Porsche 928 GTS

Did you know?

by Glenn Butler

TOM Cruise triggered my obsession with Porsche’s anti-911. Actually, it was his gorgeous ‘girlfriend’ Rebecca De Mornay in the 1983 movie Risky Business. Any car that snared that long, blonde lush – she did play a callgirl – immediately got my teenage attention.

Curvaceous, classy and with an intoxicating aura of self-belief, the 928 seemed almost the automotive embodiment of De Mornay’s character Lana.

My infatuation with Miss De Mornay lasted barely a year until I saw Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club – bad girls did it for me, apparently – but my interest in the 928 never died. In fact, it only grew stronger the more I learned about this revolutionary front-engined GT from that obstinately rear-engine German car company.

Despite my chosen profession, I’ve never had the opportunity to drive a Porsche 928. Not even when I almost bought one back in 1998. It was a low-mileage 1987 S4 with a 221kW 5.0-litre V8, and I couldn’t afford it. Not even close.

It’s taken three decades since Tom cruised that gold 928 across the big screen – and into a lake – for me to drive my automotive dream. Today I take the wheel of one of just 22 Australian-delivered 1994 GTS models, the last and best of breed in my opinion.

For a car that was intended by its maker to succeed the rear-engined 911, Porsche’s designers and engineers really did start with a clean sheet. What they ended up creating is a timeless classic that was launched in 1977, and arrived in Oz in ’78.

The 928 shares little with 911s of the era, although the Porsche Cup II alloys on this late-model GTS are common. This 2+2 coupe is longer, fatter and faster than same-vintage 911s, and not as sharp or immersive to drive, according to Mel Nichols, who attended the global launch for Wheels in 1977. Of course, the engine is at the wrong end, has the wrong configuration and two cylinders too many. And I love all that about it.

We start slow because my reverence for this moment, this dream come true, keeps the inner revhead at bay.

I feel inexperienced and unsure, like I’m 14 again and meeting Ms De Mornay in person. Actually, let’s stop the pimply teenage metaphor before it blows up.

Did you know?

Rumours persist that Porsche will reprise the 928 badge, possibly as a coupe version of the Panamera.

Porsche has not said yes or no, but if it does, classic 928 values will skyrocket Just over 61,000 928s were sold globally from 1977 to the end of production in 1995. Porsche has sold more than 820,000 911 models since production began in 1963 The Porsche 928 is said to be the first production car with the instrument binnacle mounted to the steering column, so the dials are always clearly visible

Living the dream

ROGER Holding has owned five Porsches, three of which were 928s. But the Geelong hotelier is not addicted.

“The first time [I bought a 928 ] was in 1989.

I wanted to buy a sports car but needed to fit the kids in. The 928 fit that bill, though thankfully the kids were young back then.

“For this one, I knew I wanted a GTS. When I first saw this one, I was told it was a 1993 model, but further investigation proved it was a 1994, which was the last year of production, so it might have been worth a little more than I paid!

“This particular car was delivered new in Queensland. I bought it from a doctor in Sydney. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close, as close as I can get it without spending silly money. I’ve replaced a few things, the front lip for example – it’s very low! – and it’s got an aftermarket stereo with Bluetooth, but everything else is pretty much stock.

“It gets driven a fair bit. Last week, I drove it to Adelaide and back from Melbourne.

“A low-mileage 928 GTS in this condition should fetch around $60K. That’s not actually a lot of money when you’re getting a Gran Tourer coupe with five-second performance and a Porsche badge.”

Like any ageing luxury import, maintenance is not cheap – Roger reckons it costs about $3K a year to keep it at this level – but it’s a lot cheaper than having to replace worn-out parts.

“This one will keep going for years and years… Why? Do you want to buy it?”

This particular 928’s interior may be two decades old, and the interior design betrays its age more than the exterior does, but as I slide into the seat I notice the materials and surfaces have weathered well. This one has been well cared for.

Shut the door, turn the key. The 5.4-litre V8 fires, the whole car vibrates gently. Open the door again to release the handbrake, which sits between seat and door. Shut the door, engage Drive on the Benz-supplied four-speed and… I remember little of my first drive, even though we had plenty of time. I do recall that I grinned a lot, even giggled like a tipsy teen. I remember that the 928 felt unlike any other Porsche I’ve driven: more luxurious, more effortless, more graceful. More dreamlike.

At the same time, it was immediate and involving like a 911 – like a Porsche – despite its GT pretensions and 1620kg kerb weight. Tactile steering, hungry front end; the 928 nurtures a symbiotic relationship between car and driver.

I didn’t take the 928’s rumbling V8 to redline, nor did I make the Pirellis howl through the corners, and I certainly didn't thump those big disc brakes like a last-corner champ. Even thinking about those acts of mechanical aggression felt deeply disrespectful.

Instead, I revelled in the GTS’s continent-crushing ability to cover the miles effortlessly and with poise.

I immersed myself in its eight-tenths delights. The way it glided across the tarmac and carved sweetly around the bends. The way the body leaned through the bends, and how its throaty V8 roared enthusiastically under acceleration.

I felt enough through the controls to know the 928 would be heaps of fun on my favourite backroads.

And to know that any dynamic deficiencies against modern sports cars are more than compensated by the sense of occasion this superb machine delivers. It feels incredibly special to drive.

Much of that is probably in my mind – I’d been dreaming of this day for decades, mentailly building it up. And the 928 GTS didn’t let me down. It was better than I dared hope, and so exotically different to a 911.

And, since 928 values are climbing, there’s nothing risky about the business of buying one, right?