This is a stunning, classic Porsche 928 S4. Grand Prix White over mahogany leather with less than 49,900 miles. This Florida-owned Porsche is being sold with the original window sticker and owner’s packet.

This car has lived a pampered life and everywhere you look that is evident. The car has a 5-liter V8 engine with 4-speed automatic transmission and options, including power steering, seats, windows and sunroof. The 928 S was one of the fastest production cars sold in North America in 1985-87. This Porsche is a piece of sports car history that the next owner can enjoy and appreciate for many years to come.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1987 Porsche 928 S4
Number Produced:5,403 cars in 1987
Original List Price:Base price was $61,970 in 1987
Tune Up Cost:$1,050
Chassis Number Location:Passenger fender center lip under hood
Engine Number Location:On small flat boss, front top right of engine
Club Info:Porsche Club of America, P.O. Box 6400, Columbia, MD 21045, 410-381-0911. An active 928 technical area is led by John Veninger (see Seat Time)
Alternatives:1985-87 BMW 635 1974-80 Mercedes-Benz 450SL 1990-94 Corvette ZR-1

This car, Lot 19.2, sold for $22,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach, FL, auction on April 7, 2011.

When was a Porsche not a Porsche? Perhaps when it was a 914/4 built by Volkswagen. Perhaps when it was a 924 built with an Audi engine in a former NSU plant owned by Audi. What then about a Porsche sometimes referred to—unflatteringly—as the German Thunderbird? That’s easy: The 928. However, in the end it was a real Porsche and a terrific automobile—even if it was not in the expected Porsche norm and was ultimately a failure in replacing the iconic 911.

In the early 1970s, Porsche engineers felt that advancing government restrictions concerning crash standards, exhaust emissions, and noise levels would challenge the 911 past all reason. They were also worried about building a rear-engine car, given Ralph Nader’s successful onslaught on the Corvair.

First, the good news

So Porsche’s first non-family member managing director, Ernst Fuhrmann, led the charge for the new 928. Porsche designed what it believed would be the world’s best-performing, most comfortable sports car. The result was a tour de force: a front-placed 4.5-liter aluminum V8 with dual overhead camshafts and fuel injection; an alloy-housed rear transaxle with a five-speed stick or three-speed automatic (sourced from Mercedes); a sophisticated, capable suspension; Porsche’s first power steering; generous interior space; and an attractive, aerodynamically efficient exterior.

At its introduction in January 1977 as a 1978 model, the new 928 was well received by the automotive press. It was lauded for its seamless power, excellent road manners, comfort, spaciousness, and noise suppression.

To the surprise of the industry, the 928 was the first sports car ever to be voted Europe’s “Car of the Year.” Brock Yates, Car and Driver editor, was effusive: “Uncomfortable as I might be about selecting an automobile that costs nearly $30,000 . . . the Porsche 928 remains a towering achievement. . . One can rhapsodize about the car’s torque range or its splendid suspension or its silky five-speed or its spellbinding shape, but its essence lies not in isolated elements but rather in the harmony in which those elements have been combined.”

And now the bad news

But there was a back story. As the 928 was being developed, it grew in size and weight, so that its competitors were not sports cars, but rather touring cars like the BMW 6-series, the Mercedes 450SL, and the Jaguar XJS. Later, Ferry Porsche decided that the 928 had not met its initial goal of succeeding the 911, which, combined with persistently sluggish 928 sales, never more than 5,600 a year—presaged Fuhrmann’s departure from Porsche.

Over the next 15 years, Porsche continually upgraded the 928. In 1980 and 1981, Porsche added the 928 S model, with a bigger engine, more horsepower, and a rear lip spoiler. In mid-year 1983, the car adopted a new 4-speed Mercedes automatic. In 1984, Bosch ABS was added. For 1985, the 928 S was pushed out to 5 liters, adopted new four-cam heads with four valves per cylinder, a BorgWarner synchronized manual gearbox, revised seats, and a new model designation: 928 S 32. For 1987, the renamed 928 S4 had a new intake manifold, revised heads, piston-bottom oil squirters, and a rear wing.

In 1989-90, a GT model was added with 330 horsepower, LSD standard, air bags, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Porsche had been working on various facelifts for the 928, but in late 1989, the Board voted to suspend all that work except for a larger engine. 1993 saw the advent of that 5.4-liter engine in the GTS, which also sported 17-inch wheels and wider rear bodywork. Meanwhile, unit sales dropped steadily to under a thousand per year—and only hundreds of the GT and GTS cars. And the car now cost over $100,000 (in Europe) in GTS form.

In the sweet spot

Our subject car is a 1987 928 S4, which is the “sweet spot” for used 928s. The 1989-1995 GT and GTS models are revered, but they are also expensive, with prices for high-quality examples between $45,000 and $65,000. The 5.0-liter S4s are better values.

At 50,000 miles, our car is a driver. With one long-term owner, it reportedly was well maintained. One would want to see the paperwork. The timing belt, its bushings and bearings, and the tensioner are critical. Gremlins left to percolate in the electrics or running gear quickly get expensive—or very expensive. It is best to take luck out of the equation and insist on thorough records and have an expert in 928s evaluate the car.

The body, interior, and engine bay appear tidy. The color combination is a good one. The factory wheels were chromed somewhere back up the line, and the aftermarket tailpipe is a tipoff to a rear muffler bypass, which enhanced these cars’ V8 rumble.

My 928 buddies like this car in the high teens. At $22,000 with the buyer’s commission, we’ll call the sale a fair deal all around—if the paperwork supports good maintenance and assuming a not-hit, original-paint body. I realize this price was far over the SCM Price Guide top number of $13,500. But as in so many cases with exotic cars that are now selling cheap, I advocate spending more to get a better car. Your real bargain will come with the work you don’t have to do.

With just ordinary luck, this buyer has 100,000 miles of terrific grand touring coming his way for Toyota Camry money.

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