Journal: 928 Ways To Kill The 911

928 Ways To Kill The 911

By Alan Franklin
April 15, 2013
45 comments

A world without the Porsche 911 is not a place I like to imagine, but to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, you’ve got no place as a writer if you’re not willing to indulge the occasional dark thought. So here goes: no iconic uber-beetle, that unmistakable silhouette honed by decades of aerodynamic refinement no more than a dream, the gruff, off-beat idle and yowling, warbling top-end scream of that fabulous pancake six merely an echo from an alternate plane of reality, that gently bobbing front end, living, ethereal steering, initial understeer and physics-defying post-apex traction no more corporeal than an emotion. This 911-less world is a cold and colorless place for anyone with petrol in the blood, a nightmare scenario for those of us who love great cars like others love the sun, so we should all be thankful that Porsche never had their way—they never killed the 911.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. The 911 was difficult and expensive to build, its basic architecture already over a decade old by the mid-seventies, when huge advancements in the technology of car building made assembling the old rear-engined beasts less profitable nearly by the day. Conceived during a time when Porsche was still a relatively tiny, boutique maker of highly-specialized machines, the Typ 901 was designed to be built largely by hand, a long, expensive, and laborious process that could only be partially automated. Furthermore it was cramped, quirky, and rapidly losing sales. Enter the 928, of which development began in earnest around this time.

Intended to address all of the aforementioned shortcomings of the 911, the 928 was designed from the offset to be easier to manufacture, maintain, drive, and live with on a day-to-day basis. Much more of a GT than its predecessor, it combined modern levels of luxury, refinement, and technology with performance easily matching, if not surpassing, that of its rear-engined older brother. Released in 1978 to nearly universal acclaim, it was awarded “Car of the Year” by the European press.

With a front-mounted, all-alloy, overhead cam V8 and rear-mounted transaxle, the 928 had ample power, perfect 50/50 weight distribution and the thunderous soundtrack of a muscle car, all wrapped in a beautiful, unadorned body penned by Wolfgang Möbius—its exposed, flush-fitting headlights popping up to expose bullet-shaped fairings when turned on among our all-time favorites. Its futuristic interior was incredibly well appointed, leather covering most surfaces, including the dash and headliner in many examples. With all the electronic and power equipment one would expect of a high-end luxury sedan, Porsche’s new coupe was a wonderful place to spend time, regardless if you had first-gear hairpins or continent-crushing high-speed cruising on the mind—it really was effortlessly capable of either.

Later versions offered significantly more power by way of increased displacement and more valves, culminating in 5.4 liters, four per cylinder, and 345 HP in the final GTS version from 1991, which was good for 170+ MPH and low five second 0-60 times. Though far from a flop with some 60,000 built, the 928 was never successful enough to replace the 911, either. If it weren’t for a seven-foot timing belt and other ridiculously indulgent engineering touches, the V8 cruiser might’ve actually been somewhat reliable, thus avoiding the reputation it later gained for catastrophic engine failures. If you’ve ever wondered why you can pick up a once $100k example for less than the cost of a down payment on a new Kia, wonder no more.

So here we are in 2013, the Carrera still with us and selling in greater numbers than ever before, and the newly-released 991 continuing the rear-engined bloodline with honor and distinction, with no less than 15 planned versions on the way—hard to believe that Porsche once thought the 911 had reached a developmental peak, yet another reason the 928 was green-lighted.

Every time I hear a GT3 RS wound out through the gears I think back to that NBA point guard-length rubber belt, and I thank God for making the complexity-loving engineers who developed the 928’s engine—cheers to you, guys, and to your spectacular reliability failures.

Tags 911/ 928/ German/ Porsche
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[…] brand’s history, was engineered with its front-engine layout and meaty V8 to be an eventual replacement for the 911 Carrera. But enthusiasts and dealers both flipped out, and said there’s no way that Porsche could […]

Ray Vanderhulst
Ray Vanderhulst
3 years ago

The 928 was a great car and I almost bought one but manual transmission versions were hard to find used. Also, the electrical system was complex and somewhat difficult to troubleshoot. Finally, remember that Peter Schutz was the American CEO of Porsche who saved the 911.

jeff mohler
jeff mohler
3 years ago

Why do people equate “lack of documented maintenance” to “unreliable car?

The belt was long, but neither weak or flawed in design.

When the book says change it, change it.

If you dont and it bites you, you get to blame Porsche?

Kaferhauptquartier
Kaferhauptquartier
3 years ago

Already lookin for a 928 !
Love the style and look of the car !

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith
3 years ago

No front-engined Porsche will ever supplant the 911. They can try building their ugly sedans, and, dumb, soccer mom SUVs, but, at the end of the day, “Porsche” means one thing to 99% of people. A 911.

kundensport
kundensport
4 years ago

dumbest piece i’ve read in a long time. is this even a car guy? history and facts give the better story. the mind set of the writer fits in to our era of biased journalism intended to divide on the lowest level.

deutschmick
deutschmick
4 years ago

A somewhat snarky piece here. I like the 928 and the 911; both are great cars. I currently own a ’91 928 GT and a 2007 911 GT3. They both put a stupid grin on my face every time I drive them. Maintenance on all cars is the key to longevity.

Ray Jay
Ray Jay
6 years ago

I like car X. You like car Y. Why can’t we leave it at that?

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson
6 years ago

I have driven a couple of 928’s and thought they were nice cars. Never cared much for the styling though.
My preference for a front engine water cooled Porsche is a well sorted 944.

Matthew Antonopoulos
Matthew Antonopoulos
6 years ago

Growing up my father had an ’88 red 928 and traded that in towards the 928S that’s featured for a few seconds in a parking lot in Days Of Thunder. He still has it, runs it every day but definately has run into the common electrical nightmares they’re known for. We were told it was a rare version? 1 of 5 or 6 made? It has a body kit front, sides, rear flares. The name of the shop that built them was “Zender”? Not sure if it’s all true but none the less, I always enjoyed riding in it as a kid! The exhaust was primordial!

COC Europe
COC Europe
6 years ago

I’ve always loved those [url=”http://www.coc-europe.com/coc-porsche”]Porsche [/url]928, maybe time to buy one before their value is going sky high!

Will Johnston
Will Johnston
7 years ago

I love watching Mark Anderson pass every 911 on track at willow springs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P29nHru4fvI

racer129
racer129
7 years ago

Notice all the comments are from 928 owners. The 928 was a period piece, a bit of 80’s nostalgia, reminiscent of the expensive AMC Pacer. The 911 is timeless in it’s lines and execution. There is no comparison.

braunwagen
braunwagen
7 years ago

Fortunately, the average Petrolicious writer (who most likely drives a Volvo 240) is not intelligent enough to realize that when you own a 928, you have to do this crazy thing called: CHANGE THE TIMING BELT! Most high performance cars of the same era, such as the Lotus Esprit or Ferrari 308, need it done every 20K miles or less! 928’s only need it done every 30K miles and it cost less than a 911 valve adjustment. So every time I read a snarky article about 928’s, I thank God for making the clueless 20 something year old automotive blogger who wrote the uneducated article. Cheers to you, Petrolicious, and to your spectacularly predictable and boring taste in cars. Now the people who actually appreciate the 928 can continue to buy them up before the prices go through the roof!

Paul Dembry
Paul Dembry
7 years ago

In the 20 years that I have owned my 1990 928 GT (second owner), I think that I have spent 7k for repairs. I don’t consider that expensive to maintain. It has 97k on the clock and I expect to own it for another 30+ years. The CD player died about 8 years ago so I just open the windows and sunroof and listen to the engine while I drive. It was about $80k new in 1990 and I paid $30 four years later. This is why I am so thankful for rich people. Without them, I would never have been able to own such a beauty.

ratters
ratters
9 years ago

I have had a batch of 928’s over the years. Reliability issues were almost soley attributable to mechanics who had no clue. When I worked on them myself, all the problems vanished. I have a 29 year old car in the garage that was properly maintained by someone who understood the car, and it has no significant issues. Buy one poorly maintained, and you can easily pay more than if you just spent more and got a good one to start with.

That said, not a car for the feint hearted or the weak walleted.

Dumb Issues come from people letting them sit extended periods and not drain the radiator. Aluminium motor + old coolant = stuffed head gaskets. Or the classic, not understanding the steering radiuous, and sending it to a numbnutz wheel aligner who tells you “it can’t be set up right” cause he insists on lifting the car to do the alignment.

Real unavoidable issues are heat under bonnet (over time) affects wiring, but it’s pretty easy to spot brittle wiring.

And the Manual is a totally different animal to the Auto. Chalk and cheese.

http://youtu.be/2byEVA4DINY

This is a car that the AXLE setup alone would cost more to make in the present day than it would to buy a brand new basic runabout. There is nothing cheap about them, in build quality or in components. And while people talk about complication, that was then. Take a modern car, move it forward 12 years, and see the sort of money it would takje to keep it on the road.

If I drove my Ford like I drove the 928, the Ford would be dead and buried inside 2 years. The 928 LOVES to be driven hard. The auto alone (mecedes box modified by Porsche) is designed to take over 1600 HP.

Fabulous cars, where, if you do make a mistake on a winding mountain road, won’t have you rear end over the precipice by it’s much vaulted sybling, the 911. Even the new ones, with all the improvements to counter the obvious problem of all the weight at the back, even now they are always the ones leaving the race track BACKWARDS.

2 cents now spent

Burt Munro
Burt Munro
8 years ago
Reply to  ratters

I love them because they are so simple (in absolute terms). No SMDs in the electronics, just parts you can troubleshoot with a meter and an o-scope and get delivered from DigiKey or Mouser the next day, not that they fail often anyway. Window and seat switches can be popped apart and shine the contacts for full functionality. L-Jet gives you everything you need save for MAP and TPS to MegaSquirt it. Climate head is simple, most bearings are standard units (once you learn the numbers), OEM parts flow through the side channels and if you need used, it’s always out there.

Best part? Almost all the updates are bolt-on to 83+ cars. My 84 has almost all the features of a 93 GTS, except the engine. ABS/PSD/suspension/bigblacks/booster/rack/alt/ps pump/etc all just bolted right on.

Ranger
Ranger
8 years ago
Reply to  ratters

Nice post. I’ve had my 928S for 14 years. You (we both) know your 928’s!

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2mMkC8HrTI “I wish that Porsche still made it today”

ChazzyD
ChazzyD
9 years ago

I owned a mechanically neglected, but very nicely repainted ’79 model for 2 1/2 years. It looked like the car from Risky Business as it was a similar color. I drove that thing all over the east coast as a photographer. I of course had to catch up on the deferred maintenance, but it never let me down except for the first evening I drove it after purchase with alternator issues. A swap from the Paris-Rhone to a Bosch alternator fixed that. The purchase price was very little, but the parts expenditure was quite high to catch up to what it needed to bring it to my mechanical standards. Not really a super hard car to work on, but everything took quite a bit of time to accomplish. Fortunately my labor was free and I did all of it including the timing belt and water pump. Not too bad to do on an early model and not even an interference engine in ’79. I miss the car, but do not miss the poor gas mileage especially since prices have only gone up since owning it. The Bosch CIS was easy to tune and worked pretty well, though not efficient.
My early model always seemed like something Mercedes would have built if they had built a sports car, more than it felt like a Porsche actually. Mine did have the Mercedes auto trans in the back and you really could carve a corner it in with all the weight in the back that you could really feel. The doors closed with a solidity that would made a Mercedes proud as well.
A super planted car in the rear I have never felt before or since. So planted in the back, mine seemed to be impossible to make the tail come out even on loose surfaces. The 928 is really an amazing highway car and that is how I used it. It really was smooth and quiet on the interstate, solid and heavy feeling, very stable and could gobble the miles up with ease holding a very precise line at speed. Just be ready at the pump especially if you have been driving it briskly.

Daniel Franklin
Daniel Franklin
9 years ago

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want a 928…but a 911….oh yeah!

Ranger
Ranger
8 years ago

Pretty hard to say not owning either one I’ll bet. I’ve had my 928S for 14 years. It’ll outlast me, and out drive, out-muscle 350Z’s and the like. As for the 928’s looks. I haven’t taken it out for a drive once in all those years without it receiving compliments (yelled from patio bars, pedestrians, people in parking lots, etc.). It’s like a good Rolex (yeah… have a couple of those 2… like the 928, for the quality, NOT the name)… timeless in design. Now we see a LOT of the TOP sport (super) car builders going back to the engine in the front, transmission in the back. Seems 928 was decades ahead of it’s time and not then (more-so now) well-accepted by box-thinkers.

Alan Hoppe
Alan Hoppe
9 years ago

Calling the 928 the “911 killer” is simply wrong – the 928 saved the 911. If Porsche had not created the new manufacturing processes used in the 928 line, the 911 would be history today. The 911 was simply not profitable enough to keep making the way it was. I don’t expect an apology, but a little less trash talking would be nice.
I think the reliability issues are real, but they are not the result of poor engineering. Ferrari has the same reputation for the same reason. This is the result of selling complex cars to high end buyers who cannot maintain them without expensive help. They like the idea of owning an expensive/exotic car but find it’s impractical to keep. It takes years (of abusive owners) for these models to make their way down in price to fall into the hands of a loving mechanic. He spends an unexplainable amount of money making it work again. I know my 928 had many problems when I bought it – for less than an 89 Toyota. It still has problems, but no more than any other 1980 vehicle that sat ignored in a garage half it’s life. I’m enjoying the heck out of fixing every little thing that’s wrong with it. But you know, it’s worth every dime, and every skinned knuckle, to hear my hot little wife scream herself silly over the roar of that V-8 when I catch 3rd gear and light em up. I’m going for a drive in my 928.

Burt Munro
Burt Munro
8 years ago
Reply to  Alan Franklin

While the ‘928s are expensive to maintain’ myth is quite popular, it’s just that – a myth.

I’ve owned and worked on 928s for almost 2 decades and, like their 944/951 brothers, they are far and away the cheapest and longest lasting Porsches around. I’ve wrenched more 200K+ mile daily-driven 928s with their original engines and transmissions than I can count. If an 80s/90s 911 makes it 70K miles without a new engine, it’s a miracle.

While the engine in my never-stranded-me-save-for-for-a-fuel-pump-failure 350K+ mile daily 928 is a bit tired, it still starts and runs every time I twist the key. I do have a refreshed one sitting on the stand when I get time. Regardless, parts are cheap (in current terms) and readily available. It’s as reliable as my W126 Benz was at that mileage, which is to say, freight-train bulletproof. I have “hand of god” brakes, a top speed north of 170, and get 23 MPG at a 75 cruise. None of which is available with an Uber-Beetle of the same vintage. Or most other cars on the planet. Especially ones you can buy and make mechanically perfect for under $12K.

Andre C  Hulstaert
Andre C Hulstaert
9 years ago

I drove a 928 for a while, it was a blast to drive, drive fast. It was the time of the Pirelli’s P7 and i once wore out a new set over the period of a weekend, on a demonstrator car but i had a blast racing through the curves on secondary roads. It also had its share of problems and was unreliable if not meticulously maintained, it was a but as the Ferrari to whom it was a competitor. The interior was fine and luxurious. Most versions looked good, with the exception of the pop-art black and white fabric one. I also hated those sky-looking headlights, I almost never put them up but used the foglights instead. But all in all I liked it and . . . it had a V8 !! (I had the leather interior so as not to go crazy)

Ian Lomax
Ian Lomax
9 years ago

I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder, I love the checked fabric.

Rennlist
Rennlist
9 years ago

Checkered or Pascha as it’s referred to is actually difficult to find these days and is desirable by the purists out there. I personally like it because it is so retro if your going for that look on an older body style (78-85.6). I prefer my 89 with leather to give me that updated plush look/feel.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
9 years ago
Reply to  Rennlist

I love those interiors! I wish new cars still offered cloth as the base option instead of the synthetic stuff that off-gasses like crazy.

Terrence Dorsey
Terrence Dorsey
9 years ago

Fascinating and beautiful car. Recommend finding a copy of Project 928 by Julius Weitmann and Rico Steinemann for the full history. Originally conceived in 1971, remained in production into the ’90s and still a timeless design today.

Thomas
Thomas
9 years ago

Wow. Talk about an uninformed writer!

I like 911s and 928s. The real reason for 928 reliability issues was the fact that 911 of the same day and age were much simpler cars, and Porsche did nothing to train its service force at the time of the departure from traditional simple designs (like without water cooling…)

Fast forward 20 years, and people now know how to maintain such cars. That having been said, I prefer newer cars so will probably stick with a new 911… But who knows, maybe a new 928 would be even better than a new 911…

Ian Lomax
Ian Lomax
9 years ago

Yup, still want one of these. Someday.

Rennlist
Rennlist
9 years ago

The bad press on the 928 seems to be a regurgitated myth on two levels. One that it was not a success and two that it was a maintenance nightmare. The car sold from 78 to 95, how many models out there can claim that run? It’s only a maintenance nightmare if you don’t maintain the car according to manufac. recommendations and you abuse it. It’s build like a tank. I own one and know the shortcomings and the strengths. People are boosting these 20+ year old cars today getting over 700 HP with stock internals. And yes, stock timing belts.

Billy Artigas
Billy Artigas
9 years ago
Reply to  Rennlist

Thanks to the wealth of knowledge on Rennlist I was educated and confident when it came time to buy mine! 🙂

Ducbil
Ducbil
9 years ago
Reply to  Billy Artigas

There is not a better forum than the Rennlist 928. Check it out. When 11 people are in the 911 site, there will be 50 or more in the 928 site. The guys are like early astronauts or Carroll Shelby. And they aren’t going anywhere.

Rennlist
Rennlist
9 years ago

Re-posted responses from Rennlist:
Alan: Wow – with all these “spectacular reliability failures” its amazing how many are left… especially the ones with hundreds of thousands of miles – how did they ever make it?

This unreliability myth just keeps growing – how many 20+ year old cars don’t have reliability issue examples primarily due to (previous?) owner neglect. Seems like the lazy press syndrome to me – they all read (and one up) each other…

Are catastrophic engine failures exactly rampant? – not significantly more than for other brands as far as I can see on properly maintained stock models…
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

CITADEL4U
CITADEL4U
9 years ago

By the way, when I sold my 928S it had 134,000 miles. It has a lot more today.
It was quirky, but solid

CITADEL4U
CITADEL4U
9 years ago

I owned a beautiful 1984 928S. It is still the finest driving car I ever owned.
But, god was it expensive to repair. The local Porsche dealer couldn’t fix it. All they could do was mess it up.
I finally got a great dedicated Porsche garage mechanic to work on it. He could really make it sing.
I also lost my timing belt. But, because I had hydraulic lifters instead of solid lifters, it didn’t destroy the engine.
It just cost me a couple grand to get it replace. I loved that car. I sold it to a fellow who still races it to this day.
Porsche should have stayed with the Hydraulic lifters. If they had, the car might still be around today.

Rip Curl
Rip Curl
9 years ago

The 928 is a great car by itself without comparing it to the 911. That said you really have to question the massive error in judgement by Porsche to think they could can the 911. Then again let’s not forget New Coke. I suppose even the big guys get it wrong now and then.

Billy Artigas
Billy Artigas
9 years ago

These cars are not unreliable if properly maintained. Ample documentation is available in forums like Rennlist.
There are owners with 300k plus miles on original engines and transmissions.

Billy Artigas
Billy Artigas
9 years ago

I bought one almost a year ago. Commented when you posted the comparison with the M6.
1989 928 S4 manual transmission. Some mechanical issues, but overall solid.
No regrets.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
9 years ago
Reply to  Billy Artigas

Nice! Would love to see a photo.

Billy Artigas
Billy Artigas
9 years ago
Reply to  Afshin Behnia

I put a pic with my original post back then.
I’ll try again.