911 Porsche World - - 928: First And Last -

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.’

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