Mainman on the 928 project was Anatole ‘Tony’ Lapine, head of styling at Zuffenhausen from’69 to ’88, making the 928 possibly his greatest legacy. He died in 2012, so I spoke to his Camarillo, California-based son Hans, who followed in his footsteps as prototype designer atweissach from1980 to ’85, and owns and races a cross-section of Porsche young-timer classics – including a 944 Turbo Cup and 914/6 GT. He recalls being in the studio from childhood as his father drew andmodelled car designs.
‘I was very exposed to that whole thing. I was born in Detroit in 1962 when Dad was running the studio for Gm-opel, and as a kid we were often in the studio withmy father on weekends. Going to the studio growing up I always saw these claymodels there and that’s actually whatmademe go into the business. My dad was very busy on the weekends, and used the studio to fulfil certain tasks on hismg or his Lotus race cars. He had a 356 Carrera, and we would go into the studio to do car restoration work. I saw the first claymodel of the 928, and as a kid I was always very disappointed about that car; it only grew onme decades later when I started appreciating them, when I saw how far forward-thinking the whole car was. Itmatched up with whatmy dad always taught me, beingmymentor in the design world. He always said, “if people immediately like something, throw it away and start over again. It has to spark a discussion or an argument, whether you like it or hate it.” For example, (race driver) Peter Gregg was often in the race department, but had absolutely nothing to do with design, but he was a car guy, and they were close friends, and Dad said, “come on in, have a look at this,” and if Gregg liked what he was showing himhe’d snap it and start all over again: weird but true.’
Hans considers the 928’s outstanding styling cues to be around the back of the car: ‘the rear end is so unique that it sparks a discussion instantly – fromthe B-posts backwards, the fact that the B-posts are unconventionally angled, and the graphics behind the B-pillar flow into the C-pillar, and his renderings show how that whole area was treated: there aremultiple variations of that, and it was stunning that they actually put the Easter Egg on the rear end of the car. The V8 enginemight have been an oddball for Europeans, of course, but we were lucky enough to grow up in the States and in Europe, so V8s were completely normal. He was obliged to incorporate that into the styling of the 928, and it’s an incredibly compact set up, and that is to be credited to the studio engineers at Porsche styling, because he was always avid about having engineering support in the studio – his background was engineering, don’t forget; an automotive studio had usually one or two engineers, and Porsche in those days had four or five, ensuring that they could advocate for the styling of the car, andmy dad always referred to the engineers that were working for himas his “lawyers” when he went up against R&D.’
During this period, his talented design teamincludedwalter Mobius, Richard Soderberg and Harmlaagaij. ‘Although he was running the show, as chief designer you don’t really participate in sketch programmes for what the next car will be, you use your expertise to guide the other guys doing the designs. He always thought that the 928 was his biggest contribution to the car world; he loved that car, he drove it religiously, and it was either a 924 or a 928 that he was driving. Up to ’77 of course we were just driving 911s in our household, but after the 928 was released he had one every year. As for evolutions like the ‘S’ and the GTS, as far as I remember he always liked the first variation best because in his eyes it was the purest. He didn’t like wingsmuch, even though he’s the godfather of the Ducktail and thewhale-tail. He believed that you can achieve effective aerodynamics with a good body flow, which actually contradicts the 928 shape, because in the wind tunnel the 928 is faster going backwards than forwards. I worked inweissach from1980 to ’85 as a prototype builder on the 956 and 959, and I was involved in a lot of wind tunnel testing, and one day, just for laughs, we turned the 928 around in the tunnel, and we noticed the airflow was somuch better with it pointing backwards than going forwards. Close your eyes a little, and the 928 looks like a water drop, and there is nothingmore aerodynamically perfect than a drop of water as it falls through the sky, so in essence the 928 is a water drop.’
Hans believes the status of the 928 has turned a corner. ‘People are starting to notice them, and the 928 is on a good path now in terms of appreciation within the Porsche community, though the days of the 924 are still to come. The 928 is 40-years old now, but it still stands the test of time, and actually I have a 928 in the studio right now as a reference for timeless design.’ Does Hans run a 928 himself? You bet: ‘a 928 S, of course, in black, like the oldman would have wanted.’