Landing on the scene in 1978, the Porsche 928 is a sport-GT car sold by Porsche AG of Germany. From the beginning the 928 was meant to be the replacement of the legendary 911. At times the 911 had undergone some criticism so Porsche hoped to eliminate that with the brand new car that handled like a sports car but had the luxury features of a sedan. Porsche had produced only six front-engined models, with four of them being coupes, including the 928. This special model holds the distinction of being the only Porsche coupe fueled by a front-mounted V8 engine, and the company's first mass-produced V8 powered model.
Porsche was growing at a drastic pace during the late 1960's and wanting to keep up with popular markets, they toyed around with the idea of adding a luxury-touring vehicle to an already impressive lineup. Fearing that the current golden child the 911 was nearing the end of its lifespan and would reach a point of being unable to be improved on, Managing Director Ernst Fuhrmann put pressure on owner Ferdinand Porsche to approve development of the new model. Sales of the 911 were falling and seemed to hint at a future need of such a vehicle that was more than a pure sports car. Fuhrmann had a vision of a brand new range-topping car that combined all of the best possible parts of a luxury sedan and a sports coupe. He wanted it to feature the power of sports car with the comfort and luxury on the inside to drive long distances.
Fuhrmann began a design study in 1971 after receiving the go ahead from Ferry Porsche and eventually creating the final specs for the 928. During initial development various drivetrain layouts were put on the table and included rear and mid-engined designs, but most of these were disregarded due to technical and/or legislative issues. Wanting to avoid the same issue that the 911 had, the emission and noise control was something they wanted to do avoid by not having the engine, transmission, catalytic converter(s) and exhaust crammed into a small rear engine bay. The mid-engine layout didn't provide enough room in the passenger compartment so this was disregarded in favor of a front engine/rear wheel drive layout. There was also the fear that the U.S. government might ban the sale of rear-engined cars in response to issues over safety problems with the rear-engined Corvair.
Desiring a large-displacement motor to power the 928, the design called for a 5.0 L V8 that produced close to 300 hp. Ferdinand Piëch had hopes for a 4.6 liter V10 with 88 mm bore spacing, based on Audi's five-cylinder engine, a derivative of the Volkswagen Golf EA827 engine. Unfortunately a few members on the Porsche board disagreed and instead opted for a Porsche AG, keeping a separation from Volkswagen. Their objection could have had been in their unwillingness to have their star player powered by a variant of the modest VW Golf engine. Little did they know that this same engine would eventually be installed in the Lamborghini Gallarado; a production sports vehicle. No Porsche would ever use an EA827-based engine to this day.
The subsequent M28 engine finally designed featured several unusual features, like bore spacing 122 mm, nearly the same size as a Chrysler 426 hemi or a big block Chevy engine. The M28 uses thick aluminum cylinder barrels, which results in the lower displacement. Designed for airflow at the beginning, the spark plugs were found at the top of the head of the engine. Porsche found a clever way to feed oil to the four-bolt bearings, which were huge, through grooves in the bottom surface of the block. The timing belt powered oil and water pumps and the design of the engine lets good air flow yet a very low hood. Around 200 whopping pounds less than its American colleagues, the all-aluminum construction results in a big block V8 that weight 550 pounds.
Only for original testing, the first two running prototypes of Porsche's M28 V8 used one four-barrel carburetor and the cars were sold with the intended Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system. Smaller engines were put on the table as a possibility when mounting concerns within the company over costs and availability of fuel during the oil crisis of the 1970s. There was a desire by some for the development of a 3.3 L 180 hp powerplant that specs had been drawn up for, but the Porsche engineers dug their feet in. A compromise was reached and the decision was made to use a 4.5 L, DHOC 16-valve V8 that produced 240 PS. This was considered a good combination of fuel economy matched with performance.
Introduced at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, the Porsche 928 went on sale later as a 1978 model. Sales were sluggish to start with, but before long the car would achieve warm praise for its comfort and power. Unfortunately the pricetag was quite a bit heftier than the previous 911 at base and the 928's front-engined, water-cooled design didn't find favor with many Porsche traditionalists.
Peter Schutz, Fuhrmann's replacement felt that there was still life in the erstwhile esteemed 911, and chose to market the models side by side. Rear-engine vehicles thankfully didn't receive the legislation that had been originally feared. Though it may not have achieved the monumental success the designers had hoped, the 928 enjoyed an eighteen-year production run and plenty of satisfied customers.
Driving the rear wheels of the 928 was the huge, front-mounted and water-cooled big-block V8 engine that originally displaced 4.5 L and had a single overhead camshaft design. Producing 219 hp for the U.S. market, the engine produced 237 hp in other markets. In 1980 the U.S. model engine was upgraded from mechanical to electronic fuel injection, though power remained the same. Since Porsche cars up until now had only used rear- or mid-mounted air-cooled flat engines with four or six cylinders, this design was monumental in marking the evolution of the marque.
To help the car's balance, Porsche used a transaxle in the 928 to help maintain 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. Weighing more than the 911, the 928 however had a more neutral weight balance and higher power output which gave it a similar track performance. Drivers considered the 928 a much more comfortable and relaxing car to drive.
A five-speed dog leg manual transmission or a Mercedes-Benz-derived automatic transmission were offered on the 928. The automatic initially came with three speeds, but from 1983 on in the U.S. and the following year in other markets a four-speed was offered. Over 80% of Porsche 928's had the automatic transmission.
Wolfgang Möbius, with the assistance of Anatole Lapine, was the man behind the styling of the 928. The body was mainly galvanized steel, but the doors, hood and front fenders were constructed in aluminum to make the car more lightweight. Through a large hatchback there was plenty of luggage space. A unique feature for the time, but one that helped make the car look even more attractive were new polyurethane elastic bumpers integrated into the nose and tail and covered in body-colored plastic. Porsche didn't offer a convertible option of the 928 though several aftermarket modifiers did make their own version. The most famous of these being Carelli; a convertible conversion, which was sold as a complete car with the conversion doubling the price of the car. Based in Orange County, California, a total of twelve models were made.
Since it had two small seats in the back, the 928 qualified as a 2+2 vehicle. To make the luggage compartment bigger the rear seat could be folded down. Both the front and rear seats came with sun visors for passengers. Because of the prominent transmission hump the rear seats had to be small and were really only suitable for children or the average adult for a short trip. To aid in maximum instrument visibility the instrument cluster was moved along with the adjustable steering wheel. The 928 was the first vehicle that this adjustment was made for.
Various innovative updates were found on the 928 such as an unsleeved, silicon alloy engine block made of aluminum that reduced weight and delivered a highly durable cylinder bore, and the Weissach Axle, a basic rear-wheel steering system that delivered passive rear-wheel steering to increase stability and at the same time braking during a turn.
Snatching a win at the 1978 European Car of the Year, the 928 beat the BMW 7 Series and the Ford Granada and was the first and only sports car to win this competition. Winners were typically mainstream hatchbacks and sedan or saloons from major European manufacturers. Porsche's pioneering design and development was rewarded and proved just how far ahead Porsche was from their contemporaries at the time.
From 1978 until 1979 the styling of the 928 remained the same. Front and rear spoiler were added to 'S' models in 1980 and remained until 1986, though they arrived later in 1983 in North America. The rear spoilers were joined into the hatch. The front spoiler was integrated into the nose from 1987 through 1995 while the rear spoiler evolved into a separate wing instead of an integrated piece, and side skirts were added. Set apart from previous version, the rear taillight configuration was different. GTS models needed more room for 9' wide wheels so they had wider rear fenders. Another update that separated the 928 versions included the wheel style with early 928s featuring 15' or 16' 'phone dial-style wheels' and more later 1980 models had 16' slotted 'flat discs', CSs, SEs and 1989 GTs with 16' 'Club Sport' wheels. Later GT models had 16' 'Design 90' style wheels that were also optional on the same period S4s while GTS used two different variations of the 17' 'CUP' wheels.
In 1979 Porsche debuted a refreshed 928 S in the European market. This model wouldn't make it to the North American market until 1983. The 928 S featured brand new front and rear spoilers and had wider wheels and tires than its predecessor. The biggest change though was found under the hood with a revised 4.7 L engine. In Europe the version was introduced with 300 PS (221 kW/297 hp) and the following year was upgraded to 310 PS (228 kW/306 hp), though rumors flew that the hp was closer to 330.
Called the S2 in the UK, the ROW (Rest of World) S model was introduced in 1984 and ran until 1986. Featuring a purely electronic Bosch ignition, these cars used Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel injection, which was the same system used on the later 32-valve cars, though minus the pollution controls. The U.S. spec '83 and '84 S models had several differences from this model which included milder camshafts, smaller valves, narrower intake manifolds, and addition pollution equipment which was necessary to meet the emission regulations. Because of these changes they were limited to 234 hp.
The European faster ROW model wasn't available in the U.S. and Canada during its first three production years. A 'Competition Group' option was created to give North American patrons an S model twin with spoilers, sport seats, 16' flat disc wheels, sport springs and Bilstein shocks. The customer could choose their paint and interior colors just like on a standard 928. The package was offered in both 1981 and 1982 but was cancelled in 1983 once the S model was made available in these markets. Many models have had S model characteristics added by subsequent owners, which made the original 'Competition Group' models hard to distinguish without checking option codes.
Two exclusive models were debuted in the 1982 model year for various markets. In North American the 205 'Weissach Edition' car featured champagne gold metallic paint, two-tone leather on the inside and matching brushed golf flat disc wheels. It also featured a plaque that held the production number on the dash and an exquisitely collectible three-piece Porsche luggage set. These cars weren't made with S spoilers though they were offered in the U.S. during this time period as part of the 'Competition Group' option. In 1980 the 'Weissach Edition' option was offered in the US and the 924 in 1981.
To commemorate Porsche's 50th year a 140 special'50th Jubilee' 928 S model was offered outside of the U.S. and Canada. Sometimes referred to as the 'Ferry Porsche Edition' this model featured his signature embroidered into the front seats. It was fitted with flat disc wheels and was painted meteor metallic, and featured wine red leather and special striped fabric seat centers. Comparable 911 and 924 specials were also created for ROW markets.
In 1985 Porsche revamped the 928 S by replacing the 4.7 L SOHC engine with a new 5.0 L DOHC unit that featured four valves per cylinder and produced 288 hp. The seats were also modernized in a stylish new way. Privately these cars were sometimes dubbed S3 to separate them from 16-valve ROW 'S' models. The European models maintained a 4.7 L engine that was more powerful as standard while the American-spec 32-valve engine together with catalytic converters became an option for 1985 in various European countries and Australia. Marking the final changes to old body style cars, in 1986 the suspension settings were updated and bigger brakes with 4-piston calipers and updated exhaust were installed on the 928S. The 928S4 was scheduled to debut several months later and these changes were directly from it. These updates began with VIN 1001, and meant that the first thousand '85's kept the old brakes, but later cars had the later systems. Sometimes this later 1985 model was referred to as a 19861/2 or 1985.5 because of these alterations. Unfortunately the name is confusing since more than ¾ of the '85 production featured these updates.
During the latter half of 1986 as a 1987 model, the 928 S4 variant was introduced. It featured an updated version of the 5.0 L V8 for all markets that produced 320 PS (235 kW/316 hp). Giving the car a much smoother, clean look the S4 underwent several significant styling revamping along with a new single-disc clutch in manual gearbox cars, and a larger torque converter in automatic models. A lot closer to a true world car than previous models before it, the S4's only major differences between ROW and US models were lighting, front and rear bumper shocks, instrumentation in either kilometers or miles and the accessibility of catalytic converters in many ROW markets. The only version with different horsepower rating was the Australian version at 300 PS. But this was made without any engine changes and was due to preparation for low-grade fuel.
In 1988 a Club Sport version was introduced. About 220 pounds lighter this model was a diluted variation of the '87 factory prototype, which had a lightened body. This same year the factory produced four white lightened manual gearbox S4 models for specific racecar drivers. They were so similar to actual Club Sport models that they could be considered prototypes. An SE model was introduced in the UK that was a combination of a typically equipped S4 and the more race-oriented Club Sport. Sometimes it was dubbed the S4 Sport because of model designation on the rear bumper and it was believed to produce more hp than the regular S4. The automatic gearbox wasn't available and the model used parts that eventually became known as GT cams, pistons, engine ECU programs and a greater, short-geared manual gearbox.
A digital trip computer in the dashboard was added in 1989. At the same time in Australia models got the same 320 PS (235 kW/316 hp) engine management setup as all of the other markets. The 928 GT was introduced later in 1988 as the CS and SE versions were quietly dropped due to low sales. The GT was similarly equipped as the 928 SE as it featured more equipment than a Club Sport, but it had less than a 928 S4 to keep the weight down. The GT was only available with a manual gearbox and also had the ZF 40% limited-slip differential standard like the CS and SE. Standard feature was an RDK tire pressure monitoring system on ROW 1989 CS and GT wheels. This was an optional feature for the ROW S4. The next year Porsche made RDK and 0-100% variable ratio limited-slip dubbed PSD or Porsche SperrDifferential standard in both GT and S4 models market worldwide. This system is nearly identical to the 959 one that gave the vehicle more grip. The S4 wasn't available anymore with a manual gearbox in 1990.
At the close of the '91 model year the S4 and GT variants were taken off the lineup and replaced with the final version of the 928. The 928 GTS debuted in late 1991 as a 1992 model in Europe. It arrived in the U.S. in the early spring of 1992 as an early 1993 model. It featured updated bodywork, bigger front brakes and a formidable new 5.4 L, 350 PS (257 kW/345 hp) engine. Porsche wasn't advertising the pricetag though. In 1995 loaded GTS models could cost more than $100,000, which made them in the ranks of the most expensive cars on the road. This impacted sales even though the model had an extensive standard equipment list and impressive resume. Porsche discontinued the GTS model after only 77 models were shipped to the U.S.
For all production years the total worldwide numbers was a little over 61,000 cars. Because of high maintenance costs due to spare parts too pricy to manufacture second-hand models value decreased. The earliest versions, especially the ones equipped with the Bosch K-Jetronic injection system can be repaired more easily because they had few electronic components and spare parts could easily be found. In the U.S. there are several part suppliers made of enthusiastic Porsche fans. As of 2006 the GTS model was rising in price according to Classic Motorsports, March 2006 issue.
When Porsche introduced the front-engined, V8-powered Cayenne SUV it was met with great enthusiasm. Porsche announced in 2005 that a new V8-power 4-door grand tourer model called Panamera would be introduced in 2009.
A special edition 928 model called the 942 was created for a 75th Birthday present to Ferry Porsche in 1984. The model is also called 928-4, 928S. The wheelbase was 10 inch longer than a normal 928 production model and included an elongated roof above the rear seats for tall passengers. It also included advanced projector headlights and the yet un-released 5-liter 32-valve engine. The 942 also featured the S4 front and rear bumpers two years before they entered production.
In 1987 the extended 928 that had been created for Porsche founder's 75th birthday showed up as a 'Feasibility Study and now sported a second set of doors that opened the same way as the doors on the 21st century Mazda RX-8. The 'Study H50' didn't seem to go anywhere, but twenty years later the Porsche Panamera appeared.
In collaboration with tuning company AMG, in 1986 Porsche created several long wheelbase 928 specials. These models had normal 928 headlights until the Porsche 942. One was given as a gift to American Sunroof Corporation founder and CEO Heinz Prechter. The ASC was eventually part responsible for making Porsche 944 S2 cabriolets.
Never officially entering a racing 928 for a pure works entry, Porsche 'arranged' a 928GTR to compete against the then leading 911 on the racetrack. Porsche asked Max Moritz Racing their longtime private racing partner to enter this 928GTR Cup as a 'semi-works' car. The marque didn't want to offend sensibilities of their traditional 911/993GTR customers by challenging them officially with an outright Works – 928GTR. The drivers were Manuel Reuter (Porsche works pilots), Bernd Maylander, and Harm Lagaay; the Head of Porsche's Design Studio. The 928GTR was officially entered by Porsche-Club-Schwaben. It weighed 3,000 pounds and according to Lagaaij it was a very competitive vehicle able to hold most 964 CUP GTs down. Porsche's 928 production ended in 1995 so the car wasn't raced in the new season.
Porsche shipped one of its experimental 'All-aluminum' 928S to the Brumos Racing Team for the 1984 24 hours of Daytona with the instructions not to modify the car in any way. Porsche desired to promote the performance of the 928 in the U.S. The drivers were given specific instructions to just 'drive the car'. The drivers were Vic Elford (GB), Richard Attwood (GB), Howard Meister (U.S.) and Bob Hagestad (U.S.). The car was found to be unstable according to the drivers during practice for the 24-hour race on the high banks of Daytona. They wanted to add a rear wing to the car, but Porsche was not in favor of the idea and denied the request. The suspension was fiddled with to make the car a bit more stable by the Brumos team. The 928S finished in 15th overall and 4th in the GTO class before being returned to Porsche. Today it can be found in the Porsche Museum.
In 1983 a 928S from Raymond Boutinaud competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the following year it stole a 22nd place finish. Also during 1984 this same care competed in 1000k races at Brands Hatch, Spa and Silverstone, but unfortunately without much success.
In a pre-production 928 S4 in August of 1986, U.S. racing driver Al Holbert set a speed record at Bonneville. This model could hit 171 mph in the flying mile and 171.926 for the flying kilometer. The same care in March allegedly did more than 180 mph at Nardo, but the Bonneville run earned U.S. Auto Club official record 'at the time' for International Category A, Group 2, Class 9, for normally aspirated cars. This record set the '87 928 S4 as the quickest non-turbocharged production car worldwide. Racing driver and owner Carl Fausett set the present world record as the fastest Porsche 928 in recorded history on September 15, 2011 at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Some Porsche fans will always feel that the 911 was a far superior sports car than the 928 but raw performance numbers prove that the 928 was capable of easily out-accelerating every version of the 911 marketed during its lifespan except the 964 generation 911 Turbo. The 928 had superior 50/50 weight distribution and very predictable handling which made it a very capable on-track match for the 911.
There have been continual rumors about a possible rebirth of the 928 in some automotive magazine and sites like Car and Driver, Road & Track and TopSpeed.com. Porsche has made no official statement as of February 2013 to add credibility to these rumors. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson