I’ve driven and raced a variety of Porsches over the years. I’ve put significant miles on a 356 Convertible D, raced a 2.7 Carrera with MFI twice in the Modena Cento Ore, took our Boxster S on two 1,000-mile Oregon Porsche club tours, piloted a 1968 911 L on the 800-mile Oregon Alfa club Northwest Classic, drove a water-cooled 911 as the pathfinder on the 2018 SCM 1000 route, and had 914/4s and a variety of other models.
With each of them, I recall the first time I slipped behind the wheel. The Stuttgart DNA was omnipresent. There was no mistaking that this was a Porsche.
That’s not the case with my 1991 928 S4 auto. I’ve had it about two months and put 500 miles on it.
I’m still confused by the signals it sends me when I get into the driver’s seat.
This last weekend I took it for a 150-mile loop on some of my favorite GT roads. I took Highway 26 to the Oregon coast, then Highway 6 towards Tillamook. Along the way I stopped at my favorite Rover Club watering hole, Brown’s Camp OHV park. In the parking area where we air down our rigs to 10 pounds or so for better traction, the towering weapons-grade SUVs had fun challenging me to some runs. I told them the 928 was secretly a 959 Paris-Dakar tribute car and I didn’t want to embarrass them.
I took Highway 47 home, with its never-ending stretches of 80 mph gentle curves, slowing down as I passed Pacific University and the home of the Forest Grove Concours. Then back to 26 and home.
The 928 is a brilliant high-speed GT car. Since I last drove it, I’ve made some necessary improvements. I sourced cupholders that slid between the seats. My latte was now secure. Then I had Peter Clover at local specialist shop Mobile West install a mid-range Alpine Bluetooth stereo, new amp and all new speakers. He explained that the original amp and speakers were designed around the cassette deck that came standard with the car, and it was time for an upgrade.
Total bill was around $2,000. I’ve learned with Peter than no matter what I ask for, the bill is always around $2,000. And it is always money well spent.
I picked the car up from SCM headquarters, got my latte and figured out how to get the deck to talk to Pandora on my phone.
As I cruised along with traffic at 80 on Highway 26, latte in hand and classic rock on the stereo, I was one happy guy.
But was I in a Porsche?
Not like one I had ever experienced.
First of all, the steering wheel is thick and the steering heavier than expected. Very un-Porsche-like.
Second, this is a car designed to have a friend along and have relaxed conversations while you are covering prodigious amounts of highway.
If I had been driving one of my four-cylinder Alfas, I would have been busy rowing through the gears to extract the necessary power from the 1.6-L, 120-hp engine. With 5 liters, 32-valves and 330 horsepower, I didn’t have to work nearly so hard. Or at all, actually.
As the 928 rides the seam between digital and analog cars it has some anachronistic aspects. The dash layout and switches could have come from Kukla, Fran and Ollie (bonus points if you don’t have to look up that reference). The headlight switch is huge and looks like it was designed for Saab drivers to use while wearing mittens. There are no lights behind the power window switches on the center console so you just poke around until something starts to happen. Let’s not mention the Maserati-tribute analog clock.
The ridiculous instant-mileage digital gauge lets you know you are getting the same mileage as a Sherman tank under most circumstances – as if any 928 owner would care. The slider switches for the temperature could have come from a Honda Civic of the same era. There is a separate button for the a/c and a separate fan switch. I have the same setup on my 1971 Jaguar V12 and thought it was goofy on a 50-year-old British car, let alone a 30-year-old Porsche supercar.
But once you are hustling down the highway you aren’t aware of any of those things.
The 928 feels planted and sure-footed. It has enough easy horsepower to make two-lane driving fun instead of an exercise in terror.
I longed for company. I wished that our executive editor Jeff Sabatini, our Senior Editor Rory Jurnecka, or Porschephile Jim Schrager could have been with me. I wanted to talk about the car and what it represented.
When built, it was Piech’s kick-ass, take-no-prisoners ultra-Porsche that left everything about the 911 behind.
This particular 928 had good bones to start with.
It had been in storage for many years. Greg Maissen, the knowledgeable salesman at Hi-Tech Automotive in San Rafael walked me through it. He told me his specialist, Deven Wailes, had poured his heart into this car to get it right.
It was a two-owner, 60,000-mile car with paperwork back to its original sale and window sticker. It had never been hit or painted.
I paid $29,928 for it.
My friend Chris Bright gave it its initial shakedown by driving it to Portland up Highway 101. It went for its finishing touches to 928 specialist Al Blanchard at A&P Specialties. His bill was less than $6,000. (Does anything under $10,000 count as a “bill” on a classic car or is it just your monthly tithe?)
This process has not been inexpensive – I don’t think I have crossed the $40,000 mark yet but I’m certainly closing in. That’s a far cry from the $20,000 I see 928s selling for online.
However, Al said it was one of the very best, solid, correct 928s he had ever worked on. My instructions to him were just do everything it needs. Don’t even ask. Just do it. This car is about to be driven long distances by crazy gearheads and let’s get it ready for them.
Owning old cars is a play-to-pay game. I am probably “above market” (well, if I don’t know who does?) but for me the car is priced right for the value it represents.
I’ve signed up for the 1,000-mile Oregon Porsche Club Northwest Passage in June. I look forward to taking my U-boat out, putting it into a wolfpack with other Porsches, and setting off across the Oregon High Desert.
For a Porsche-lover, the 928 is a complicated experience. I’m joining Piech in his expression of the ultimate Porsche of his era.
I’m just hanging on for the ride and enjoying the hell out of every mile. I live in the Disneyland of collector cars and am thrilled by the new adventure ride I have just discovered.