The List

Bent­ley de­signer Crispin Marsh­field lands a drive in a Porsche 928GTS. Af­ter miss­ing out on the chance to buy when they were cheap, will he want his own?

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Words RUSS SMITH Pho­tog­ra­phy CHAR­LIE MAGEE

Es­sex-based sales­man and drum­mer Ken John­son is just ex­plain­ing how he has man­aged to ac­quire four Porsche 928s when the fa­mil­iar and dis­tinc­tive sound of a flat-six fills his drive­way. That will be to­day’s lucky reader, Crispin Marsh­field, who has fit­tingly ar­rived in a Porsche to drive a Porsche. And there’s a strong con­nec­tion be­tween the two mod­els that is partly what he is here to ex­plore and re­live, as Crispin ex­plains.

‘A few years ago, when the time came to re­place my 996, the choice came down to a 928GTS and a 997 ver­sion of the 911, which at the time could both be had for around the same price. In the end the 911 won out be­cause I’d be buy­ing a car that was around ten years younger and, for the bud­get I had, would come with fewer miles on the clock. Fol­low­ing that, of course, 928GTSS shot up in price – they al­most dou­bled in a year, so it looks like I may have missed the boat.

‘Ever since, I’ve won­dered what I missed – I never even got to test drive one, though I was briefly a pas­sen­ger in one once – and it is the only car on my dream list that I would or could se­ri­ously think of buy­ing for my­self.’

Ken John­son’s GTS has an added at­trac­tion – it’s one of just 44 UK mar­ket cars to be sold with the op­tional man­ual gear­box. They are un­der­stand­ably much sought af­ter, so there has to be a story be­hind his get­ting one. ‘I bought it six years ago, while they were still cheap. I’m a big fan of Quentin Will­son and he rated th­ese a lot, so I fol­lowed the mar­ket and watched and waited while their val­ues dropped, then pounced when it looked like they’d bot­tomed out. At ex­actly the right time, it turned out. I try to keep the miles down, but it’s very hard not to drive it.’

It will be get­ting some ex­er­cise to­day, and Crispin is look­ing over it with a smile and a de­signer’s eye. ‘I’ve al­ways liked the 928; it’s the de­sign as much as any­thing. It was so alien when it came out, like some­thing from a sci-fi film. I’m sure there’s some Stanley Kubrick space­ship in­flu­ence. And per­haps some Gerry An­der­son too. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of his se­ries. My favourite car as a kid was the Jensen In­ter­cep­tor, and there’s some­thing of that in the Porsche too.

‘For me, on the early ones the rear track is a bit too nar­row for the body. The GTS is wider at the rear and has such a great stance. That’s some­thing that car de­sign­ers al­ways talk about and in this it’s ab­so­lutely spot-on. The way they flared out the rear arches on th­ese to match the fronts helps too. And the rear red strip that con­nect the tail-lights.’

I can’t help but agree. I’d al­ways as­sumed the fronts had been flared for the GTS too, but it’s just a trick of the eye that’s down to how well the wider rear wings have been flowed into the 928’s lines. But enough of that for now. Crispin’s here to drive the car,

‘I couldn’t imag­ine need­ing more per­for­mance. You give it some and the V8 keeps go­ing and go­ing. Yet it feels so planted and fills you with con­fi­dence’

not just look at it, so it’s time for him to fold his lanky frame into the Porsche and play with the elec­tric seat con­trols.

‘I fit very well; my height is in my legs and there’s plenty of legroom to play with. The driv­ing po­si­tion is spot-on and the seats are so com­fort­able I’d like them in my liv­ing room. You col­lapse into them and they soak you up. But it has bizarre pedal-spac­ing – the brake is where you ex­pect the throt­tle to be, and the clutch pedal is way over to the left.

‘I like that is has a light in­te­rior rather than the usual black over­load; it adds more Space 1999 feel this way. As does the 928 hav­ing the face-level air vents set in the door pan­els, which is re­ally un­usual. In fact I can’t think of an­other car that has them ar­ranged like that. Talk­ing of which, have you no­ticed the rear sun vi­sors? Un­fold­ing back over the rear hatch glass, I guess they keep the sun off pas­sen­gers’ necks, but it just looks bizarre and is some­thing else I’ve not seen in an­other car.’

Af­ter some fi­nal in­struc­tion from Ken, who is mostly con­cerned that the car’s dog­leg po­si­tion for first gear is re­mem­bered, we’re

‘It’s quite a phys­i­cal car to drive, but it’s not an is­sue. You feel more in­volved; it’s what you want from it’

away. Crispin is en­thu­si­as­tic from the off, ‘The car looks so smooth and cool from the out­side but has that mus­cle car roar, like a mod­ern Mus­tang. It’s a nice V8 sound, nat­u­ral, noth­ing ar­ti­fi­cial about it. Per­for­mance cars did get too quiet, and now, of course, they use soft­ware tweaks and gad­gets to en­hance the sounds.

‘My first im­pres­sions are of a car that has a lot of power and per­for­mance but pro­tects you from it to an ex­tent. There’s a long travel to the throt­tle pedal that ac­tu­ally makes the car feel quite slug­gish at first but al­lows you to drive it nor­mally. Once you push a bit fur­ther and get past that it re­ally opens up. The V8 is quite revvy but pulls hard from low down all the way to the 6500rpm red­line. By com­par­i­son, my old Corvette ran out of puff very sud­denly at 5000rpm, like a diesel. In th­ese con­di­tions, with the roads a bit damp and greasy, I had wor­ried about us­ing all the revs and power, but there’s such good trac­tion from that rear transaxle that it re­ally doesn’t seem to be an is­sue, the grip is su­perb.

‘The other sur­prise is that in pe­riod road tests th­ese were said to have a hard ride, but com­pared to what I’ve read it feels fine, and

it’s not that it’s gone soft be­cause Ken says he’s just fit­ted new rear dampers. The more I drive it the more I find my­self com­par­ing the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to a mod­ern car rather than a clas­sic. In a way that shows how far ahead of its time the 928 was – even this late de­vel­op­ment of it is 25 years old, but it doesn’t feel any­thing like that. It doesn’t look its age ei­ther, it’s hard to be­lieve th­ese were launched over 40 years ago, it still looks like a mod­ern car.

‘The dog­leg first gear takes some get­ting used to, men­tally; I’ve never used one be­fore. I can un­der­stand why most buyers went for the auto – the 928 is that kind of car – but the man­ual ’box makes it a real mus­cle car. You can see why they are so much more highly prized now. The gearchange it­self is very me­chan­i­cal, like there’s no rub­ber in the link­age at all, but it’s nice once you get used to it. There’s a slight lack of pre­ci­sion that you need to adapt to. I have hit fourth in­stead of sec­ond a cou­ple of times but am OK with it now.

‘The gear­ing it­self is quite long, though there’s so much torque it doesn’t seem to blunt per­for­mance at all. But it’s sur­pris­ing how long you find your­self stay­ing in sec­ond and third gears and the re­sponse is in­stant.’ Crispin ex­plores some of the car’s po­ten­tial in those gears, in which Au­to­car recorded a 30-70mph time of un­der five sec­onds. Sub­jec­tively, to­day it feels even quicker – and such ac­cel­er­a­tion is very eas­ily achieved. Crispin com­ments, ‘I couldn’t imag­ine need­ing more per­for­mance than this. You give it some and the V8 keeps go­ing and go­ing. Yet it feels so planted and fills you with con­fi­dence.

‘It’s quite a phys­i­cal car to drive, but that’s not an is­sue at all. You feel more in­volved; it’s what you want from some­thing like this. The clutch pedal is heavy, but again not too much, and I found the pe­riod of ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion was only a cou­ple of miles. Now, it al­ready feels like ‘my’ car, if you know what I mean, I’m so at home driv­ing it. And that’s af­ter just half an hour be­hind the wheel. It doesn’t feel like a big car ei­ther once you get go­ing, even on th­ese mi­nor A-roads. You just don’t think about its size. I know it’s big­ger than my 911 [by around 100mm in length and 80mm in width] but it sim­ply doesn’t feel like it. It does get hot in the cabin though,’ he says, crack­ing a win­dow open. ‘In a 911 all the heat is at the back so you never feel it.’

I’m keen to find out what led Crispin to Porsches, and in par­tic­u­lar the 928.

There’s noth­ing in his early car CV to sug­gest a log­i­cal path in the di­rec­tion of Stuttgart. ‘Well, of course ev­ery­one re­mem­bers the 928 from Risky Busi­ness – the whole film re­volved around it, and the car was still quite new to peo­ple then. That planted a seed,’ he re­calls. ‘But it was work­ing out in Ger­many as part of Volk­swa­gen’s de­sign team that re­ally got me into Porsches. I’ve owned one ever since – you can get hooked.’

The loy­alty even sur­vived a ma­jor change in Crispin’s life. ‘When Volk­swa­gen bought Bent­ley in 1998, I stood out as be­ing English and they asked me to go back to the UK and join their team to rein­vent the Bent­ley brand. I’ve been in­volved in de­sign­ing all the Bent­leys pro­duced since, in­clud­ing the Con­ti­nen­tal GT. In a way, the Conti GT is like a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the 928. Much big­ger, of course, and only a two-seater, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties are there. That’s not the only thing the 928 is re­spon­si­ble for ei­ther; be­lieve it or not, it in­spired the Ford Sierra too. You can see it in the soft­ness of line and es­pe­cially the shape of the door win­dows.

‘The 928 is a hard car to draw thanks to all those curves, and for me the shape is at its best in GTS form,’ Crispin con­tin­ues. ‘The styling changes that were made are sub­tle but clever, and make such an over­all dif­fer­ence com­pared to other 928s. The rear three­quar­ter is my favourite view; I love it.

‘The 928 has al­ways been hard to place, as in what com­pe­ti­tion they were up against. The XJ-SS were all too soft... and the BMW 850? I could never de­cide what that was. I re­mem­ber CAR mag­a­zine com­pared the three of them in a cover fea­ture and found that the Porsche was in an­other league. This GTS, the model that tips the range off, is at least equal to a Tes­tarossa. I drive a lot of pow­er­ful cars thanks to my job, but they are all a lot heav­ier. This does more with less.’

Af­ter hav­ing ex­plored much of the south-east cor­ner of Es­sex, it’s time to hand the keys back. Over fish and chips in Old Leigh, over­look­ing the mud flats of the Thames Es­tu­ary, Crispin is in a re­flec­tive mood. ‘I re­ally en­joyed that. I didn’t know what to ex­pect be­cause you get so many con­flict­ing re­ports about 928s. I still be­lieve my 911 was the right choice at the time, it’s so easy to fit into my life as an ev­ery­day car. For a not-ev­ery­day car, I pre­fer the 928. I love its in­di­vid­u­al­ity – it’s a Porsche but it’s dif­fer­ent; not a 911. At the mo­ment I’m re­stricted by only hav­ing a sin­gle-car garage. But if I could have a car for week­end use and was in a po­si­tion to buy some­thing, I’d love a 928. Some pre­fer the pu­rity of the early cars, but for me it would have to be a GTS.’

Crispin takes in the in­te­rior as his back­side sinks into seats he’d like in his liv­ing room

He may de­sign cars for Bent­ley, but Crispin’s had Porsches for years GTS’S lines are eas­ier to savour than to draw Crispin thinks the 928 has barely dated

This late Se­ries 2 Lagonda runs on four We­bers; elec­tronic in­jec­tion was in­tro­duced a year later Porsche V8 revs harder than Crispin’s old Corvette en­gine

Crispin reck­ons the stance and rear three-quar­ter view are key to 928GTS ap­peal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.