Derek Bell Originally Said “Thanks, but no thanks” to This Rare Porsche

Story by Johan Dillen • Photography by Dirk De Jager

 

That was the story for years, as prices for Porsche’s V8-powered coupe sat flat, barely worth a mention. Then, in 2016, this specific 928 became the most expensive example of the model ever to be auctioned off: Bonhams fetched $283,000 for it, tenfold the going price for a decent 928 at the time.

Of course, this is no normal 928. It’s a 1987 Porsche 928 Club Sport built one year before the variant was officially offered to the masses. Porsche used the Club Sport badge here in an attempt to give the 928 more sporting credentials among the 911-focused crowd.

The model certainly needed some legitimacy, because unlike the 911, the 928 didn’t really have any kind of competition record. Nevertheless, for a while Porsche was actually considering a future that didn’t include the 911. Buyers, however, made sure that company management understood that without the 911, there would be no Porsche brand.

The 928 looked promising on paper. Up front it had a big, water-cooled V8 engine; displacement climbed over the years from 4.5 liters to an even 5.0, and then all way to a 5.4 that produced 320 horsepower.

Horsepower can only do so much, though. True, its transaxle layout gave the 928 a finer balance than the 911, but it also weighed much more than Zuffenhausen’s eternal sports car. A dedicated 928 Club Sport, something that had been in the idea stages for a few years, was supposed to help give the model some much-needed luster.

Four in Grandprixweiss

It’s 1987, and four guys are welcomed at Porsche HQ to receive the keys to their new daily drivers. The quartet is composed of the drivers paid to drive the Rothmans-liveried 962s on the weekends: Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Bob Wollek. Each would receive a 928 Club Sport to use on the street. The four cars would serve as prototypes, testing the waters before the model’s public debut.

At first glance, these cars looked like the production 928 S4, even sporting the same fold-up rear spoiler. But the Club Sport dug deeper: To increase performance, Porsche aimed to shave 100 kilograms–about 220 pounds–from the nearly 3500-pound S4.

Right off the bat, the manufacturer nearly met that goal just by replacing the S4’s automatic transmission with a dogleg, five-speed manual box.

More weight savings followed. The door panels lost their side pockets, the sun visors were tossed, and Porsche deleted the rear windshield wiper. A smaller battery was fitted. Also dropped were cruise control, an audio system and protective side moldings. The prototype Club Sports even had their own dedicated tool box, while soundproofing had been reduced to a minimum. The air-conditioning compressor was a lightweight unit.

“All the weight savings added up,” this car’s previous owner told us. Those first Club Sports likely checked in at about 300 pounds less than a stock example.

These cars fetch a pretty penny, too: This summer a Silver Metallic one went unsold at $140,000 on Bring a Trailer, while Gooding & Company got $330,000 for a one-of-one Irish Green example.

“It gave me so much pleasure on long journeys. It felt just that little bit faster than a normal 928”

The prototypes received some mechanical changes as well. Boge dampers were fitted along with stiffer front springs, while spacers widened the rear track by two-thirds of an inch. Under the hood, the 5.0-liter got some tweaking with sharper camshafts and a more free-flowing exhaust, which helped the engine produce 10 more horsepower to bring the total to around 330. The engine was also allowed to rev a bit higher, up to 6775 rpm.

Up to 60 mph, the Club Sport wasn’t any faster than the S4: Both could sprint to the mark in some 5.6 seconds. But thanks to a steeper final drive, the Club Sport could go faster. Where the S4 topped out at 167 mph, the Club Sport was expected to reach 185. (Legend has it that one of the test drivers complained that his Club Sport topped out just before 185.)

Steering on the “Wrong” Side

This particular Club Sport did not get off to a great start. Although it was slated to go to Derek Bell, he reportedly declined to accept the car because the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Porsche parked it.

A year later, the story goes, the same Derek Bell, while back at Porsche HQ, asked who owned the beautiful 928 that was just sitting there in the corner. That would be his car, he was told. Bell had the speedo recalibrated in mph and took the car back to Britain.

A conversation with Bell brings a slightly different tune to the story. “Well, there was more to my initial refusal than just the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side,” he now admits. “Primarily, I left the car in Germany for tax reasons. After one year, import taxes in the UK were much lower.”

Bell kept his Club Sport much longer than did any of his colleagues: 17 years, enough time to cover 42,000 miles. He added the British Racing Drivers Club sticker on the windshield that is still present, as well as an Alpine sound system and a CD changer, both also still there.

“I remember it as a great all-rounder,” Bell says. “It gave me so much pleasure on long journeys. It felt just that little bit faster than a normal 928, a glorious car.”

Bell sold the car to UK resident and Porsche 928 collector Justin Pressland, who added custom floor mats festooned with Bell’s helmet design. Pressland sold the car in 2010 to a Belgian who collected 911s; six years later, the car was sent to auction.

Hot, But Not Hot Enough

As expected, Porsche released the production run of the 928 Club Sport for 1988. Only 71 copies were produced that year; the problem, put simply, was that there was no market for a purist 928. Porsche discontinued the Club Sport the following year.

The UK had a more luxurious take on the CS: the 928 SE. That model was no more successful, with just 42 cars built. Only after a bit more luxury was added, in the form of the 928 GT that Porsche presented late in 1989, did sales improve.

The 928’s career ended in 1995. After a little more than 17 years, Porsche had sold more than 61,000 units. Over the same time, the manufacturer built more than 220,000 copies of the 911.

After spending years at the bottom of the depreciation curve, the 928 has started to gain some appreciation. In the past year, prices have started to creep up, with some cars now trading in the low six figures. Perhaps the 928 was just too early on all accounts.

Thanks to 911motorsport.be for their help with this story.

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Comments
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sir_mike
sir_mike New Reader
12/11/19 4:03 p.m.

Removed the sun visors??? To save weight?? That was stupid...

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