20 July 2012

Buyers Guide: Porsche 928

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of time …”  That sentiment couldn't have been more real for Porsche during the 70s.

In 1977, the launch of the Porsche 928 came during a time of economic crisis with the fallout from the oil embargo earlier that decade. The company was still young, and its strength was building sports and racing cars. Under new leadership, coupled with a new marketing department, Porsche wanted to produce a Gran Turismo supercar. Summoning young engineers from the new Weissach R&D center, Porsche chose a clean-sheet design with a fresh approach, and it carved out a timeless design in the Porsche 928.

The marketing department prepared for the biggest launch in the company's history. Twelve pre-production prototypes were rushed to completion for overnight shipment to Nice, France. Over the next two weeks in late February, press and media agents from around the world trounced the new 928 through the French Alps. They were impressed, and wrote enthusiastically about it in upcoming magazines.

The public's first look was at the 1977 Geneva Auto Salon, where it was very well received. There wasn't anything like it at the show. The following year, the 928 was awarded European Car of the Year.

Porsche couldn't have asked for a better reception. The next two years of production saw the largest annual sales in the marque's 18-year lifespan. More than 60,000 were produced worldwide between 1978-1995.

The strength of the ‘77-‘79 early cars is in their uniqueness and purity. They were spoilerless, often sans sunroof, and a majority were fitted with manual transmissions. They were relatively lightweight and punchy with the then-new CIS fuel injection system. The phone dial wheels and Pasha interior set them apart with modernism, now considered retro charm. Cars remain very affordable, with good examples hovering around $7,000 and perfect cars trading below $17,000.

The next sweet spot lies with the mid-marque cars. The ‘84-‘86 16V Eurospec with 310 hp and “hoppy” cams deliver a real punch. They are rev happy and still tossable. The ‘85-‘86 32V is a torque monster that was conservatively factory detuned. Enthusiasts are finding untapped power that really wakes these cars up. They are a great balance between a more modern 5.0-liter motor, yet still possess the original body style.Like the earlier cars, prices remain low. Plan on spending from $8,000 for a solid 32V car to $21,000 for a near-perfect one.

The 928 grew into a real modern contender with the 5-speed only GT series of ‘89-‘91. The 89 GT is notable for its rarity, with only 65 built. The GT is a real bruiser, with well-spec'd cams and shorter final drive. Additionally, the later, more aerodynamic body style gives it a modern sweeping look. Enthusiasts tend to gravitate to these cars more than the earlier models, and prices reflect that. Concours-quality cars run about $31,000, while good models trade around $13,500.

The 928 swan song was the GTS of ‘93-‘95, the final production series. 5.4 Litres, 345 hp and 369 ft/lbs torque make this a true supercar.

Their rarity makes them coveted among collectors and enthusiasts. 406 U.S.-destined GTSs were produced during those three years (no U.S.-destined GTSs were produced in ‘92). Even rarer of the group are the 5-speed manual variants. Expect to pay between $30,000 and $50,000 for a GTS depending on how flawless you want it to be.

The 928 was engineered from the beginning to deliver serious performance and serious speeds at great lengths of time in comfort. The quality of the design is enduring, and Porsche made it that way with longevity in mind.

From the timeless shape to the simple Teutonic interior, there is something special within each series to appeal to a broad range of drivers and collectors.

There couldn't be a better time to buy and own a Porsche 928. The performance vs. value delta is amazing, and prices are still favorable. Don't expect this to last. Stock of salvageable originals is depleting due to attrition, similar to 356s back in the day. Original early cars are getting particularly rare.

Two general rules of thumb when buying: 1. Buy the best one you can afford. 2. Anticipate twice the cost of purchase going in to allow enough to get a car that meets your standards.

Remember these are highly engineered cars and were made to last a long time. As such, parts prices are indicative of their level of quality. They are 15-35 years old and often require a very systematic approach to keeping them reliable. Prepare to replace age-related items, such as fuel hoses and intake rubber. Look closely at cleaning ground points, fuses and relays. If there is no record of a timing belt service, expect to perform that service upon purchase. With up-to-date service, one can expect years of reliable duty from the 928.

The good news is that there's plenty of vendor support. You may find a fair and faithful boutique vendor base, supplying good used parts, new and hard-to-find parts, and complete interior restorations. New parts alternatives are now available, as well. There's a new water pump with an uprated bushing and plastic impeller, and a self-tensioning timing belt system that eliminates the need for follow-up re-tension.

The enthusiast community surrounding these cars is a gracious and technical group, many of whom are DIY mechanics. Much support and information is available via Internet forums or by visiting a regional 928 event. If you are handy with a wrench, and get the “German way,” you will enjoy working on them. Best of all, the Porsche 928 loves to be driven, and it will reward you for it.

Jim Doerr is the owner of 928 Classics, which specializes in early Porsche 928 restoration. His business is dedicated to the preservation and elevation of early 928s. Having been into 928s for more than a decade, Jim was drawn to the earliest of classic 928s when he found the then-oldest pre-production 928 ever built. Following that was the acquisition of the first pre-production 928 produced worldwide. Number One, as it is referred to, remains his goal for an ultimate 928 restoration of the highest quality.

13 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Roscoe Johnson Grand Rapids, Michigan July 6, 2013 at 23:12
    Thank you for the nice article as I am seriosly contemplating purchase of a 928. There is quite a price variation in what is being offered and almost all are from the 1982 -1986 time. I also noticed that one can purchase a 911 in excellent shape for about the same money - maybe slightly more... I know they are different vehicles but I am interested in summer utilization unless in Florida and appreciation reliability, durability. I am retired from Chrysler and possess extensive experience in powertrain engineering and then in later years in manufacturing assembly plants... Any advice is welcome
  • 2
    Richard vassil Washington crossing pa. January 4, 2014 at 19:43
    I own a 1986 porsche 928s since 1990 .car is red with black leather interior, completely stock, meticulously serviced and looks and runs like new. i agree with the above article
  • 3
    Kevin Thiem Georgia, USA January 30, 2014 at 16:49
    I progressed from the 944 to the 928S. A true super-car. A blast to drive. Get them while they are affordable. Get a 5 speed if you can.
  • 4
    Erik Di Somma Vero Beach, FL April 25, 2014 at 18:37
    My first car was a 1979 928; my second was a 1982 S., both euro cars. Earlier models (especially pre-'85), I highly recommend going grey market. You'll appreciate the extra horsepower and options. If you're stuck between choosing a 911 or 928, you probably won't like the 928. You're either a 928 nut or you're not--the cars are COMPLETELY different. Personally, I'd choose a GTS over a 911 Turbo any day. If you get a nice one, be sure to change the timing belt at 29K intervals! Water pumps at 60K during the same service. Auto trannys are bulletproof (the 3-spd MBs and the 4spd), you really can't kill them. The 5 spd cars are faster and are more fun but the syncros go fast too so be careful. Be sure to keep the A/C charged and don't slam the doors unless the windows are all the way up or all the way down. Keep these pointers in mind when enjoying the best darn touring car ever built!
  • 5
    doug campbell Austin, TX - '84 928S May 13, 2014 at 14:05
    Nice piece...and you hit the nail on the head in closing with "Best of all, the Porsche 928 loves to be driven, and it will reward you for it"...yes it does and yes it will! Thank you for posting. Cheers!
  • 6
    christopher dowdey michigan September 11, 2014 at 21:51
    WOW what a car! I just became the proud owner owner of a 928 project vehicle. It's not perfect and I'm rebuilding as I go. Belt, Water pump....checking electrical but it's beautiful Black with excellent tan interior. I removed the rear wing as I prefer a more purist look and I'm not going to run it at 150mph plus. Just a magnificent machine to drive. What a thrill! I'm also a big fan of Tony Lapine and Designer Wolfgang Mobious,.....and the Porsche design team....what an aesthetic and wonderful sculpturing (great engineering)......Sometimes just looking at it in the different lighting is so enjoyable. Wax on Wax off......Great investment
  • 7
    John Tyler, TX May 6, 2015 at 16:40
    I have an '81 guards red with black leather and manual trans for sale. Will be moving and have no place to garage it. I am second owner as the car was 3 years old when I got it. Needs fuel tank repair, coolant in A/C. 114000 miles. Always garaged, new tires. Body in excellent condition. Most of these cars are nearly trashed out but not this one. Rare find and with a little work, ready to drive.
  • 8
    Christopher Dowdey Trenton, Michigan 48183 July 24, 2015 at 11:43
    I have a 928 for sale at 14,500.00 asking price of a very good driving machine. Loss of job and trying to get something I can drive year round.....or you could not pry this wonderful driving machine from my one car collection. New Cam Belt. New Water pump, New coil, plugs and harness excellent. New CFI Radiator, New Head lamps, New tires, Car is an amazing driving experience. With it's cubic displacement and other German eng. tweeks making its performance on par with the 454 big block Chevy. The vehicle is an amazing driving machine and a great investment.Only Sharks need apply....the rest of you will never understand the sheer joy of owning a 928
  • 9
    Sam USA July 3, 2016 at 14:45
    "and a self-tensioning timing belt system that eliminates the need for follow-up re-tension" http://rennlist.com/forums/928-forum/822981-modify-pk-tensioner-for-black-edition.html Read the thread, the original Porsche tensioner works fine. This so called aftermarket Audi self-tensioning tensioner broke on a couple of cars due to poor design of using a cone head bolt for shear, even the new "better" black edition tensioner bracket still has this design flaw. 4 bolts are used to hold the tensioner bracket on, one of them is a cone-head bolt which also happens to be the closest one to the tensioner pulley which would see most of the shear load. I think the first one that broke was on a GTS with something like 35,000 miles on the system. All the valves got bent. The cone-head bolt broke, then resulted in the bracket becoming loose and the timing belt coming off. A damage like this is about 10,000 dollars to fix with parts and labor on a 32 valve car. All because of being too lazy to spend 40 minutes taking the passenger side timing belt cover off and checking and re-tensioning the factory mechanical timing belt system, a system designed by actual Engineers. Also when you use this aftermarket self tensioning system you lose the factory timing belt warning system which would normally come on when there is a problem with the system like water pump bearing going bad, cam gear bolt coming loose, or belt tension getting loose for whatever reason. It gives plenty of warning before a catastrophic failure. There is threads after threads on Rennlist of people ignoring the warning system until the water pump failed, or the cam gear broke off the cam nose due to the bolt being loose or belt just jumping of the gears because of being loose due to bad tension. With the aftermarket self tensioning system you loose the warning system. If the water pump pulley is seizing due to a failed water pump bearing you will not know, if for whatever reason the mechanic forgot to tighten the cam gear bolt and it comes loose you will not know, if the belt is losing tension for any reason you will not know until its too late. The factory system lasts about 44,000 miles very easy job to do, easier than doing a timing belt job on most Japanese cars out there. Plenty of room to get to stuff and use a torque wrench to properly torque all the bolts to factory specs. If more 928 owners with this self-tensioning system installed on their car, drove every day and got the miles up instead of seating in the garage we would see more failures of this new system, its not a proven system for long term durability. Best advice I can give is that the 87+ cars have the best and latest tensioning system design, if you have a pre 87 car and want to upgrade to a more durable system change to the 87-95 system, which right now I believe pulley on the newer system are a lot cheaper than the ones on the earlier design.
  • 10
    Charles Militello buffalo,n.y. September 19, 2016 at 13:00
    i own a 1980/ 928s, in the starting stages of restoring this vehicle which was in storm sandy ,long Island. I believe this car needs to be back on the road.
  • 11
    Matt Placitas, NM September 29, 2016 at 12:57
    why isn't the 928S4 included? '87--89?
  • 12
    Jose Florida October 30, 2016 at 08:33
    Is it true that the early models till 1980 have a non interference motor??? Where can I find for sure?
  • 13
    richard cuthbert new zealand November 6, 2016 at 14:28
    i have a 1980 928 (not s) in really good original condition its an amazing car i love it to drive. im a car nut and have owned many great cars E type and mk 2 & xj convertable jags, sl 500 merc's, delorean. triumph tiger,MG's etc by far my 928 is the best of the best

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