porsche remains with the classic air-cooled rear-engined models. Prices of 928s have bottomed out now at around the 3000 mark for a tidy, running example, making these 160mph coupes some of the great bargains of the classic supercar world.

Supercar? Specialist Paul Anderson of www.928Spares.com, based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, struggles to think of them in such terms: "When I think of a supercar I think of something temperamental and Italian that goes wrong all the time... 928s just aren't like that."

Paul, a former toolmaker in his early thirties, drives his 928 to work every day. His interest began only three years ago, with an inauspicious start: "I swapped an Audi Quattro for an automatic 928 and blew it up on the way home." But the Porsche was Paul's only transport at the time, so he bought another one, a manual, and used it to convert the original auto to a manual. "I broke the rest up for spares and that helped pay for all the work. That did quite well so I bought another one, and the spares business has slowly built up like that."

Paul's fame as a 928 guru has spread. "It's got to the point where almost everybody with a 928 from the Midlands down comes to me. Some cars from Europe too: one guy brought his car over from Oslo!"

Although later four-cam versions like the GTS are more complex, the 928 employs early '70s technology on the whole, making it an easy car to maintain, says Paul. "People think there is a lot of witchcraft involved in these cars but in the end it's just a car."

Eight or ten 928 parts cars surround Paul's unpretentious workshops today, but sometimes you'll find 15 or 20 awaiting work or being broken. He points out a red S2. This is Alex Higgins' old car. This is what he was running around in when he was snooker world champion. It was a complete car when it came in but it's slowly been robbed for spares. It's still one of the straightest shells I've got."

That's the weird thing about the 928: it doesn't rust. All the cars in graveyard appear virtually corrosion-free. The yellow 928 next to the ex-Higgins car is the 100th ever made, from 1977, still showing absolutely minimal rust (just a few small paint bubbles) although there is evidence of a hefty accident at some point.

"A lot of the cars have been badly neglected by owners who don't appreciate what is involved in maintaining them," says Paul. "Many of them run and drive fine but as soon as you put your foot down the exhaust erupts into a pile of smoke: it's crankcase pressure from slightly worn rings that the engine's breathing system can't cope with. It's simple to put right but it does involve pulling the engine out and pulling it apart. It costs about 1500 and I can turn it around in a couple of days - or you can just live with it if you don't want to use the performance to that extent. It's worth checking stall speeds in the auto gearboxes." While rust is never really a problem because the cars were so heavily galvanised, the electrics can be "dodgy" if the car hasn't been used for a couple of years. Nothing that can't be set straight, though.

Interest in 928s is certainly growing. "A lot are being dragged out and used now, though it doesn't seem to be helping the prices. The later cars are still falling in value because of their relative complexity but I tend to get more requests for the early cars with the Teledial wheels. I find them faster - I proved it with my mile times on the drag strip - and I just prefer the earlier shape. The interior didn't change much, either."
 

You can get a good usable 928S automatic for 3500. The rare manual versions command a 1500 premium. "Manual cars are another game altogether, although the boxes can be worn, clutches are expensive to do and they are easier to crash..." Still, it's not a bad place to be if you do have a shunt. Paul shows me a 928GT that had slid off the road and hit a telegraph pole at 50mph.

"The guy got out with the engine still running. I've seen a picture of another one that came off the road at 150mph and the guy walked away."

Paul works mainly on his own and spends most evenings packing parts and replying to e-mails. He insists "you can run these cars on Fiesta money, almost, if you know where to find the parts and are reasonably handy with a spanner."

Surely the 928's wilderness years cannot last indefinitely? Prices have bottomed out and the fact that Paul has just sold a 928 to a presenter of a well-known television motoring programme could be an indication that they are due for some high-profile exposure.

Twenty-five years on, the 928 may just be about to have its moment of fame. I can't help but think it's the looks that always held this car back in its heyday, but even they work for the car now rather than against it. Paul Anderson sums it up nicely. "In its day I think it was a bit ugly, like a Sierra almost. But as time has gone by it almost looks more modern now than it did then. That's part of the attraction - you get a classic car that doesn't look ancient." You also get a classic that doesn't rust, has supercar performance without requiring heroic driving abilities and doesn't throw a fit if you want to use it everyday.

All that for three-and-half grand? What are you waiting for? Ring Paul Anderson on 0781 6668088.

 


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