Over 45 years old. Yeah, this shape is more than 45 years old and still looks like something from another world, let alone the heyday of disco fever and bell bottom pants. And not even just the Porsche 928 in general, but this is the original 928 shape which was modified with various spoilers, starting with smaller ones just two years hence (there are absolutely none on this one), and culminating in a fairly large flat rear plane, wider fenders, and reworked front and rear ends by the time of its swansong in 1995, not to mention three additional letters on its rump to make the 928 GTS.
But today we have an extremely rare first year model, and one of the even rarer manual transmission equipped ones to boot. Even more disappointingly (disappointing in trying to find an obvious reason for it being here), there is no hint of crash damage or significant rust and it’s in an always desirable color combination, yet someone saw fit to discard it. Perhaps this is the 928 WTF.
Introduced in March 1977 at the Geneva Motor Show, the 928 was originally conceived to supplant the not yet as evergreen as it would be 911. Compared to the concurrent 930 (911 turbo) that was festooned with massive wings and appendages in order to contain its power and speed, the 928 eschewed all of the extra gingerbread because as designed by Tony Lapine it didn’t need it in order to be tame enough to drive, yet its ultimate speed out of the box was close to that of the 930 and it was far more forgiving and easy to handle at speed or on a track.
One of the signature items of the 928 were always its popup light pods that laid flat on/in the fender a la Miura when not in use. The goal was to have the front be reminiscent of the 911 when they were deployed, until today when I crouched down low enough to take this picture I never really completely saw that, however without the rear of the light pods being obvious it looks very much to actually foreshadow the 1989 Porsche 964 with its flush bumper and integrated lower lighting. Remember that back in 1977, while the 911 no longer had chrome bumpers, it was still a shape very related to its 1963 genesis and the body colored bumpers were interrupted with black rub strips, orange turn signals and dangling fog lights.
Chrome bezels on the headlights look archaic and immediately stood out to me, yet they were a 1978-only 928 item, which makes sense as the 911 had them as well until it switched to body color ones for the 1979 model year. The 928 featured aluminum front fenders, hood, and doors while the rest of the body was zinc-coated steel and the ends were polycarbonate (deformable plastic) over aluminum crash structures.
The Geneva show car was Guards Red, and while I don’t mind that color, this black suits the car much better as do various metallics offered during its 18-year run. There were also a surprising number of quite wild 1970s colors on offer at the beginning of the run. The integrated crash structures both front and rear were greeted with much interest world-wide and obviously contribute to the of-a-piece look, rear bumper pads notwithstanding.
The PORSCHE lettering debossed into the bumper skin is now a design feature seen on vehicles as prosaic as a Toyota Sienna of course, but here it harkens to the rear reflector bar of the 911, the actual reflector bar a theme that would eventually be incorporated into some of the last 928s as well. This one was apparently last registered almost a decade ago (collector plates are good for five years here) and so ended its career sometime between 2013 and 2018.
Beyond the Porsche deboss on the rear bumper and the Porsche shield on the hood, the only other exterior identifier is this small set of 928 numberals stamped dead center into the lower edge of the rear window frame. That’s it. Sometimes less really is more. Or there’s a bean counter at Porsche as well.
In Germany in 1978 you could certainly avail yourself of a 911 turbo and actually use it as intended without risking your license assuming of course you had the means to do so. Or you could be a little more, uh, discreet, and if you needed to criss-cross the continent in style and with speed, solidity as well as desiring some more modern conveniences, perhaps a then-new Mercedes W126 Coupe, BMW 6-series, or a Jaguar XJS might be attractive. Or the 928.
In original 4.5 liter form, the new Porsche all-aluminum 90-degree single overhead cam V8 with two valves per cylinder produced 240hp in European markets and 219hp in the United States. By 1995 at the end of the run, this would be expanded to 5.4 liters and 350hp with various upgrades in size and specification along the way to that level, 350hp in 1995 still being a very high number. The original 1978 figures were good enough for a 0-60mph run of under 6.5 seconds and a top speed of around 140mph per manufacturer.
Of course, as Pirelli once said in their advertising, Power is nothing without control; it’s not just about a powerful engine. Aiding in the 928’s 50/50 weight distribution is the use of a rear transaxle with a torque tube transmitting the power to it. Aluminum suspension, a choice of 15″ or 16″ phone dial wheels and then shod with the then-new Pirelli P7 made for a very well-balanced and exhilarating drive. As an aside, we all know what I mean when I say “phone dial wheels” in regard to a Porsche, but I wonder if my younger kids would know, they have never used an actual phone dial…hmm.
While a 5-speed manual was standard and generally preferred by motoring scribes, the sophisticated nature of the car actually lent itself quite well to the Mercedes built 3-speed automatic, eventually supplanted by a 4-speed of the same. Sources estimate that only approximately 20% of 928s were equipped with the manual transmission, and today are generally more sought after.
Even the interior was ahead of its time, with the sweeping center console continuing up into the dashboard and just as interesting the instrument binnacle that tilted with the steering wheel as a unit. This one obviously has the leather seat option rather than the somewhat polarizing “Pasha” psychedelic-patterned cloth version.
It’ll take a little more than that red packet of wet wipes to get this back in order but it’s certainly do-able. even being a passenger in this would seem to be an involving experience with the panorama outside spreading itself across your field of vision over the low-angled dashboard.
Note the shift pattern on the 5-speed, it has a dog-leg first gear at the lower left of the pattern, the engine was tractable enough to really not even need first, and certainly not if any forward motion was in effect, all the better to keep 2-3 and 4-5 on the same planes. The Sansui aftermarket stereo was likely a serious piece of kit back in the 1980s, yet even the VDO clock, chunky knobs and sliders on the HVAC system look far more modern than being almost a half century old. Or I’m just having so much fun that time really is flying by. A half century isn’t what it used to be.
Apparently 150,000 miles is about when these engine come up for some significant work, perhaps that’s what happened here as it’s right at that mark. Or of the myriad of extremely long belts one or more gave up their ghost, maintenance and repair costs on a 928 are not for the faint of heart or light of wallet especially if relying on others. This though, in 1978, is what a clear set of gauges looked like and should have been emulated by the industry as a whole, rather than the garbage being foisted on the public by most others. Of all the mass makers not using VDO as their supplier, Honda probably came closest in the mid to later 1980s with equally clear and concise graphics with perhaps not all of the actual instruments.
And goddamn it (yes, it’s perfectly okay to blaspheme a little bit in the presence of greatness), it even has a 170mph speedometer. In 1978. A year or so later that would get chopped in half by the gummint. (The 911 turbo’s went to 180 by the way, that one gets a LieberGottImHimmel from me.)
I’ll fall on my (German made high carbon blade) sword here and admit that only my people could create a door lock knob that is operated not by pushing or pulling on said item itself but rather by having to twist a separate knob a few centimeters away from it.
Practical folk that Germans are though, the car is also equipped with rear seats with folding back rests. Best used by distantly related Munchkins or the next generation of Germans, i.e. little ones.
Yet going one step further, the rear seats have their own sunvisors (that are larger then the front ones) to shield said rear seat occupants from the rays of sunshine beating down through the rear glass. Not for Germans the idea of using a dark shaded band of glass over the rear area as that might negatively affect the driver’s field of rear view when the rear seat is not in use and there is thus no need for shade.
Switching the angle, the rear cargo compartment is wide but shallow, with what is certainly the original collapsible spare tire on the left. A fairly comprehensive tool kit is housed in a molded enclosure covered with carpet along the rear wall (just below the 928 logo here), and then there is a cover and carpet above what is seen here to provide a flat load floor, made larger with the rear seatbacks folded down.
The front seats though is where it’s at as you piloted this apparition from outer space along the Autobahn or autostrada or autoroute or just plain old Interstate 90 across Montana, USA while pondering how lucky or skilled you were to be able to afford the US$28,000 in 1978 dollars to make this your own.
And an early adopter you were as well, this VIN plate identifies first the model designation in its first three numbers, here 928, the 8 in position 4 is for 1978 model year, the 2 is for USA market (Rest of World has a 1 here), the 0 is for coupe and then the last four digits are the sequential serial number. Interestingly this allows for duplication of actual serial numbers as the same ones were used for USA and RoW versions, with the 2 or 1 in the fifth position differing between them, the serial number does not denote the actual build order between versions, just within its own set.
The first ten numbers of each were not used, so this is sequential build #1093 for the year of 1978 USA units, and the total for 1978 was actually 1129 USA units (highest number is 1139) so this was likely produced in the last week of the 1978 model year. 1978 also saw 2636 RoW units as well as 65 more specifically for Japan for total first year production of 3830. Over its entire 18-year span approximately 61,000 Porsche 928s were built.
I’ve been visiting various local-ish junkyards semi-regularly for around four years now (helps me get my steps in and provided destinations to drive to when reviewing new cars and trying to rack up mileage) and this is only the third 928 I’ve seen in a Self-Service yard. The first was somewhat newer, yet more beat than this one and we actually chronicled it here, the second was also a few years newer than this one in Albuquerque of all places and very trashed and now this one, by far the best preserved yet oldest of the bunch.
I doubt I’ll see many more as they would tend to go to more specialist dismantlers when auctioned off but I suppose someone may have dragged it here and they certainly won’t turn anything away so you never know, our society never stops discarding all kinds of things. After spending some time taking a close look at this one, all I can saw is that y’all can keep your DeLoreans, I’d much rather time-travel in this, first stop Geneva 1977.