The Porsche 928 has always been my favorite Porsche. I had built a model of it in high school about the same time I really started liking cars. Then I saw it in movies like Weird Science and Risky Business.
It made me want to be a U-boat commander.
Cars I thought were cool in the 1980s included the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, Lotus Turbo Esprit, BMW M1, Vector W21, Porsche 959, and even the C4 Chevrolet Corvette. I would have taken a 928 over all of those other cars back then.
So when I was looking for a new car back in the early 1990s, I had my sights on a 1987 Porsche 928 S4.
And ended up with a 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo S instead (so close).
In the beginning I looked around but couldn’t find the car I dreamt of, so I decided to build it myself.2
I don’t regret that purchase, but every time I see a 928, I still want to get one.
What I’m trying to say is I love these water-cooled, front-engine, rear transmission Porsches (yes, even the 924). The transmission was put in the rear to help give the cars a 50-50 weight distribution. They were often touted as the best handling Porsches around3.
I had read that there was a special Transaxle Era exhibit at the Porsche Museum from April to October of this year. When I had a chance to take a day off a couple of weeks ago, I headed over to Stuttgart to visit the museum. This was one exhibit I couldn’t miss.
The last time I was at the museum was in 1998. Back then it was just a large room with a few cars. I had been in bigger garages in the States with just as many cool Porsches as the museum.
1998 + 18
Today it’s a very fancy building next to the Porsches on a stick. It has a café and a restaurant. And most importantly in Germany, it has its own underground parking garage.
After I paid my 8€ to get in, I got my audio guide and headed up the escalator. The guide recommended following the chronological path through the museum of Porsche’s works, so naturally I went to the see the 924s first.
One look at these 924s and you immediately know that they were designed and built in the 1970s (especially the green one below). It had started as a project with VW that got cancelled, which Porsche subsequently took over.
For me, the 924 is important because it led to the development of the 944, especially the turbo versions. The 924 Carrera GT, GTS, and GTR were really fantastic cars for the time.
I didn’t recall seeing a 924 in a 1980s John Hughes movies, so I checked the internet movie car database. It shows up for a few seconds in the 1983 movie Private School. I was going to embed the trailer, but I’m not sure if I’m mature enough to view it.
Although I love the 928, I think of all the Porsche transaxles, the 944 Turbo is the best looking (I’m not biased at all). The 944 was the most popular of the transaxles, with about 171,000 cars in total being sold. And it was in the movie Sixteen Candles, because all school kids in Illinois drove transaxle Porsches in the 1980s.
The 944 that caught my eye at this display was the all-wheel drive prototype. Not only was it all-wheel drive, but the engine was in the rear. Where was that car when I was buying my Subaru?
I used to have fantasies of driving a 928 over 110 mph4 on I-75, but I actually drove my 944 even faster on the German autobahn. Here was a case where real life exceeded fantasy.
The 968 is the evolution of the 924/944 series. Unfortunately it didn’t have a chance to make it into 1980s teen movies because it was introduced in 1992. It shared only about 20% of its parts from the outgoing 944 and sold in much lower volumes.
One of the rarest production Porsche models is the 968 Turbo S. Only 16 of these were ever produced and only sold in Europe. Had I known this, I would have been more impressed every time I walked by a yellow one I used to see parked on the streets of Regensburg.
Even more rare was the 968 Turbo RS, essentially a race version of the Turbo S. Only 4 of these were made.
I looked for them, but neither of these Turbo models were on display, which is just as well since I would have probably tried to steal it.
I remember the 928 being referred to as the German Corvette as well as a shark, presumably because of its nose5. Unlike the 924/944/968 series, it had a V8 engine like the Corvette. So I find it interesting that since 1997, the Corvette has adopted a similar transaxle configuration6, thereby becoming the American 928.
The 928 was originally introduced as a 1978 model and it was produced until 1995, when the last 968 was also made. It was supposed to replace the 911 (so close). Even today, almost 40 years after it was introduced, I still find its design unique and fresh.
About 80% of them came with an automatic transmission, which was ahead of its time for a Porsche. Many cars that Porsche sells today are no longer available with a manual transmission (Panamera, Macan, Cayenne, 911 Turbos).
The 928 display had a couple of surprises for me, like the cabriolet and hatchback. I know the 928 is already a hatchback, but I’m not calling it a “shooting brake”—that’s just weird.
Today, it’s the Porsche for the man that knows that Porsche builds fantastic rear-engined, flat-six, manual transmission sports cars, and wants none of that.
So what I think I’ve established here is that I like these transaxle Porsches because they were often in the 1980s teen movies (and tv shows) that I used to watch. They are intertwined with my real experiences with these cars.
In my tiny mind, I became a race car driver whenever I took the 944 to the track. The only time a female driver 7 ever gave me a thumbs up was when I was driving the 944. A guy in a Testerossa challenged me to a race on I-696. An ESPN2 announcer made fun of the 944 and me on a show about the Pony Express race.
A woman at the same race liked my 944 so much, she bought a 1989 928 (because automatic transmission), put a roll bar in it, and averaged 134.3 mph in the next race. And I was only a little jealous.
Today I get guys saying things like, “hey, that’s a nice Subaru wagon. Will it get the same gas mileage as my minivan?”8
These transaxle Porsches will always be special to me. If you get a chance, fly over to Germany and see this exhibit before it’s over.
Meanwhile I am going to avoid scanning the interwebs for any deal on a 1987 or newer 928. At least until I return to America.
And yes, this car is still here. They must have a hard time trying to get rid of it. It’s not exactly Porsche’s most popular color.
I understand that Porsche apparently makes other cars. I’m assuming those cars aren’t as well known or popular as the transaxles, so I’m including them in this slide show.
Must… not… click… Buy… Now…