Beaulieu - 928 Spring Weekend

Pic: Panorama- Ron Smith

Something new and exciting discovered! - Clyde Lennon - May 2004

An extra half-inch makes all the difference. It’s what I found out at 85mph Saturday having to accelerate a little faster than distance would allow me, to negotiate passing a slower car up a hill with dual lanes rapidly becoming one. My 16 year-old companion, a black automatic S4, has never been driven as briskly, or had as much fun, as the 160 mile round trip to Chesil Motors in convoy, with leading 928 owners down for a two day weekend at Beaulieu. This was our first ever 928 Convoy. The entire distance wasn’t always covered at high double or low-ish triple-digit speeds, however the game of concertina-catch-up required moments of high-speed necessity, ensuring we remained in a continuous convoy, snaking our way through gaps in the traffic. From behind it looked like a Red Arrows formation, except our altitude was somewhat lower.

After driving behind several manuals, I quickly realised I had to either punch the loud pedal somewhat harder than normal, or manually select 2, then 3, then D to keep a respectable distance without embarrassing myself. Quite harmless as there was nothing in front except 928’s and few intimidating intrusions from traffic.

I discovered that my loud pedal gets louder.

Although blessed with large feet and long legs (almost as long as Messrs Watson and Shotton), I have probably never actually pressed pedal-to-the-metal as much as I did on that drive. The rate of eye-popping, anal-tensioning movement from the car when you discover that a) it will red-line every gear in an auto if b) you start in 2 and let it drop into 1st with sufficient “full throttle baby” action, and c) it actually then keeps up with the manual cars (almost), is phenomenal.

Most of you are probably wondering on what planet I have been during my past 5 years of marriage to the “black thing”. But how many of you can see your feet when driving, let alone the loud pedal? I have only seen it when down on my knees cleaning the carpet, otherwise it’s all by feel, as I can’t see anything! Learning that the pedal had another half inch or more left of movement only came about because I flexed my already fully extended toes by bending my ankle up and forward (down). Apparently the pedal is adjustable, so who knows, the first owner must have set it up so that the “extra” stuff came on in reserve. I pushed it hard by nervous impulse not intelligent forethought, to see if more power was available so I could safely complete the overtaking manoeuvre. Once past the slower vehicle I then had the cheek-squeezing pleasure braking hard enough to wash away nearly 50mph in as half as many yards to a more respectable 70mph back in convoy. The rate of braking in a 928 would frighten the average person who’s only ever driven a Flord, Voxhall or a Neasan or other non-Car (I know, arrogant and patronising, but do you think I’m unreasonable?). I think braking is one of the car’s best attributes, leaving everyone behind going in under brakes. Just love roundabouts?

Another interesting knowledge gathering item this weekend is the discovery that the more it gets driven the better it gets. Now once again, I know I am getting on a bit, the grey cells don’t work as they used to, but I have been keeping an empirical, scientific eye on the condition of my steering and suspension since getting it back from Dr. Paul of Stroud, soon to become simply known as Mr A. My suspension is feeling much tighter and more compliant than ever, the steering is not fighting disturbances in the road surface anywhere near as much, something that can indicate a potential upper A-arm problem. Tyres on the other hand are another subject, albeit that my old Avons managed to do well, Mr Watson offered to “smoke” them in the car park so I could order replacements. Brian from Manchester can get “part worn” (still 6mm left) Porsche approved tyres from Germany for incredible prices (under £200 a set fitted) providing another surprise for all to know.

After Saturday’s swift exercise, some 300 miles all told, it is considerably more together, in harmony, relaxed and relaxing. Why? That’s the searching question and here, me, a complete novice and non-technical “expert”, will offer you a suggestion. When rubber and all similar elastic bushing materials have suffered a lack of use, the bush shrinks and goes hard. My car has been largely off the road for most of the past 20 months with very occasional exercise, never more than a few miles every 3-5 weeks. Not enough it seems to ensure that the specially tuned rubber bushes in the 928’s complex suspension maintains its tolerances and “form”. Neither does the air-con like it, the cooling system, the engine (less so) nor the tyres. (My recent bills are a testament to what eventually deteriorates from age and lack of use, not abuse.) I think that by using the car firmly it has made my formerly slightly tired and shrunken stiff bushes, wake up, get flexible and then expand, thereby reducing or eliminating any excessive movement around the bush prior to the drive. This means you should exercise your car regularly and at least 40-100 miles at a time and more than 2-3 times a month. That’s about 3-5k miles a year.

Back to the extra travel in my loud pedal, I know about the “switch” for the kick-down, but my pedal also went further when I lifted my foot slightly to enable a toe down approach instead of a simple turn at the ankle. It was not as you would think, an over-stretched pedal or broken pivot hinge. A pleasant and delightfully exciting surprise to find where all that 320bhp has been hiding.

Pic: The Red Corner - Ron Smith

For those who did not make the weekend, sorry to see you missed a wonderful event. Like all these events, it’s what you make of it and I enjoyed seeking out some faces I wanted to meet as well as say hello to ones I had met from past events. Joanna joined me for a lovely evening with the lead troupe and I am pleased to say she found the site of 100 plus 28’s leaving the Travel Inn a real eye-popper, complete with raucous orchestral range of exhausts from various models. As usual, the cars stole the show. What car is as low (centre of gravity), wide enough to remain stable through bends, perfectly balanced (weight distribution), has ample power-to-weight with optimal efficiency and economy along with phenomenal longevity and minimal stress? As was said at the award ceremony, “…it was ahead of its time” “…it’s timeless”.

After more than three decades of driving, owning several high performance cars and being privileged to sample many more, I am convinced the 928 represents one of the highest pinnacles of automotive GT design. That many have attempted to successfully copy it in part but not whole, is a statement of its enormous influence and unique combination of attributes, all designed in harmony with an uncompromising integrity of purpose. Today, the closest cars to the 928’s concept include: the Noble M12 (a bit tight on free space), the Bristol Fighter (close in concept of size, room and performance – but very expensive – I am an ex-Bristol owner – a V8 one), the new Aston Martin DB9 (yes please), or the Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG (a bit too Jeremy Clarkson!).

I certainly hope that the GT class expands, for the talent, sheer single-mindedness, commitment and determination of the 928 demonstrates the possibilities that every generation should aspire. The 928 was a high point in automotive packaging and design combined with unparalleled technical prowess. It’s not a pastiche of wild fantasies, or the brand filling of a specific marketing profile, but a selfish no compromise effort to create the ultimate GT. Most of us already know it and some of us enjoy living with it. As time passes the car’s longevity, robustness, practicality, economy and performance will remain at the cutting edge, long after plastic coated engine bays with fake adornments infiltrate the market. The true enthusiast will want to know what’s behind their under-bonnet breastplates. The 928 owner can simply lift the bonnet and see a sculpture in all its glory, a V8 masterpiece muscularly naked and beautifully engineered. Plastic engine covers remind me of the 80’s obsession with padded shoulders always hiding somewhat less than was available. Anyone see the Cayenne’s plastic covers? Image, image, image, the virtual engine as it should look, not as it is. What a state we’ve arrived if we must settle for what we think it should look like, rather than how it really looks. It’s never like that inside a 928, you always feel like you pilot the thing, rather than simply drive it. Clyde Lennon, May 2004

P.S. A very big thanks to Rob, Angus, Andrew and Chris for their wonderful and super efforts. All the wonderful Wives/Girl friends etc., too!

P.P.S Nothing is as delightful as seeing several grown men washing their cars in a mass display of affection, sharing wheel cleaning tips and buckets.

Breakdown of models at this World Record Attendance of 928's

928 8   S 12   S2 19   S4 54
SE 5   GT 20   GTS 12   Strosek 1

Smoke?

Pic: Andy Gilmour

Coffee anyone?

Pic: Ron Smith