5k: 1985 Porsche 928S Autotragic, GP White

The Porsche 928 was introduced to the world in 1978 as the shape of
things to come for Porsche.  The sleek-in-the-front and bulbous-in-the-rear design was penned by Wolfgang Möbius and was one of the first cars
to offer a polyurethane front bumper that survived the USA 5 mph impact
requirements introduced in the mid 1970s.  A V8 up front mated to a trans-axle finished the design that was decidedly non-911 and very much a luxury grand tourer.  This 1985 Porsche 928S is offered in grand prix white, fitted with an automatic transmission and for sale in Largo, FL for $6,500 obo via ebay.

Just for full disclosure – this author has owned/driven daily a Porsche 928S a few years ago, so a lot of what I am going to say is a reflection of that experience.  First, the 928 has a somewhat deserved reputation for costly repairs and has the most dynamic wreck-to-whip ratio for any contemporary sports car.  That is to say, the price of a poorly maintaned high mileage example will be in the $1k range, while a good example from the same year can trade well into the $25k range.  Professional 928 aficionados will tell you to savor each moment while driving the $25k example and don’t even think about the $1k, for reasons we will dive into later.

This 1985 928 was the first year of the much improved dual-over-head-camshaft 5.0 liter V8.  Pre 1985 versions had to make due with 240 horsepower, but these later cars made in excess of 292 horsepower, increasing incrementally each year (or two) all the way to 345 hp in 1995.  Perhaps some of the wreck-to-whip ratio can be explained by the complexity of the engine and its control setup that was originally designed in the early 1970s.  Modern cars have computers that do all manner of adjustments based on mathematic algorithms, but the 928 features a complex relay board setup under the passenger’s feet.  Relays on this board can be as simple as ones that turn the fuel pump on when the car is cranking, to the complex (and impossible to buy) kickdown relay…don’t ask me what it does and how, just know that 10 years ago they were selling in excess of $250 new and today are obsolete.  It’s just one relay, but now you start to understand that just about ever major electro-mechanical component on the car has the same level of complexity.  Don’t get me started on the headlight raising mechanism…

The seating position in the 928 has to be one of its high points, the driver is seated low and surrounded by gauges/pods in a manner totally different from the high/upright seating of a contemporary 911.  The 928 certainly feels much more like a supercar, even if the performance with the automatic transmission isn’t stellar.  Regardless, this is a lot of car for $6k and with 292 horsepower pushing around 3300 lbs, it will be the nicest German Camaro you’ve ever owned.

Today, a cheap used 928 S presents the gear head with his worst conundrum — is this car cheap because the owner thinks something major may blow up soon, or because the owner knows that something major is going to blow up soon?  While major engine rebuilds will cost big bucks, most parts are cheap if purchased online and self-installed, but poorly designed and need regular attention.  Take the odometer gear for instance, it isn’t a question of if the gear has broken, but a question of how many additional miles the previous owners put on it while it was broken.  There is a small gear inside the odo cluster that is machined out of a baby’s crusty eye boogers and it will fail – but its only $30 to replace it yourself…if you are willing to spend a few hours with a magnifying glass and pair of tweezers.  So, it’s not the cost of the 928 that has the DIY gearhead concerned, it’s the weekends lost to adjusting a bowden cable and chasing electrical gremlins.

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