story by pablo deferrari photos by owner
It occurred to me while I was making pesto; I had learned a new trick that day. Earlier I had gone to take a look at this '81 928 that, although priced on the high side, seemed worth a visit since it was close to home. I spoke with the owner, a very nice guy, and agreed on a time to meet.
At this point, I thought myself pretty seasoned on bargain 928s. I've seen a cross dressing 'driver' with bargain rate plastic surgery and I've seen one with such a pathetic disposition that even if it were given to me for free, I wasn't sure if it was worth the risk of being ridiculed by the guy towing the heap to my house. One thing was certain though; I've narrowed down exactly what I was looking for...well, sort of.
I was falling madly in love with the early 928s before they wore spoilers. It was, to me, the quintessentially purest rendition of model that was faithful to the original design first seen in Geneva on its debut in 1977. That's what I wanted.
Why, then, was I wasting time looking at this '81 with an airplane wing affixed to its rump and an automatic gearbox all clothed in a horrid shade of blue? Well, if I could bring her home for the right price, I can correct the wrong, undo the neglect, and pass her over to an enthusiast whose desires differ from mine. And that's why I bothered.
1981 was sort of non-exciting period for the 928...at least on this side of the globe. It didn't possess the charm of the '78s and '79s and it wasn't the S quite yet...but it did have one ace up its sleeve. The much more flexible Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system and that was evolutionary…and the Competition Group package option.
By this time, Porsche had figured out a few things production-wise and fixed a lot of the niggles that plagued the earlier examples. It was classic Porsche style - slow, incremental evolution of the species that guaranteed each new version better in some way than the one before it. Case in point, fuel delivery.
The Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system brought the 928 into '80s. This system introduced in MY 1980 replaced the CIS K-Jet and promised to be a bit sweeter than it's predecessor...less fussy. The engine number for this model I was looking at should be the M28.16 with a 9.0:1 compression ratio (the M28.15 assigned to those mated with manual gearboxes) paired with the A22.01 automatic. A three-way catalyst, air pump, O2 sensor, and central cold-start injection helped the new car meet stricter Federal emissions regulations. Aside from that, the other differences were in the suspension and interior and options.
The suspension in the front sported a new geometry while at the rear, a new tubular steel 22.5mm anti-roll was used. There was also a new front sub frame, wiper motor, and clutch pedal. On the inside, sport sears were available as an option and the iconic button on the side of the seat to access the back was replaced by a lever. The lovely Lapine designed 3-spoke steering wheel was replaced by the 4-spoke as standard fare midway in production. Besides a $1000 price reduction from the previous year, more options became available like a digital radio/cassette, amplifier, custom leather trim, and protective rub strips on the outside.
The thing that made drivers go a big rubbery one? The 85 MPH speedometer. The logic behind this government mandated move was the equivalent to castration. It was thought to deter speeding thus saving fuel...right on guv!
As mentioned earlier, this car, the one I looked at, had a very lofty asking price...I'll explain why. The current owner went to an auto auction where he saw old girl and was smitten. He won the auction and brought her home. And there she sat, for close to 5 years; never driven, never registered or insured, and never titled. Can you believe this? Of course you can. You see, I never really got a straight answer from the owner other than that he fell on hard times and never got around to enjoying this strange new toy that was becoming on eyesore to his neighbors. He’s lucky they didn't sneak around to his front door at night and urinate into his mail slot in spite of this.
I like to see a car alone first, you know, look it over intimately without distractions before summoning the owner out to meet me. Aside from the silly baseball team sticker irreverently slapped on the front bumper, I knew this was going to be a fun experience. The 2 x 6 plank shoved under one of the rear wheels guaranteed it. Save for the old fart-preferred extra thick and grippy Walmart steering wheel cover, the interior looked complete and usable. I tried really hard to avoid eye contact with the S4-type rear spoiler because if I looked at that paired with the puny 15” phone dials, I would have to vomit peas and diced carrots on this man’s lovely azaleas. Now the color on this car that I've grown to hate was actually a special order color, Pacific Blue Metallic. But I saw past this and managed to focus on the real goods instead like the engine. I needed access to the insides now so I knocked on the door to announce my arrival.
After an exchange of niceties and some bottom sniffing, the car is opened and the hood propped up. My eye was immediately drawn to the missing straps on the air box and the corrugated air intake snorkels which had clearly seen better days since they were repaired with silver duct tape. I anticipated this sort of thing, the story of neglected upkeep always begins here with these little things. And sure enough, it started to go downhill from there...pretty quickly.
On start up the engine shook so violently that watching it sway from side to side began to make me sea-sick, the motor mounts decided to pack their bags and leave a long time ago. I then tried to see where the massive exhaust leak was coming from only to find that there wasn't any exhaust system at all. The silencers from the cat back followed the motor mount's wise decision to head for the hills...nothing there. The problem with this discovery was that no one except Borla (which isn’t my cup of tea because it looks too boy-racer for my tastes) made a suitable replacement. The original rear and center silencers, if still available, would set me back around $2000, the motor mounts would coaxed back home for an additional $230 each. I, of course, would supply the labor along with every single German curse word I knew while doing it.
So the asking price plus these new amounts would've have had the asylum reserve a very special spot for me if I even dared to pull the trigger. Throw in some new skins for the seats, a full brake system rebuild, a few studs that had gone missing from the hubs, and tires while we're at it and I’d be a candidate for a lobotomy. I'm a gruff and pretty feral guy to begin with, so how can I politely explain to this gentleman that I just couldn’t even offer an 1/8 of his asking price.
What I briefly considered doing with this car was adding the necessary components, make it a safe driver, give a good wash and a shave and off she'd go to a new owner. But I just can't here because this poor fellow set the asking price based on what he paid for it at auction...I know because I saw the invoice, it wasn't a fake and he seemed too honest of a guy to pull the wool over my eyes. I thanked him for his time, shook hands, and off I went.
I felt bad for the guy, I really did, but he wasn't realistic. There are people, quite possibly neighbors of his, who are short selling their homes because they bought high, the property value is worth a fraction of what they paid and now they're upside down. The market just can't compensate for their misfortune and so they are forced to take a loss. The rules are no different here. I wish him the best of luck.
Oh, and that trick I learned on this day? Open the hood or hatch and hold it high while you cleverly squeeze a pair of vice grips on the shaft of the strut where it meets the outer barrel and poof, the hood/hatch stays up! Imagine that, the broomstick is made obsolete.