In Dubai it is reckoned there are no more than a dozen Porsche 928s. I've now seen at least three of them and I'm yearning to own one again because, about eight years ago, I owned a 1985 S2 and it was an utterly fantastic car.
A proper GT car, the 928 was supposed to replace the 911 in 1977 but Porsche never managed to kill off the rear-engined ex-Beetle and the 928 has become something of an enigma. Surviving cars are often ropey, unloved and should be avoided at all costs, but find a good one and they represent a fine classic purchase. However, a brief chat with Michel de Martigny is enough to make you think twice.
Michel has, to say the least, been put through the mangle by his car. Porsche 928s are extremely complex machines that were years ahead of their time and neglect by a previous owner means financial hardship for the next. Michel is a Canadian expat living in Dubai and working in IT management, so he's obviously intelligent. But buying a 928 is never a decision based on pure logic. Speaking from personal experience, it's a car that just grabs you on an emotional level and won't let go until you've given in and assumed ownership.
"The model was launched when I was just starting my work career and it really appealed to me," Michel recalls. "I've always been attracted to cars that are unique and special but not necessarily mainstream or popular. And, after meeting my wife, I needed a second car and when I saw this 928 advertised on the board at Spinneys, I jumped, probably a bit too quickly."
Michel bought the 1988 S4 you see here in 2005 from a German, Dubai-based businessman and this, he admits, lulled him into a false sense of security. "I visited the mechanic he'd been using and was assured it was in fine condition and that the engine's compression was tip-top. So I bought it, thinking it just needed a bit of tweaking here and there," he grimaces. Five minutes after buying it, with a very sceptical wife on-board, the 928 suffered a total ECU failure. The writing was on the wall. "This took the car off the road for two weeks and, once it was running, I had a full diagnostics test carried out, which showed the engine was pretty much fried," he recalls.
That mechanic denied ever having tested the car's engine or saying it was sound, so an expensive trust lesson was learnt. Can you feel his pain yet? I certainly can. What followed was a succession of expensive yet necessary jobs, including rebuilding the 5L V8, new shocks and springs, three new air conditioning compressors, alternator, brakes, stainless-steel exhaust, radiator, front spoiler, new centre console after the car was broken into during a sojourn to the UK ("the thief got a radio worth Dh30 and my insurers got a bill for Dh12,000!), new steering rack and several new batteries.
Understandably, Michel became convinced the car was cursed. "I even named it Kristen - the German equivalent of Christine, after the possessed car in the Stephen King novel," he laughs. "But I'm over the worst and, now, owning the 928 is actually enjoyable. The key to happy ownership of a car like this here is to find a mechanic you can trust and, at last, I have that. It gets attention wherever it goes, my five-year-old son loves it and hopefully one day it will be his."