|Used Car Buying Guide:
|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? 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
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 ¼ 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
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.