Porsche 928 is First Produced

The Porsche 928 is a grand tourer automobile sold by Porsche AG of Germany from 1978-1995, designed as a more luxurious yet still high performance alternative to the firm's sporting mainstay, the durable 911 sports car.

In 1983 the 928S with a 4.7 litre 16 valve M28/19 engine and 5-speed manual transmission was the fastest car sold in North America, at 146 mph. Its appearance in the film Risky Business attempted to capitalise on this fact.

By the late 1960s, Porsche had changed significantly as a company, and executives including owner Ferdinand Porsche were playing with the idea of adding a luxury touring car to the line-up. Managing Director Ernst Fuhrmann was also pressuring Ferdinand to approve development of the new model in light of concerns that the current flagship model at the time, the 911, was quickly reaching its maximum potential where it could soon no longer be improved upon. Slumping sales of the 911 seemed to confirm that the model was approaching the end of its economic life cycle. Fuhrmann envisioned the new range-topping model as being the best possible combination of a sports coupe and a luxury sedan, something well equipped and comfortable enough to be easily driven over long distances that also had the power, poise and handling prowess necessary to be driven like a sports car. This set it apart from the 911, which was a pure sports car.

Ordered by Ferry Porsche to come up with a production-feasible concept for his new model, Fuhrmann initiated a design study in 1971, eventually taking from the process the final specs for the 928. Several drivetrain layouts were considered during early development, including rear and mid-engined designs, but most were dismissed because of technical and/or legislative difficulties. Having the engine, transmission, catalytic converter(s) and exhaust all cramped into a small rear engine bay made emission and noise control more difficult, something Porsche was already facing problems with on the 911 and wanted to avoid. After deciding that the mid-engine layout didn't allow enough room in the passenger compartment, a front engine/rear wheel drive layout was chosen. Porsche also may have feared that the U.S. government would soon ban the sale of rear-engined cars in response to the consumer concern over safety problems with the rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair. The Corvair's safety issues were famously detailed in the book Unsafe at Any Speed by consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Porsche engineers wanted a large-displacement motor to power the 928, and prototype units were built with a 5.0 L V8 producing close to 300 hp (220 kW). Very early units used one four-barrel carburetor, which was eventually rejected in favor of Bosch's K-Jetronic fuel injection system. When increasing concern within the company over the pricing and availability of fuel during the oil crisis of the 1970s became an issue of contention, smaller engines were considered in the interest of fuel economy. A push began for the development of a 3.3 L 180 hp (130 kW) powerplant they had drawn up specs for, but company engineers balked at this suggestion. Both sides finally settled on a 4.5 L, SOHC 16-valve V8 producing 240 PS (180 kW; 240 hp) (219 hp (163 kW) in North America), which they considered to have an acceptable compromise of performance and fuel economy.

The finished car debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show before going on sale later that year as a 1978 model. Although it won early acclaim for its comfort and power, sales were slow. Base prices were much higher than that of the previous range-topping 911 model and the 928's front-engined, water-cooled design put off many Porsche purists.

Fuhrmann's replacement, Peter Schutz, decided that the models should be sold side by side, feeling that the 911 still had potential in the company's line-up. Legislation against rear-engined vehicles also did not materialize. Although the 928 developed an avid fan following, it never sold in the numbers Fuhrmann had originally predicted and was discontinued in 1995.

The 928 featured a large, front-mounted and water-cooled V8 engine driving the rear wheels. Originally displacing 4.5 L and featuring a single overhead camshaft design, it produced 219 hp (163 kW/222 PS) for the North American market and 240 PS (176 kW/237 hp) in other markets. Porsche upgraded the engine from mechanical to electronic fuel injection in 1980 for US models, although power remained the same. This design marked a major change in direction for Porsche (started with the introduction of the 924 in 1976), whose cars had until then used only rear- or mid-mounted air-cooled flat engines with four or six cylinders.

Porsche utilized a transaxle in the 928 to help achieve 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, aiding the car's balance. Although it weighed more than the difficult-to-handle 911, its more neutral weight balance and higher power output gave it similar performance on the track. The 928 was regarded as the more relaxing car to drive at the time. It came with either a five-speed dog leg manual transmission, or a Mercedes-Benz-derived automatic transmission, originally with three speeds, with four speed from 1983 in North America and 1984 in other markets. More than half of production had the automatic transmission. Exact percentage of manual gearbox cars for entire production run is not known but its believed to be between 25 and 30%.

The body, styled by Wolfgang Möbius under guidance of Anatole Lapine, was mainly galvanized steel, but the doors, front fenders, hood, and roof were aluminum in order to make the car more lightweight. It had a substantial luggage area accessed via a large hatchback. The new polyurethane elastic bumpers were integrated into the nose and tail and covered in body-coloured plastic; an unusual feature for the time that aided the car visually and reduced its drag. Porsche opted not to offer a convertible variant but some aftermarket modifiers offer convertible conversions.

The 928 qualified as a 2+2, having two small seats in the rear. Both rear seats could be folded down to enlarge the luggage area, and both the front and rear seats had sun visors for occupants. The 928 was also the first vehicle in which the instrument cluster moved along with the adjustable steering wheel in order to maintain maximum instrument visibility.

The 928 included several other innovations such as the "Weissach Axle", an early all-wheel steering system that provides passive rear-wheel steering while cornering, and an unsleeved, silicon alloy engine block made of aluminum, which reduced weight and provided a highly durable cylinder bore.

Porsche's design and development efforts paid off during the 1978 European Car of the Year competition where the 928 won ahead of the BMW 7-series and the Ford Granada. The 928 is the only sports car so far to have won this competition, where the usual winners are mainstream hatchbacks and sedans/saloons from major European manufacturers. This is regarded as proof of how advanced the 928 was compared to its contemporaries.

The Porsche 928 is an automobile made by Porsche AG of Germany from 1978 to 1995, during which time it was their most expensive offering. There is some amount of debate pertaining to the 928’s position as Porsche’s flagship model, as some consider the 911 to have always been the companies flagship, even during production of the 928. It is often considered a grand touring car, although it’s combination of a powerful V8 engine and 50/50 weight distribution made it a competent sports car as well; ambiguous advertising on Porsche’s part and the fact that the model was intended to supplant the 911 as the companies premier model adds to the difficulty in easily classifing the vehicle.

The Porsche 928 was sometimes called either Shark or Land Shark, due both to its shark-like appearance and its ability to ’eat up’ large segments of road in very little time.

Engine
Powerplants considered for the 928 included a V6 but luckily for 928 enthusiasts an all-aluminum 4.5 liter 16-valve SOHC V8 designed by Porsche became the chosen powerplant. This engine also featured the world’s longest (Gilmer-type and toothed) timing belt in a production vehicle - it measures nearly 7 feet if laid out.

Drivetrain And Suspension
Testing of the various drivetrain and suspension components were carried out in 911, Mercedes, Opel and Audi bodies. Porsche engineers went to great lengths during this process, as the donor cars sometimes had to be chopped, lenghtened or widened to accomodate the 928 drivetrain & suspension. Later full-scale models and prototypes were given extreme testing in desert tests in Africa, and ice tests Finland. Crash tests were dutifully recorded with the 928 fairing exceedingly well over and above the 5mph specs of the time (note 3).

The engineers were justifiably proud of their achievements, however, mid-way through the Porsche 928 development the first global gas crisis hit. In light of this, the Board of Directors now had to decide whether or not to continue on ’Projekt 928’. As we now know, development would forge ahead - Porsche was willing to bet on the V8 platform to carry the marque into the future.

Design of the coachwork took place secretly behind curtains alonside 911 production. Numerous full scale mockups of that glorius body and cockpit were created and tested for airflow. Nearing completion, a rolling example was presented to the Board of Directors, who would ultimately make the final design approval. The selected body style is the original 928 introduced to the world at the Geneva car show of March 1977 (note 1) and Projekt 928 had finally become the Porsche 928.

The Weissach Axle
At its unveiling the car stunned the world and was received to critical acclaim and controversy - the 928 was promptly awarded Car of the Year for it’s many innovations such as the aluminum engine block and heads; and the ’Weissach axle" (named in honor of the Porsche R&D center where it was created). The goal of the Weissach axle was to eliminate lift-throttle oversteer by allowing the rear suspension to actually adjust itself during cornering manuevers. The Weissach axle is one of the most noted features of the marque and has been adapted across the model line-up.

Double disc clutch info and torque tube. The 928 battery is attached to the rear transaxle to help dampen vibration. Thus equipped with a front-engine, rear transaxle layout the 928 has near perfect weight balance distribution of 50/50 front to rear.

Notable Options
1981 Competition package includes S type front and rear spoilers, sport seats (see next web section on the 928 S).The main feature of the Euro S model, namely the 4.7 liter V8, would not make it’s U.S. appearance until 1983. A special 928 Weissach edition was available and, similiar to the 911 Weissach edition, featured champagne gold metallic paint, matching brushed gold alloy wheels, two-tone interior and the extremely collectible three-piece Porsche luggage set. Only 205 such cars were produced (note 3).

Production was carried out at the factory in Stuttgart - Zuffenhausen, side by side with the 911 cars thus eliminating any doubt as to the build quality of customer cars. It is interesting to note that even given the 928’s pedigree, it has never attained the same reverence as the air-cooled Porsches. Though thoroughly acknowledged by the press as the best GT car Porsche ever produced, it remains largely unappreciated except for those in the know, and those who have succumbed to its unrelenting push toward top acceleration.

The 928 has had a great production run, from 1978-1995. Even though the 1995 928 GTS didn't sell very well, and was dropped from the Porsche line, the 928 is a proven winner. For 17 years, this Porsche headed the model line-up in luxury and power. The 928 was a tourer; only offered as a 2-door coupe with a big V8 engine.

The concept of the 928 originated in 1971. The model was first shown at the Geneva Auto Show in March of 1977. By this time, the 928 was ready and running. Production began in September of that year for the 1978 models. As it first came out, the 928 offered a 4.5 liter 90 degree V8 as its only powerplant. You were given a choice of a 5-speed manual transmission, or a 3-speed automatic. Power output was at 219 horsepower. The 928 had its engine in the front, and the transmission at the rear. Even though this concept was already shown on the 924, the 928 was actually designed BEFORE the 924, therefore, the 928 is really the first "front engine" Porsche.

The car was an extreme standout compared to other cars of the time. The 928 seemed like a spaceship on the road to everyone who saw it. We're used to its shape now, but think about 1977 and how it had to fit in with all those other econo-boxes. Technical innovations included an incredibly long timing belt to drive the cams and all accessories, and pistons running directly in the "Alusil" block. The cylinder bores were etched to expose hard, wear resistant silicon particles. The 928 had nearly perfect weight distribution, thanks to a sophisticated multilink rear suspension known as the "Weissach" layout.

This employed a form of passive rear wheel steering, giving the rear suspension toe-in on braking or deceleration to combat trailing throttle oversteer, the first rear-steering system ever offered to the public. Porsche didn't use aluminum very sparingly on the 928--the doors, hood, and other large castings were composed of it. Inside, you were treated to the most modern interior design of any car on the road, with an adjustable instrument pod, electronic comfort and convenience features, and the highest grade materials. It was also one of the quietest cars on the road, and it could still match the 911 in performance.