story and photos by jim doerr

Last year, I had the pleasure of driving back-to-back a 1987 928 S4 and an early 1978 928 - both 5 speed manual.

The destination was Michigan and the 2013 Porsche Parade in Traverse City. My 7 year old daughter Quinn and I started out of Richmond, Virginia with the '87 S4. The trip was an easy 750 mile highway tour, and the S4 handled it perfectly, as expected. We met up with my Mom and Dad, and made a switch - daughter went with mom, dad with me. Parade here we come, Pops!
I had the '78 stashed at my dad's farm, so the only decision left was which 928 to take. I had much more seat-time with '87, having driving it regularly for over 3 years, and the '78 was relatively fresh and sorted, so I was anxious to get behind it's wheel.

My father was a little skeptical of the 36 year old girl and suggested the S4. But I assured him the '78 was ready for the Parade, and a decision was made, along with another switch.

It was a short 250 mile trip to Traverse City and around and back, and the '78 did it perfectly. Most notable was my father's comment on how comfortable it was, with the soft cloth seats and all. I agreed, and also enjoyed how it revved freely and cruised easily. After getting back to my parent's house, we continued to drive the '78 around the local Michigan I used to call home. We took it to a beach on Lake Huron and also my Nephew's baseball games. For both trips the car was packed comfortably with 4 passengers (kids in the back seats). Everyone was pleased with its ride, including my mom.
Later that same trip, my Aunt Denise was enamored by the factory pearl white '87 and had requested a ride. We did some country driving with a couple high-speed runs to get her blood flowing, and she was thrilled! That '87 really knows how to pull, and I'm always amazed at how smooth it feels at any speed.

The trip back to Virginia posed a quandary for me. See, I'd planned to drive back the silver '78 to sell—which was part of the reason for the trip. Problem was I'd enjoyed driving the '78 so much, I didn't want to sell it! Not a bad problem to have, really. As much and I wanted to keep the '78, I had a buyer for it. And the '87 had been the 'family 928' for so many years, we just weren't ready to let it go.

So back to Virginia we went in the silver '78. Again, she's performed flawlessly with my daughter comfortably nestled in the back.

That's the story of the trip... but I'll leave you with my comparative impression of these two 928s - separated by 11 years of time and development.
Most lasting impression is how surprisingly similar they are to drive. Both do their primary duty of touring very well!

Behind the wheel, you may forget which one you’re driving. Early cloth seats versus later leather with lumbar is awash in long-distance comfort.

Getting up to speed and holding on the highway will also leave impressions of similarities. They may do it differently, but both very competently. The '78 feels punchy and loves to breathe. It gives you a sweet swoosh sound as air is sucked thru its large intake. What it lacks in sheer power, it makes up for with ready-to-go attitude! The '87 is so smooth and brute; it almost feels like a non-event with its long flat torque. It's just so effortless, but in a fantastic way!

Biggest different is with wheels, suspension. The '78 with 16" rubber and '87 with 18" leaves the obvious difference in sidewall feel - the '78 cushy and forgiving, the '87 taught and less forgiving. Suspensions a similar story - the '78 with softer stock spring and Boge/Sachs, and the '87 with medium/soft Konis and sport springs. The '87 is flat while the '78 likes to wallow a bit. This, in my opinion, comes down to personal preference. I like both, but my driving style has softened as I get older.

Their biggest differences are also what keep them so similar. The '78 has less power but is lighter, the '87 the inverse. Same with the gearing, '78 close ratio shorter legs, '87 longer legs. So they both have dynamics that make them work well at usable speeds.

I like them both because they are 928s. My heart is with the early 928s and the purity that comes with the original design. However, I wouldn't kick the S4 out of bed...and my wife likes it too.

If you had to make a choice, get one of each. If that's not an option, drive them both and let your heart make the call. Either way, you can't go wrong.
Jim Doerr is the owner of 928 Classics, a company dedicated to the restoration and preservation of classic Porsche 928s. He's also developed the world's first 18" Phone Dial wheel designed to fit our early water-cooled Porsches.

Pay him a visit at:



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