words and shots by Dan Ewing

It has just gone noon, but the puddles at the end of the drive are still frozen solid, despite the best efforts of the late November sun. My nerves are jangling big time as I back this big brute of a sports car down the crowded drive, between various parked cars, and onto the cul-de-sac beyond. Andy jumps into the passenger seat, I slide the lever into drive, prod the throttle gingerly, and we burble off down the still frosty streets of Glenrothes.
Having the owner ride alongside as a passenger is a first for Car Keys of Separation, but my cousin seems contented enough, so I take a deep breath to settle myself. The first few miles are a bit of a blur, I'm lost and disoriented, unsure of where I am as we rumble our way through Scotland's answer to Milton Keynes. More of a worry is how slippery these main roads are and how much grip those substantial 225 45 R17 front and 255 40 R17 rear tyres are going to give.

As we pick up the M90 and head towards Perth for a bit, the numbing fear subsides as does the worry that this car is going to be an uncontrollable handful. I've remembered the best way to use the floor hinged accelerator, sliding my heel into the base of the pedal and accelerating with a point of my right toe. The large brake pedal is an easy reach away, and this being an Auto, my left foot is pinned to the well located footrest for the duration of the afternoon. Even a short time behind the wheel make the size of this car less imposing, sure the bonnet slopes out of sight in front of you, and the rear wings loom large in the side mirrors, but it doesn't look or feel quite as enormous on this motorway as it did in that driveway. It still feels wide every time we have to squeeze our way though another narrow village high street, although it could have been worse, apparently they chopped 3" out of the width early in development when someone noticed that it would be too wide for the European car train wagons.
Just west of Perth, we pick up the A85 towards Crieff. This is one of Andy's favourite biking roads and I can see why. The scenery is great even when the rain clouds close in and offload for a while. The road has that great combo of twisty, with the odd straight section, and most importantly not too heavy with traffic. Overtaking couldn't be easier, spot a straight, pull out, plant the throttle to the floor, wait a moment, then the 'box kicks down a few gears, the engine revs rise and the car surges at the horizon in a roar of meaty V8 growl and howl. This 5.0 litre S4 has gained a few tweaks, many of them from Porsche themselves, like the sports exhaust, those Cup wheels, a GTS rear bumper panel and rear wing, plus a Superchip to round things off. Performance figures are probably somewhere north of the factory 316bhp and 317ft/lb torque and the 0-60 has probably dropped below the original 5.7 seconds too.

"I'm expecting the power to wain and the tyres to regain grip, instead, the 'box changes into second and the whizzing noise continues."

We pull up in a lay-by to take some photos by the river that flows from Loch Earn and we both stand there clicking away with our camera phones for quite a while. I once would have listed this as my least favourite front engined Porsche, but the proportions look so much better in the metal. We flick the headlights on for effect and I notice the sculpting of the lamp housings for the first time. A panel neatly fills the hole left by the upturned lamp and the housing itself is reminiscent of those chrome units pre-war cars have. The revised rear lights and bumper of the S4 freshened the exterior appearance compared to the earlier cars, the detailing being the only thing that dates these 928's at all. The polyurethane front and rear bumpers were quite a rarity in 1978 when the 4.5 litre car was launched, but were commonplace by the time the last 5.4 litre GTS's left the factory in 1995.
Popping the bonnet reveals a masterpiece of engineering, that 32 value V8 is quite a snug fit under the narrow bonnet that resulted from that width reduction. The lack of space can make maintenance work a bit of a nightmare as bumper and wing removal becomes necessary. There is says Andy, just enough space at the front of the engine bay for a supercharger, courtesy of one or two clever American manufacturers. I can see the appeal, but with miles of greasy grit covered roads waiting ahead, I'm quite glad he hasn't succumb to the temptation just yet. The stop has made us realise the time and our bellies so we decide to press on to St Fillans and The Lochside Larder for lunch. As we pull out of the lay-by I decide to give it full chat, in the name of research you understand, the rear wheels instantly break traction, accompanied by that sound only wet rubber on wet road can make. I'm expecting the power to wain and the tyres to regain grip, instead, the 'box changes into second and the whizzing noise continues. I finally run out of space and steering lock, so lift off, straighten up, and return to the correct side of the road. We are chuckling away like school boys and Andy eventually confirms that it'll just keep spinning those wheels 'til the tyres are shredded.

Over lunch Andy recounts how he first fell for the Porsche 928 as a child when a school friends dad bought one and he was taken for a spin in it. I think seeing my old 944 Lux at a family get together rekindled Andy's love for the 928, coz by the next spring he'd found this cherished and cosseted low mileage example online. The sound of that sports exhaust in a video clip was the final clincher, so in February 2010 he got the cash out of the bank, made his way down south to complete the deal and collect his new toy. The then owner was almost in tears when Andy arrived. The owner's wife put the kettle on, and worried that the whole deal was about to fall through, Andy put the cash on the kitchen table. This did the trick, and a hasty retreat was made before Geoff could change his mind again.

Dropping down into the drivers seat yet again, I'm more able to take in my surroundings than earlier in the day. Andy was busy last winter, fitting a new tan coloured carpet set, black leather seats, and an after market stereo complete with monster sub speaker in the boot. It all looks a lot better than the original eighties-tastic white leather with white carpets. Many of the details will be familiar to anyone who has been in any 80's Porsche, though the dash and centre console do give away the late 70's origin of the design somewhat. The four round black dials have simple white graphics and are flanked on either side by four large round buttons for minor controls. Two sliders, a knob, and an A/C button complete the ventilation controls in the centre console and a trio of easy to reach stalks control the major controls and cruise control.
You sit very low in these uniquely shaped two piece Recaro seats that hold you in place perfectly on the move. There are 12 control buttons on the side so finding the perfect position is easy enough. Your legs are stretched out fairly flat in front of you and that steering wheel does seem to sit in your lap at first, but its all very comfortable and cosy. There are some fantastic details in here too, like the door pocket lids that swing open with a thump press. The four spoke black leather steering wheel has the classic 'PORSCHE' script embossed on the horn pad and wonderfully tactile stitching that runs around the inside of the rim.

I'm really starting to enjoy this car as we weave our way around Loch Earn then turn south onto the A84 past Loch Lubnaig. I start using the auto lever to hold the 'box in third, keeping the revs a little higher and feeding the car from corner to corner with more conviction. It's amazing how agile and controllable this big car is starting to feel as you sweep through the bends, how quick and unruffled it can be in such tricky conditions. I'm also able to take onboard the detail of that engine note as the revs rise and fall. Below 1500rpm you barely hear the engine at all and would be hard pressed to identify what configuration it was. Between 1500 and 2000rpm there is a subtle but beautiful warbling noise that can only be a V8 coming to life. As the revs rise the note hardens until that sports exhaust really starts to join in after 3500rpm and the thing really starts to roar. It's an absolutely fabulous sound that I never tired of, even later on in the evening, at the end of our long trip.

"I must confess that the Porsche 928 has never been a 'Hero Car' of mine..."

Before we reach Callander, we peal off onto the narrow little A821 that runs west past Loch Venachar and Loch Achray, before turning south for Aberfoyle. This is a twisty old strip of tarmac with no one else on it, so I drop the lever into second and really start to press on through the corners. With good visibility of the road ahead I press harder and harder into each corner with no sign of reaching the cars limits. The weight of the steering is superb, the ride is firm but never harsh, the handling is sweet, with great feedback through the controls. I don't mind automatic gearboxes, providing there is a decent amount of engine power to compensate for the drivetrain power losses and slight delay in reactions. This short stretch of road is the only point at which I wonder what the 5 speed manual would be like. That Auto 'box is more than welcome though as darkness falls and we thread our way east towards Stirling and back to Glenrothes.

I must confess that the Porsche 928 has never been a 'Hero Car' of mine, I haven't coveted one since childhood like Andy has, but it is a legend of a car and has migrated its way up my mental list of 'Must Drive' cars over the year. History can be a little hard on the 928, that was originally conceived as a replacement for the 911, which being rear engined was about to fall foul of new regulations in the valuable American market. Those regulations never arrived, turbo technology and new company management meant the iconic 911 could be developed further than was previously expected, and all the front engined models kind of got snubbed for being too conventional. The truth is that they were and are great sports car that made healthy profits for Porsche who could then afford to make the heavy investments that the 911 needed to survive. This snobbery does mean that these front engined cars are a lot cheaper to buy than their 911 counterparts. Maybe the 928 should make the transition onto my mental 'Must Own' list before too many more people work that out.

Dan Ewing
editor-at-large for Car Keys of Separation

Thanks to Andy for the loan of his car.
editor's note:
I love these kinds of stories of intimacy between man and machine; more so when the machine is someone else's.

I asked Dan for permission to re-post this tale because I know his experience would resonate with not only owners of this vintage S4, or any other 928 for that matter, but also with potential custodians searching under every rock across these fields of pixels looking for a firsthand experience on what driving this particular model is all about.

too often when we have our hearts set on buying a specific Porsche, most of the information we find is of a rather technical nature, but it's stories like Dan's who so eloquently describes what it was like to drive that seduces and motivates one to go find out what all the fuss is about for themselves. sure, you can leaf through back issues of old road tests, or trawl the forums, but seldom are they written this passionately while sparing us the jaded journalistic rhetoric that ends up describing a ballet as if was a rock concert.

thanks to Dan for the share, and please do stop by his fantastic website with more of his tales behind the wheel at Car Keys of Separation.

highball!

el jefe

 


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