PEAK TWINS

Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy: Antony Fraser Just 42 ex­am­ples of the 928 S4 SE reached GB in 1988; one was in­stantly turned into a racer. We drive it along­side one of its sib­lings in deep­est Snow­do­nia

911 Porsche World - - 928 Road Racers -

Gen­tle­man’s car­riage? For­get it! The S4 Spe­cial Equip­ment is a 928 Club Sport by an­other name, ca­pa­ble of hus­tling round the twists and turns of Snow­do­nia’s Evo tri­an­gle with the best of them. We’re guests of Tech9’s Phil Hind­ley, who has wheeled out this pair of V8-pow­ered ti­tans from his per­sonal col­lec­tion for us to eval­u­ate in ru­ral Wales.

Strange fruit for some­one more read­ily associated with racing and tun­ing 911s, the 928 SE holds a par­tic­u­lar fas­ci­na­tion for Phil: ‘I re­mem­ber this 928 racing in 1988, read­ing the mag­a­zines in my early Porsche years, and then two or three years ago I bought an ’88 model 928 SE. Porsche pro­duced 42 of them for the UK mar­ket, and in Europe there were 19 Club Sports, so I al­ways had an in­ter­est in them. I’ve got a list of all the chas­sis num­bers and I knew that the very first one be­longed to the car that was raced (WP0ZZZ92ZJS841630).’ Ac­quir­ing it was an­other mat­ter: ‘I was at Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic last year and, walk­ing across the pad­dock, I saw a white 928, and I no­ticed it didn’t have a sun roof, and it had SE forged wheels, and it was E-reg, when most of them are F-reg. Talk­ing to the driver, ba­si­cally it had been owned by his fa­ther for 20 years, but when his fa­ther died the son de­cided to sell the car. So, as he’s telling me the story I thought, ok, it’s for sale then. And he said, “I think this is the car that Tony Dron raced,” so, bear­ing that in mind, I started looking round the car, and it’s got SP stamped next to the en­gine num­ber, so two boxes ticked, an SE with its orig­i­nal en­gine. And un­der the car­pets were the roll cage mounts. So, we agreed a deal, and I lit­er­ally wired the de­posit straight into his bank there and then.’ Phil then set about recre­at­ing the car as it had been in pe­riod, a pro­duc­tion racer, al­beit fairly stan­dard. ‘We knew it had a Safety De­vices cage in it, and I’m ac­tu­ally a Safety De­vices dealer, so asked them to make me a cage but they said they’d thrown away all those old plans and they couldn’t do it. So, I said, look, if I bring you the car you’ve got the cage mounts in the floor, you must be able to make a cage based on those di­men­sions, so that’s what hap­pened, they made the cage to suit, to all in­tents and pur­poses the same as the one that was in it, so that was quite ex­cit­ing. And then in­stalling all the sim­ple race stuff, the seats, belts, though I haven’t gone the whole hog and put the old fire ex­tin­guisher in be­cause at the mo­ment it’s not par­tic­u­larly needed. We’ve got a re­ally good guy who does all our de­cals, and from pho­to­graphs and mea­sure­ments we recre­ated the orig­i­nal liv­ery and it works well.’

The 928 SE’S ABS was one of the first incarnations of the sys­tem in ’88, so it was new tech­nol­ogy and a fairly prim­i­tive ABS sys­tem. So, from that point of view, Porsche wanted to pro­mote this car

show­ing that it could be raced, and that’s nice as it was an of­fi­cial Porsche project and that makes it a nice piece of his­tory, too. It’s just a nice car to own, part of my col­lec­tion, and it’s a lot of fun.’ The car took pride of place at PCGB’S 928 ex­trav­a­ganza at Brook­lands ear­lier this year, where racer Tony Dron was re­united with it. (See side­bar). ‘We were racing at a sim­i­lar time; I started in ’91 and Dron was still racing, so we re­mem­bered each other from that pe­riod, and we had some good con­ver­sa­tions, like at Brook­lands where it was nice to sit down and talk about it in more de­tail. Ul­ti­mately, it’s a big, heavy car; yes, it’s pow­er­ful, and he was up against 2.7RSS and cars like that, and he would re­tained all the orig­i­nal trim, so they took qual­ify on pole and next minute the lights the cage out and all the race bits came off would go green and all those lit­tle 2.7RSS it, they put the trim back in and sold it on. with fan­tas­tic trac­tion and high power-toThe great thing is it’s got all its orig­i­nal trim weight ra­tio, were just gone, and he was and I’ve re­tained that.’ Dur­ing Tony Dron’s still sat there try­ing to get this lum­ber­ing racing ten­ure the car was set up at his thing off the line.’ be­hest by sus­pen­sion guru Rhoddy Har­veyBai­ley. ‘It’s still got its Bilstein sus­pen­sion, and with this be­ing the first chas­sis, it ” has a few unique fea­tures, so for in­stance only one mir­ror and it doesn’t have a rear wiper, whereas all the SES that fol­lowed had a rear wiper. We found out that the SES had a par­tic­u­lar se­ries num­ber, G28/55, for the gearbox type, and this car was fit­ted with an ear­lier one – G28/12 – so that’s I note that when it was raced it wouldn’t quite a cool fea­ture. have had a pas­sen­ger seat: ‘No, but I ‘It’s a spe­cial car, and the 928 was a wanted to keep the car road-le­gal so it can clean sheet de­sign con­ceived in the early maybe go to Europe to an event or ’70s, a car ahead of its day, and I think it some­thing like that. It was al­ways road­will be­come ap­pre­ci­ated as time goes on. reg­is­tered. Porsche raced it in ’88 and ’89, From an engi­neer­ing point of view, it’s quite and then at the be­gin­ning of 1990 Porsche a com­plex car; there was a lot of kit on GB ad­ver­tised it for sale – “of­fers in ex­cess them, and, yes, it’s a big, heavy car, but of £35K” back in Oc­to­ber ’89. They’d you can’t get away from the sound of that

It’s a spe­cial car and the 928 was a clean sheet de­sign, ahead of its day

en­gine. And the balance of the chas­sis is good, though this one is a bit twitchy be­cause it’s lower and race set-up run­ning on Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Club tyres.’ The other car is more for­giv­ing; it’s com­pletely stan­dard, and it’s in­ter­est­ing to feel the sub­tle dif­fer­ences be­tween the two. The SE had all-leather trim whereas the Club Sports had plas­tic trim for some rea­son, and maybe Porsche GB deemed that UK buy­ers wouldn’t buy them un­less they were top spec and fully loaded. But ul­ti­mately the sus­pen­sion, wheels, ev­ery­thing else is the same. The SE runs light­weight Fuchs-made an­odised 16in-di­am­e­ter forged wheels, with 8in rims on the front and 9in on the back. ‘A con­tem­po­rary road test re­port im­plies that it was un­usual to have an 8in wheel on the front of a car, and the road testers said the car tram­lined on less than per­fect roads, which it does a bit, but back then they weren’t used to hav­ing such a big wheel on the front of a car be­cause at that point hardly any ve­hi­cle had an 8in wheel on the front.’

It’s said that the V8 en­gines were hand­picked for the Se/club Sport models, and Porsche in­scribed Club Sport on the sumps of the SES as well. ‘So, when I take my en­gine out I’m go­ing to see if it’s there.’ Phil shows us his data­base: ‘I’ve got a lot of pa­per­work to do with the 42 SES, with all the chas­sis num­bers and hand-writ­ten notes of my re­search, and I’ve found out which cars are where: so, some are known cars that have been dam­aged or there’s a prob­lem with them, so there’s a cou­ple of Cat-d cars writ­ten off, and some have been ex­ported or scrapped, and the rest are cur­rent known cars, and there are less than 15 good cars out of 42 still on the road.’ Phil also has co­pi­ous SE ma­te­rial in­clud­ing mag­a­zine fea­tures, such as Fast Lane mag­a­zine from Oc­to­ber ’88, and the orig­i­nal press pack from March 1988: ‘How to recog­nise a 928 S4 Sport Equip­ment? It was based on a right-hand drive ’88 S4 fin­ished in white, sil­ver, red or black, along with things you can’t eas­ily check, like spe­cific camshafts, iden­ti­cal to the 928GT, but with no transaxle damper, and front spring rates stiffer than the S4.’ Ac­cord­ing to the press ma­te­rial, the 928 was still the range-top­ping model: ‘The new 928S Se­ries

4 Sport Equip­ment has been added to the flag­ship se­ries of the Porsche high per­for­mance road car range, aimed specif­i­cally at the truly en­thu­si­as­tic driver.’ Phil sums up: ‘The per­for­mance was sim­ply gi­gan­tic in a car that was just as easy to drive as any GTI, so, back in the day, it went down quite well with the press, al­beit fairly ex­pen­sive.’

His­tory books shut, it’s time for an out­ing. From Phil’s ru­ral Cheshire base, it’s a swift blast in be­guil­ing sun­shine into ma­jes­tic Welsh hill coun­try, through beau­ti­ful deeply wooded green val­leys. Phil’s driv­ing the race car, I’m in the ‘stan­dard’ 928 SE, and it’s like fall­ing into an arm­chair, so pala­tial and com­fort­able are the seats. First thing to re­mem­ber with the man­ual box is dog-leg 1st and the hand­brake on the right-hand side of the driver’s seat; plus the ped­als are in quite a dif­fer­ent ori­en­ta­tion to where you would ex­pect them to be: the brake pedal is quite high up and the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal is more to the right than I’d re­mem­bered from our re­cent hike to the Nür­bur­gring in a 928GT. I fol­low Phil, and, go­ing along the road, it’s an ex­tremely hand­some car viewed from the rear. If the racing liv­ery seems a bit ‘Jimmy-look-at-me’ in this con­text, re­mem­ber that this is the real thing, air­ing on road in­stead of track. As for the stan­dard SE, I feel it is slightly slow off the line, but once I’m in 2nd and 3rd, the trac­tion and power de­liv­ery is awe­some. It’s now, in these swoosh­ing dips and troughs, crests and rises, that ela­tion creeps up, be­cause com­pared with the GT that we took to the Nord­schleife, this is in a dif­fer­ent league as far as han­dling is con­cerned: it’s pre­cise, there’s no sense that it’s over­steer­ing or un­der­steer­ing, its power de­liv­ery is spot-on, and it’s good fun to use the gearbox on the twisty bits as I slot from 2nd to 3rd and 4th, and of course the 5.0litre V8 mo­tor is so torquey that you ac­tu­ally needn’t use the gearbox; it’s just nice to do so. It’s so much fun slot­ting through the gears, though you can be in 4th and it does all the work for you. Mean­while I’m ac­cel­er­at­ing hard in 3rd from 2000rpm, and I’ve got the win­dows open to bet­ter hear the gruff V8 sound­track echo­ing off the stone walls. The ride is in­ter­est­ing – it seems to be a kind of com­pro­mise be­tween pretty firm and tight, so the car feels planted, and yet there’s an el­e­ment of bounce over the poorer qual­ity road sur­faces. Both cars are on Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cups, which seem to suit them very well, even if the racer is a bit fid­gety on the coun­try lanes. All S4s have the strut brace. The ac­cel­er­a­tion is just phe­nom­e­nal in both cars, and they are both sin­cerely thrilling ma­chines hurtling through the bends and the ups and downs; they do in­deed feel like heavy cars, but they do han­dle. Per­haps it’s that which makes it such an awe­some thrill, heav­ing these rel­a­tively large sports GTS through ev­ery man­ner of cor­ner and cam­ber, sway­ing this way and that. I even find my­self com­mit­ting rear- and mi­dengined heresy, imag­in­ing I could ac­tu­ally live with this mon­ster front-en­gined for­mat!

Back at base, time to re­flect. Like palaces on wheels, the 928 S4 SE is a plush cabin en­vi­ron­ment. The non-race car has done 125,000 miles, and still the up­hol­stery is in per­fect con­di­tion. The white plas­tic pip­ing that trims the seats is sun­bleached but none of the stitch­ing is split. The gearshift feels firm, res­o­lute, pos­i­tive, and there’s a lit­tle glove box be­tween the seats for stor­ing sun glasses and things. There’s an orig­i­nal-looking Blaupunkt Toronto ra­dio, and air con­di­tion­ing. Sur­pris­ingly, per­haps, the race car has done 140,000 miles, but as Phil re­flects,

I’ve got the win­dows open to bet­ter hear the gruff V8 sound­track

The 928 SE racer was a hand­ful on track at first, un­til an im­bal­ance was dis­cov­ered be­tween the front damper and the ABS sys­tem as Tony Dron re­calls. Sus­pen­sion is still the orig­i­nal Bilstein setup, which works sur­pris­ingly well on the road

Un­der cover and un­der wraps. Left: Phil Hind­ley su­per­vises as the 928 SE ex-racer emerges from its trans­porter. Above: Stan­dard road SE is an­other 928 in Phil’s col­lec­tion

Tech 9’s Phil Hind­ley has ex­ten­sively re­searched both 928s in minute de­tail and strives to re­store each to its orig­i­nal spec

Ex-tony Dron racer is sur­pris­ingly com­pli­ant on the road. Car has al­ways been road le­gal, even in its racing days

Ex-racer was con­verted back to road spec af­ter its track days were over. Mounts and fix­ing for roll cage were still in place, So Phil had orig­i­nal sup­plier, Safety De­vices, fit a new one

Road car in­te­rior has weath­ered well, given its age and 125,000miles. Racer has a pas­sen­ger bucket seat for con­ve­nience. Both are man­ual

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