Porsche 928 by David Hemmings Published 15 Jul 2021
David Hemmings has been the register secretary for the 928 register at Porsche Club GB since before I bought my first Porsche 928 in 1998, so naturally is not only a patriarch within the community, but also an important voice in the 928 coterie. David called me the other day, and with great excitement asked me to review his new book. He had recieved the final copy and it was off to print. Unsuprisingly, the book is called 'Porsche 928' and builds on his previous publications '928 Essential buyers guide' and 'The Real 928' which was originaly a collection of articles he produced for Porsche Club GB.
Sunday morning saw me sit down to read the book, about 100 pages, properly.
Porsche 928 by David Hemmings Published 15 Jul 2021
The book features a short introduction, explaining that the purpose of the book is to chronicle the model history of the Porsche 928. The book also intends to provide useful information about each individual model variation throughout the production run from model year 1977 to 1995. David opens with a brief history of the Porsche company and some anecdotes about how it came to be established in the United Kingdom and the United States. It becomes clear that the United Kingdom proved to be a crucial but quite particular right hand drive market, while the United States was an obviously critical market for volume. It could also be argued that the Porsche 928 was aimed at the American market, as a European alternative for the American Muscle Car Customer.
These anecdotes make you remember that in 1978 the Porsche 928 was a European V8 grand touring supercar, which at the time was criticised by the "so called purists" for "not being an actual Porsche", while also at the time considered as making the Corvette obsolete because "the 928 is a virtually poetic reaffirmation of Porsche's bedrock understanding and appreciation of the elemental automotive verities" (Davies, Automotive and Driver, 1977). This juxtaposition made the Porsche 928 difficult to position in Europe, especially on the rebound from the fuel crisis in the 70's
I wonder what the 1978 911 air cooled brigade would have made of the 2000 996 C4, which echoed the 928 S4 styling, especially from the rear and driving position. To me, these echoes resulted in a car that felt the most 928-like of anything I'd driven made by Porsche since the 928 was discontinued in 1995. I wonder if those reviewers would have reflected on what they said about Corvette, having watched the magnificent renaissance of the marque at Le Mans!
David’s book takes the reader through an explanation of Porsche model year policy, VIN number, and engine number systems, something that can be painfully confusing to prospective purchasers. Once the complexities are explained, David can then get into the details for each model variation. An interesting owners story is presented with each model, providing extra insight into the model concerned, as well as shining a light on the fact that these cars are mostly now owned by long term enthusiasts, rather than by daily drivers.
There are some interesting photographs of each model, including some even I've never seen before! Roger Tyson's Porsche 928 MY82 Weissach Edition, which was a United States only model looks great, although the numbered gold plate is not displayed on the dashboard, and as it was built as a cosmetic options only special edition (including a matching luggage set) can it really be considered an S model? This is the glory of the Porsche 928 and being a committed connoisseur. There are hours of trainspotting level intricacies. Did they make 205 of these, or 217? Were they only cosmetic changes? Was it fitted with the spoiler in the US as part of the 'competition pack' or were they built this way at the factory as part of the design. It can often be hard to determine, but that is part of the fun.
David explains further, including the revelation that the 928 S2 was just a marketing model name for the United Kingdom. All other markets retained the 928S title. We care about these details in Porsche 928 land! In some markets the 86.5 model, with later 4957cc engine and earlier S2 running gear was even called the S3, and there are other engine variations notably for the United States too. Once we get the to the 1987 S4 model the original prototype drawings you can find from 1973 in the book 'Project 928' start to come fully to life, in what David calls "a smooth and fresh slippery frontal finish integrated with easy on the eye airducts, leading to new extended side sills taking the side body lines to the rear, which in turn reveals a new set of curves that complete the transformation from old to new".
There are some wonderful pictures of the ultra rare Club Sport, clearly showing the decal that designated it, and the simpler interior buttons with just window controls. There are a couple of other small interior differences to the standard car. It is always nice to see a picture of a Club Sport and this is one I have not previously come across. There are only a few of these in existence, I would guess only 26! 19 of which were production models, four prototypes and a couple of late customer order specials. As is often the case with Porsche, it is a matter of some argument, and hard to find a definitive answer.
My personal favourite model, the Porsche 928 S4 with Sport Equipment, aka the SE, is of course covered. I have personally owned two of these cars and one of its closest descendant, the 1989 928 GT. The SE is like an old leather jacket. It gets more comfortable the more you drive it. It becomes part of you. It was the most living dialed-in car I have ever owned. I'd love to have one again. You could probably write a whole book just about this model. Part of its greatness was the forged light alloy wheels shared with the Club Sport and the 89 928 GT. These were light, with spacers for wider rear track. The combination of less unsprung weight and wider rear track with the Weissach rear axle was perfect at last. The 89 GT was almost as good but lacked some of the SE's soul for me and in the UK at least, it rarely came with the full leather dashboard.
The section on the 928 GT opens by saying that sports seats were on some models only. As with everything Porsche, you can vary the specification at time of order and it is the variation from standard for that particular model and year that appears on an option code on the order. So if you ordered an option incompatible with sports seats like memory seats or lumbar support you did not get the sports seats. My 89 GT had a digital clock and GT's of the period would have had a non painted black spoiler. The first GT featured in the book has had these subtle upgrades which were common, especially at the time as GT owners wanted to make their cars more like the later GTS's.
Andrew Brierley's Guards Red GT is featured too, with its aftermarket but lovely speedline wheels and ovoid (teardrop) mirrors. He gives his owners perspective about making changes from stock specification in the book. Part of the joy of the 928 community is to see how people update and adjust their cars to suit their own desires rather than slavishly following the narrower viewpoint of those who are sticklers for original specifications.
On the 928 GTS, David notes the important changes to the body styling and exterior dressing on the car, and the differences in airbag provision - driven by country specific legislation and LHD and RHD differences. The dashboard picture shows the walnut dashboard inlays, which were added in the UK as Porsche Cars GB's invention perhaps in response to competition with Jaguar and the perception that the 928 by now was long in the tooth. Original MY 92 GTS's were supplied with Cup wheels, and later the Cup 2 wheels became standard. I think on balance that these are still the best Porsche wheels, although this is 99% about them being easy to clean!
Now, David's book turns to racing 928's. There are some lovely pictures of race prepared Porsche 928's including the factory number 1 car from European racing, preserved at the Porsche museum, and some details about other mostly UK based cars used in racing and adapted for that. 928's have always had potential for race work and there are a good few other race 928's around the world.
When discussing special models, David covers some factory prototypes accompanied with some interesting photographs of cabriolets, estates, and targas, which are very rare indeed and highly collectible, and of cosmetic special editions which are not as rare, but still nevertheless collectible, and oddly to me puts the 928 GT in the special models list. I think the positioning was that in 1989 the 928 S4 GT was the manual, and the 928 S4 was the automatic although I believe you could still order an S4 manual which was not a GT at least for a time, if you see what I mean.
Personally, placing the Japanese market cars in the special cars section does not quite square with me, in that these were just model variations required for legislative regions - the oft discussed C16 code is for the UK. Other markets had different emissions, air conditioning, impact bumper, indicator, gear notification, and I'm sure many other differences in each year of production.
As the book comes to its conclusion, David wraps up with various discussions on 928 values; a useful primer on VIN numbers, engine numbers, equipment and paint codes; and finally information about Porsche Clubs as well as a footnote on the recent incredible pricing achieved by a perfect 1988 Porsche 928 S4 SE. David closes his publication with what I interpret to be a plea for Porsche to deliver something that can really be a 21st century Porsche 928, something that I wholeheartedly echo!
It is great to see a new book about the 928 - I think I have every book about them or with chapters about them. If you've read this far you know you'll buy it!