story by pablo deferrari photos from the craigslist ad by owner
Mention 928 to some auto enthusiasts and you’ll be rewarded with a grimace that resembles the look of someone with a mouthful of Pop Rocks. What the hell is it about 928s these days that seems to cause such unfounded empathy?
I have a friend named James, known as the “God of Porsche” by some of his clients, who told me flat out that he requires at least a $15,000 deposit before even starting any kind of repair work on a 928. Automotive journalist Chris Harris goes so far to say in one article that “the 928’s reliability issues are now so well documented there are tribes in the Congo who still think the world is flat but understand that any 928 motor is a cracked block waiting to happen.” But I digress, I’m not here to further sully the car’s image or question my sanity with regards to potential ownership, no, I’m here to help save this misunderstood Porsche from extinction.
You’ll see that there is theme developing here, it goes something like this; 928 + (<$3000) = A) Needs work. B) Crash damage. C) Doesn’t run. D) Owner cutting his loses. E) Complete basket case. This equation unfolds here as word problem involving a 1983 928S listed for a suspiciously low price…you can guess where this is going.
A language barrier was the first obstacle, the owner was Portuguese and required the assistance of a neighbor as the contact person on the ad to help facilitate communication. No problem, I can understand Portuguese and respond in Spanish or Italian to meet on common ground. That he also had a Porsche 944S2 in excellent condition was the second; the man knew something about Porsches, how to look after them, and their value to people like you and me. Third, even though the car sat untouched since he’s owned it for, I dunno, 4 or 5 years; preservation by means of long term storage is never a guarantee. So I decided to play this one cool since I suspected the owner was eager to unload the old girl.
Before we get too far ahead though, here’s what makes this model special. 1983 saw the introduction of the S (Super in Porsche parlance) in North America that has been available in Europe/ROW since MY1980 with the new 4.7 liter 16V V8, we would have had it sooner if it weren’t for our emissions regulations at the time. Interestingly, Porsche offered a “Competition Group” package for the US from MY1981 thru MY1982 to whet our appetite until the S was officially launched on our shores in 1983. What we got in with this package were the S front/rear spoilers, Recaro seats, sport springs, Bilstein shocks, limited slip differential (you read that one right), and the 16” Flat Disc wheels…essentially all the goodies of the Euro S but with the old 4.5 liter lump.
How is all of this relevant? Well, because the 1983 S marks a significant evolution for 928s destined for the USA that gave us not only a larger engine and all of the goods from the “Competition Group,” but also a new standard 4-speed automatic transmission (US/Japan only, manual was an option), hydraulic motor mounts, and hydraulically dampened belt tensioner with the front and rear spoilers becoming standard. The 4.7 liter M28.19 (manual) and M28.20 (auto) engine produced 234HP, that’s 14 more horsepower than its predecessor while doing it at a lower 5250RPM but packing slightly less torque at 263 lb-ft at 4000RPM. Compression is bumped to 9.3:1 and the bore is increased to 97mm while the stroke remains the same at 78.9mm. The same L-Jetronic AFC(Air Flow Controlled) fuel injection system offered since MY1980 in the US was used providing a bit more flexibility and economy than the K-Jetronic CIS (Continuous Injection System) unit used up until MY1979 in the US. Not only is this engine more powerful, but also more flexible.
So what more have we got? How about better highway gas mileage at 27mpg thanks to revised gearing and a final drive ratio dropped from 2.75:1 to 2.27:1(manual trans), larger brakes stopping it from 70 to naught in an impressive 188 feet, lower drag coefficient from an embarrassing 0.41 to a respectable 0.38 with the help of front and rear spoilers…all part of the S package. The icing on the proverbial cake is a top speed of 146 mph, 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, and a quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds @ 94 mph. Porsche boldly claimed it "the fastest street legal production car sold in the US.” How much for all the goods? Well, with only 2,086 units being imported to the tune of $44,000 in 1983, you had better consulted with your accountant because that’s $100,390 in 2013 money. Now as hard as it may be to digest all of this, keep it in your head as we look at this example…
Apparently I don’t have the talent to produce a poker face; this guy knew all too well how excited I was to see her. I became immediately saddened however at seeing this aborted project of his sitting there on the patio looking like a rather distinguished lady asked to sit outside, in an undignified manner, and wait her turn. As it turns out, Antonio (the owner) explained to me that he bought the car from a guy that was in fact the original owner who was selling because he was going through a divorce. He goes on to mention that the car sat for a few years before he bought it with the intention to restore the car since it was in slightly rough shape. This sums up why this car looks the way it does. You see, Antonio brought the car home, parked it, and there she sat to this day 4 years or so later. Running a business, spending time with his wife and daughter not to mention everything else related to domesticity, left very little time for him to spend on the S like he planned. Look, I understand; you have a vision in your head, you get the wheels in motion and poof, life happens.
The first thing that gets my attention is the blotches of grey primer dotted about the shell. It’s a push/pull sort of thing because the sheer beauty of this 928 head on offsets a lot of the negative stuff I am beginning to spot. I start to get that feeling that makes me go all rubbery, she’s intact and not in too bad of shape but there are lots of things going through my head as the eye wanders. How much will this or that set me back? Will she run right when I finally get her started after a long period of sleep? Can I get it for the right price and at least feel as though I’m a bit ahead of the curve? It’s all possible but in this condition is it an overly ambitious undertaking?
Let’s address the primer on the aluminum fenders, Antonio, it seemed, wanted to retard the deterioration process and make less work for himself when he would get around to restoring her…but did he really know what this car was about? I don’t think he did, yet. He may have known the ins and outs of his 944 S2, but the 928 is quite different. Here’s where I think that yet another guy fell in love with a machine that he knew nothing about leaving it to the rest of us who do to figure it out. No problem. As I move around the car, it doesn’t look like a huge problem body-wise so then I move under the hood. There, the old 4.7 sits with a an honest film of dirt caused by age without use; I can’t start it to find out its condition because the fuel pump is shot and there’s no battery but I can pull the plugs and see where the engine left off. I do and so far so good but the missing air cleaner cover with no filter might spell more serious issues because who knows what could have made its way into the intake, no problem I’ll take my chances there. The interior, though, is where any hope was lost…the situation looked bleak. What was a once beautiful interior in its prime is now fit to use as roosting material for dogs, torn leather everywhere…I won’t even get into the fact that this cabin doubled as a garden shed. I was warned by the neighbor when I inquired about the car of its condition but I had to witness it. This is where one could spend a lot of cash because leather isn’t cheap, and when just about everything inside is covered in it right down to the C pillars, your labor is a drop in the bucket. Just the material needed to re-skin the front seats in German leather goes for about $975. S or not, there was no way I could offer him anything that had more that 3 digits…I’d be a fool otherwise. Here’s a perfect example of a car that could easily nail the $15,000 mark to do it right, that’s roughly five grand more than its current market value.