words and shots by andy mcculley

“Tubby” – the name my dad affectionately gave to his 1956 356 A. This is the pale yellow, bathtub shaped relic from the 1950’s that initiated my love for Porsche’s. My dad had owned the car since before I was born, and I first developed my love for it while I was still a toddler. It had such a quirky shape and was unique even among vintage cars. The design was simple; it didn’t have sidepipes, a low-slung stance, or even a big engine… but it had personality. 

Well, since I had recently come into the world, my mother decided that it was time for my dad to sell his weekend toy and upgrade to a family car. Not long after selling Tubby, my dad returned home with his new "family car". 

My mother was not impressed. There it stood in front of her: a Guards Red 1989 Porsche 930. The fact that he bought this car on her birthday didn’t really help.  The car that we called “Turbo” immediately got off to a bad start with my mother, who was only until recently excited at the prospect of getting a nice family sedan. To my dad, the term “family car” just means that a car has back seats.  

Well, the 930 certainly fit the criteria, as it technically did have “back seats".  

Unlike my mother, I had no complaints. I was so young that I have only a vague memory of Turbo, like the pre-digital era photo below. But I do know that the car left a lasting impression. 

To this day, the first car I think about when the term “Porsche” comes to mind is a Guards Red 930… it just looks so iconic with its round headlights, shark fin shaped rock shield, whale tail, black Fuchs, and rear fender flares.  Well, after about two years, my dad reluctantly handed Turbo’s keys to a new owner. 

Though the car was gone, the love for the brand never faded. I would often accompany my dad to just walk around various classic car dealerships that specialized in Porsche’s. Like my dad, I only paid attention to the air cooled models, as they were what reminded me of Turbo.

"Right then and there my obsession with Porsche took a turn for the 928."

When I was about 6 or 7, I had a major turning point in my life. My dad was watching Risky Business, and called me into the living room to watch a Porsche fall into Lake Michigan. Expecting to see a 356 or 930, I couldn’t quite piece together what model I was seeing on the TV. It looked amazingly cool… rounded like the 356, but a lot more modern and svelte. I asked my dad what kind of Porsche that was on TV. 

“It’s a 928”, he said. 

Right then and there my obsession with Porsche took a turn for the 928. 
A few weeks later, my dad and I were taking an occasional trip to Eurosport in Virginia Beach. Specializing in Porsche, their inventory of neat older Porsches was always worth the trip. We often trekked out there just to look around and talk to the owner about Porsches. 

One day in the showroom, there it was: a black on linen S4. I got my first glimpse of an actual 928!  And it was FOR SALE!!  After spending about an hour just ogling the car, I immaturely begged my dad to buy it. He indeed wanted another Porsche, but a 928 was not what he had in mind. I went quiet and eventually forgot about the 928...

Almost ten years later, my dad decided that it was time to buy my first car. Immediately, the image of that black 928 at Eurosport jumped into my head.  Well, surprisingly, he took heed of my suggestion… for about 2 days.  He and I went to Eurosport, asked if they knew of any 928’s in the area for sale, and were immediately given quizzical looks.  

The guy in charge at the front just asked “why do you want a 928?”  He lamented about the 928’s unfavorable reputation for unreliability.  My dad was immediately dissuaded from the idea of owning a 928, and pleaded with me to broaden my search to include other Porsche’s, Bimmers, Jags, whatever so long as it wasn’t a 928.  Eventually I did get a very nice and mint Mercedes SL500 (R129 bodystyle), but it wasn’t a 928.  
The SL satisfied me for about a month or so, but I continued to persuade my dad to get a 928.  Eventually my persistence paid off, he capitulated, and decided that we would find a perfect 928.  After looking at various models, my dad and I came to the conclusion that we either wanted a ‘70’s 928 or a GTS. 

After months of searching, we narrowed the possibilities to two cars. One was a 1979 white/cork 928 with 17,000 original miles. The other was a 1993 GTS automatic in the iconic color combo of Black/Black. After we did a cost-benefit analysis for the two cars, we concluded that the GTS was the most sensible option given the price, condition and service history. Making the decision easier, the ’79 sold before we could even call to inform the seller we no longer maintained an interest in it. 

The GTS was just a short drive away in Alexandria, Virginia, so we immediately called the seller and planned a trip to go and see it. Enjoying an $8,000 service (YIKES!) at the Porsche dealership in Arlington, it really stood out against the herd of new 997’s and Panamera’s in the parking lot. The car was simply gorgeous: the right color combo, a full service history ($45,000 worth of receipts), a fanatical enthusiast as a PO and it was a factory wide body! Nothing makes a car look better than fender flares! We bought the car on the spot.  

"Just cleaning…my idea of the most heavenly activity." 

After performing some routine maintenance including a timing belt and water pump replacement (ed. So what was the $8,000 service for?), we began on our preliminary cleaning. And when I say cleaning I don't stop at a wash and wax job. At this point I think I should mention that I am a little bit OCD.  Some say more than a little… I iron my socks, and lay them flat in a drawer arranged by color and size.  That kind of OCD.  But it does come in handy when you're about to attack a shark with a tootbrush. 

The previous owner of the GTS was undeniably an enthusiast, and the car did look great, but not like my sock drawer. Time was of the essence, as my dad had already entered it into a PCA concours for the following week. I guess you could call me a masochist as well… I began my cleaning with only two days to spare before the show. On my first day with her at home, I spent at least 18 hours cleaning. After the first weekend of owning the car, I was close to what most people put into a weeks work at the office. Just cleaning…my idea of the most heavenly activity. 
You might ask "Why does this guy call this 'initial' cleaning?". Well, to me this 40 hour stint before the first show was somewhat of a cursory overview and only included the obvious areas; wheel wells, under the carpets, spare tire compartment, battery compartment, tool kit, behind the tail lights, fog lights, etc. 

Only just getting warmed up, I consulted the help of the search feature on Rennlist to figure out how to tackle the wheel wells and undercarriage. This led me to my online nirvana… No, not that! It was the wheel well cleaning threads in the 993 forum. Some 993 owners are certifiably neurotic when it comes to chassis cleaning… unlike any other collective group of auto enthusiasts I’ve ever encountered or observed. 

Using the 993 forum, I learned various techniques on how to clean the parts of the 928 concealed underneath the body. The process I chose to adopt was relatively unsophisticated and only included the use of a household citrus degreaser (Xenit), and a toothbrush. Despite being simplistic in philosophy, the execution of this technique led to days of absolute tortuous misery underneath the car that only other concours freaks are undoubtedly familiar with. This process wasn't completed before the show but over the course of about a year.

Though only a people’s choice show, we were thrilled to take second place against the immaculate 1st place PCA Parade winning 928 from the previous year. At the next show, we actually took first place against the same car.  Alas, the toothbrush technique had succeeded!
As you may have figured out by now, I have one of the coolest dad’s on the planet… the aforementioned “family car” move is a classic example of his sarcastic genius. 

Well, despite having already succumbed to my tenacity, I was able to further convince him that I needed my own 928.  Well, I had the perfect car in mind… a Guards Red/Black 1983 928 S with 35,000 original miles (is there such a thing as an unoriginal mile?).  Having sat on eBay for about a year, I called the seller and offered $5K less than the asking price. After some negotiations back and forth, I got the car for the price I initially offered.

Once the seller accepted my offer, we decided to go ahead and buy the car sight unseen… Based on my experience with this car, I certainly don’t recommend this. Despite the low mileage, the car needed a lot of work when I got it, some of which included a new timing belt/water pump, new ball joints, new motor mounts and new front brakes. 

As a purist, the only modification I have made to the car is the addition of GTS front brakes, a decision that made sense to me after nearly rear ending a Lincoln Towncar while going through the Norfolk midtown tunnel in a torrential downpour. Not remembering that the car didn’t have ABS, I locked the brakes, skidded about 10 feet, and came to a halt within an inch of the Lincoln. Though the car still doesn’t have ABS, the GTS brakes should give me a greater buffer zone if I ever forget again.

As with the GTS, I immediately whipped out the toothbrush. Since this car was intended to be a daily driver, initially I did not fret as much over minor details as I did with the GTS. However, as with any compulsion, my cleaning obsession metastasized and I repeated the GTS process all over again. In fact, my car required a lot more work than the GTS. I’d hate to see the previous owners’ sock drawer. 

Fast forward three years, and I still proudly own my ‘83. Originally intended to be my daily driver, I have only put 5,000 miles on it. The car is just too mint for me to drive. I keep it with me at school, and was fortunate enough to meet a friend at the local Cars and Coffee who lets me store it in his garage with some other beautiful vintage and low mileage Porsche’s.  It sits there in good company. 

Because of my fear of putting wear and tear on my beloved ‘83, I convinced my roommate that he needed a 928.  Not able to afford it on his own, I decided to split the costs with him.  We eventually dropped $2,700 on a 1982 928 Weissach Edition during our sophomore year of college. This was intended to be a daily driver for a short period of time while we cleaned it up in hopes of turning a profit. 

For three months, we thoroughly enjoyed lightly restoring and driving it around Wilmington, NC, until it developed an overheating issue that forced us to park it. As so many other shark owners, I was faced with the dilemma of either repairing it and hopefully selling it for a small profit or cutting my losses and selling it at a small loss 'as-is'.  
I eventually sold my half of the Weissach to my roommate at a loss, and decided that I would never buy another Porsche unless I had a substantial budget for a top notch car. I just don’t have the patience (or money) to deal with abundant mechanical malfunctions and electrical gremlins.

Luckily, my ’83 has proven to be a very reliable car in my short tenure of ownership. At numerous car shows, I’ve had people ask me if I’d be willing to sell it, and without even asking what they’d be willing to pay, I continuously decline almost emphatically.  

However, I do suspect that for the right price I may just sell it only to immediately replace it with...another 928. Either a GTS or a low mileage ’78 in a period color and pascha.  I must admit that the perhaps the most advantageous aspect of owning a classic car is watching it slowly appreciate… that way I don’t feel like I’m hopelessly wasting money on it.  Unlike many people my age who would kill for a brand new 458 or Aventador, but only have a poster on their dorm wall, I feel lucky that I am actually able to afford to own my dream car!

Andy

 


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