words by pablo deferrari

vintage ad for Dunlop SPs. image from ebay.
Porsche made a pretty gross assumption when they launched the 928 in 1978.
Because they gave you a choice of either a 5-speed manual transmission, or a 3-speed automatic, they assumed that the enthusiast who chose the automatic was either a bit of a wimp, lazy, used to driving big Jags and Mercs, or found the 3rd pedal dangling from under the dash to be completely foreign and unsure what to do with it. Based on this criteria, it wasn't likely that any one of those camps would push their 928 to the absolute limits.

So what does this have to do with tires, you may ask? Everything.
vintage ad for Pirelli P7 tires. image from ebay.
You see, up until 1980, the 5-speed manual 928 came with 7J x 16 phone dials, as standard equipment, shod with 225/50VR Pirelli P7s. These where the same tires offered as option M395 on the 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera. They weren't a joke, and chances were that if your car wore them, you weren't the type of guy who would gayly prance across a field of daisies singing Mary Poppin's "Chim Chim Cher-ee" with a flower in your bonnet. 

These were tires for the hairy-chested who ate coal and shit diamonds. You drove your machine hard and expected it to stick to the road, as best as the forces of nature permitted, while you hung the tail out around a turn, full bore, with a Chesterfield hanging from your lips.

Had you've been the James Bond-type, as the ad suggests, who couldn't be bothered making a scene with the sounds of tires at the limits of adhesion while screaming toward red line, or shifting for that matter; you were given the 7J x 15 phone dials wrapped with 215/60VR Dunlop SP Sports. 

These were standard when ordered with the automatic transmission, or if you were more sporting and bought the auto so your better half could drive it, you could have the 16s as an option.
a 928 with the puny 15" phone dials...er, sorry, but they would become standard on both the automatic and manual beginning in 1980. you could get the 16" as an option, however.
the 16" phonies were standard fare on the 5-speed 928s until 1980 when they became on option.
Aside from the rationale that 2-pedal drivers might less interested interested in all-out performance, Pirelli P7s were in short supply at the time.

Now, the SPs didn't offer the cornering prowess of the P7s or weren't as good in the rain, but they were really impressive during simulated panic braking tests rivaling the P7s; and they did it without the moderate rear wheel locking encountered with the Pirellis too.

When you look at the period advertising done for the Sport SPs, they suggest that they were a serious contender both in performance and economy. If Porsche engineers decided that they were a perfect match for the "less sporting" driver of the automatic, who could argue? Hell, i think a good driver could really chalk up some great times around a track with them.

Interestingly, beginning in 1980, the 16s were no longer standard on the 5-speed 928, they got the 15-inchers as standard instead like the automatic, this time wrapped in 215/60-VR15 Pirelli's P6s. Why? Well, that's for another article...

gumball P7s for a lamborghini countach. image from ebay
another, less steroidal, example from the side. image from ebay
the Sport SPs...very interesting tread pattern. image from ebay
here's another shot showing the channeling of rainwater. image from dunlop
period advert for P7s. image from ebay.
apparently, hairy-chested macho-men fancied the SPs too. image from ebay.
hmm...maybe this guy didn't prance through flowery fields like a fairy; at least not in public. the message is pretty clear on these ads, though. image from ebay.


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