francesco tiepolo

March 2015.

I am driving my 1992 928 GTS on the Swiss highway at 100 km/h. Destination - Germany. I started this weekend trip on an early Friday morning, in order to be in Freiburg Germany before 12 noon.

To my right was my wife; she was asleep. In the rear right passenger seat, my 3 year old son was doing the same.

The light of dawn begins to enter the valleys in the Swiss mountains, I am comfortably sitting in the pilot seat. The cockpit's temeprature was cozy despite the cold air outside; ten day old snow was piled up on the side of the highway. Suddenly, the passenger side wheels clipped a mound of slush and as I twitched the wheel a bit to get the 928 back on asphalt, it hit me; how did I end up with a Porsche after generations of Bimmers in my family?
I used to have also a BMW 635. There are times I regret having sold it; ironic how I ended up I buying a car that was its born competitor.

History began in May of 1998. I was in my last year of superior school, what we consider "high school" in Italy, that a school mate would sometimes give me a ride home since we lived close to each other. This ride was a sharp contrast to the dull train that often took me home; rather than being bumped around on rails, I was in the lap of luxury in his uncle's 928 GTS.

It was Midnight Blue metallic over a Marine Blau interior complete with a sunroof and a manual gearbox because according to him, automatics are for taxi drivers here in Italy.

“when I decide to sell this car, I'll give you a call; I'd like to give this car to you." 

One day he invited me home for lunch where I got to meet this generous uncle.I suppose I should have thanked him for igniting this passion I developed for the 928; especially the GTS. I was always captived by the 928, the GTS model in particular since it was everything I wanted at that time. But I was scared about Porsche market prices and maintenaince costs especially since I was to enroll in Economics University and had yet to complete restoration on the always forgotten BMW Limousine 3,3 litre that belonged to my parents. It always remained in the family and was part of my childhood, I owed it that much.

But dreaming isn't illegal. I kept an eye on that car because it was like the first girl you fell in love with…you never forget.
Then in 1999 Uncle Umberto, the owner of that magnificient GTS, bought the mountain cottage beside the small cottage my parents had bought in the early eighties. I used that cottage to study for University exams; it was perfectly isolated and free from civilisation's noises. But there was a problem - that Midnight Blue GTS was parked at the end of the street and it distracted me with this annoying pleasure that displaced all thoughts of school.

The uncle was a man who understood people at first sight, he figured out this passion I couldn't hide. He told me, “when I decide to sell this car, I'll give you a call; I'd like to give this car to you. " A handshake ratified the agreement...but it was easier for a man like him than for me to make such a commitment.

Years went by when an “unknown” phone number sprang up on my mobile phone; it was my old school mate now 35 and had two sons. He left me his uncle's number reminding me of the promise he made me with that handshake.
I was love struck all over again with the GTS. Too many years went by without thinking about this marvellous car that even at 18 I knew it to be the best GT ever made. There were a million reasons against it; each one attempted to delete the car from memory.

The time had arrived; it was now or never.

Speechless, I told him I was very busy at the moment. "We can talk about the car this weekend," I said.  "I'll call you back, I promise."

There lots of reasons why I forgot to call uncle Umberto back; I'm not sure any of them were valid. Eight weekends had passed before I would finally call him.

His wife answered and told me Umberto left our world about three days after he phoned me; an aggressive cancer had its way. It wasn't really the right time to ask for the Porsche. But she asked me, so I explained the matter, this promise we shook on telling her how it didn't matter in the same breath. I was actually embarassed and a bit sad.
She phoned me 3 days later explaining that the car was at the dealer for a little TLC when he died and how the dealer was in charge of selling the car which ended up in in Belgium because no one in Italy wanted it. So the dealer in Italy gave me the number of the dealer in Belgium who bought the car. "Maybe, just maybe," I thought "there's still a chance. It may not be too late." 

It was the end of February 2011. Time to act...and quickly.

I called the dealer in Belgium; the car had been sold to another luxury car seller. So I called the second man, the luxury car seller, who told me he sold the car to a man in France two days before my phone call to him. I started to think the chances of getting this car were eluding me. If the new owner in France agreed for the seller to pass his contact info to me, I still had a chance. I pleaded with the seller to pull through for me...he did.

"I wanted to make sure this was the car that was coming in and out of my life, that made me dream, suffer, fall in love, be unfaithful with BMW, and made me lie to my wife..."

The French owner apparently was a nice guy, but he never answered the phone. Time went by and my hopes weres of getting this car were getting slim. I didn't want another 1992 GTS manual with blue paint and blue hide, I wanted that car.

It was after mid August during summer vacation. My wife was pregnant at the time and not too keen to go on holiday so we stayed home. I tried to get in touch with the Frenchman again.

This time I sent him an email before trying to phone him. I was so sad. I didn't want to hear the voice of his mobile voicemail umpteenth time. But it was my lucky day; this time he promptly replied to email. He was happy to sell the car for the same amount (a fair price to be honest) he bought it. Turns out he wasn't happy with the manual gearbox. I did not mention the history of that 928 to the owner; such emotions might jeopardize the price. We agreed to meet.

I kept calm when we met in France. I wanted to make sure this was the car that was coming in and out of my life, that made me dream, suffer, fall in love, be unfaithful with BMW, and made me lie to my wife because she knew I lost hope some months before. She didn't know I was in France to see the car.
It was mine at last.

I had enough money on my porcelain pig to get it. I wired it 2 or 3 days after getting off the bus to France to get the car with a lot of apprehension. My wife was in thefinal stages of pregnancy and was under the impression that I was fishing with an old friend - I behaved like a terrible person and felt awful.

I drove the car back to Italy to a hidden place offered by a fellow petrol head friend, put new licence plates on it when i eventually drove it home to my wife and my newborn son on the 23rd of September 2013. My wife was astonished but understood everyhting in few seconds.

A revelation occurred just before I crossed Saint Gottard Pass.  This car was waiting for me before I started looking for a 6 Series in 1996 or any other BMW. I swore that I would never have done such a thing for any other car.
I guess what I had done was justified and made complete sense the moment I took a look around the cockpit. Everything's handy, there's low noise from tyres, the engine sound at costant speed is close to zero, but a blip of the throttle and the V8 burble comes back to excite my mind. There's enough power to make happy a good part of the ppopulation in the world, there's room for 3 people (well, two and a half) and luggage, plus a baby stroller. Fuel consumption is acceptable; but that's a small fee to pay for such a car. There are a lot of toys like the sunroof which my son really likes, airbags, a climate control system that's really simple, clever, and efficient, a radio with 10 speakers which needed some tuning to get the best from it, and good air conditioning. It's been reliable (touching wood). There haven’t been any electrical gremlins, nothing has broken, never had to call for a tow; only the minor problems a car with 20 years can give.

I had a 635 for almost 12 years, one of my best friend owns a MB 560 SEC that I drove a lot. I avoided the XJ S like the plague, my friends do too, because there aren't any good examples in Italy; never mind that they weren’t reliable when new...I would imagine that after 20 years it would be a suicide.

I think I love this car just because it not only does what a GT car should do, but it does better than any other GT. This car isn't only a simple summary of qualities a GT must have, it has some compromises like any other car but Porsche really engineered the 928 in order to emphasize the peculiarities of a GT car and fulfill the needs of the classic GT driver. Once you drive it, you don't need anything else from the outside environment, except the air. Porsche worked hard simply to make the 928 and his driver a whole. They made it possible.
I was thinking about all this as I reached the German border anticipating the fun I’d have on the autobahn.

My wife simply adore this car. 10 kilometers after German border she woke up and said, “can you push on a bit more? We're never going to arrive before 12 o'clock.”

I told her to look at the speedo.

“Is it faulty?” she asked.

“” I said.

“Please slow down, for the love of you son! Incredible, I thought you was going much reassuring at this pace.” She turned her face back towards the door glass, and went on sleeping till I parked in the center of the city, ready for a tourist weekend.

I slowed down to normal crusing speed; I was going at 170-180km/h in case you were wondering.

This is why I love my 928 GTS...and will never sell it.

flüssig's correspondent in Italy


10/22/2015 20:29

Great article Francesco, glad you were able to locate the car of your childhood dreams!

Lonnie Davis
04/17/2016 10:09

Great story. The 928 captivated many of us when it came to light. I was a Ferrari fan until my senior year in high school. Was in Miami on our class trip when Minerva blue pulled into the parking lot. That was it... The first thing on my bucket list happened. It took 32 years, but the 1st item on my bucket list now sits proudly in my garage.
Every time I turn the key, I am transported back to that day in 1976...


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