My name is Joel Goodson and I deal in human fulfillment.
If you know who Joel is, you also probably know that his dad drove one of the most iconic yet largely unloved Porsches of all time—and that car is coming up for sale in September in the Barrett-Jackson Houston auction.
Of course, there is no real Joel Goodson, as he was famously played to perfection by a tube-socked Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and in a pivotal scene dunks his dad’s coveted Porsche into Lake Michigan. Luckily, that is not the car that will be for sale in September, but rather, the hero car that Cruise raced through the suburbs of Chicago evading Guido the killer pimp.
As much as I loved the movie, I even more so loved that car. So when I had the chance to buy a nice but neglected example a few years back, I took it, despite knowing full well that the kind of car I was buying had a reputation for being difficult to repair and expensive to maintain. The reality, however, was pretty far from that. Any neglected super car is going to have its share of quirks, and deferred maintenance can prove to be daunting and expensive. What tends to happen with cars like the 928 is that the magic of depreciation puts them into the hands of people who can afford the purchase but not the maintenance, setting in motion a domino effect of deterioration. This is why it’s always preferable to buy a vintage classic that has been used and maintained rather than having just sat in a garage—or worse, outdoors.
The 928 was an engineering feat. Named Car of the Year in 1978, it is still the only sports car to win that award. Although to those who know it well, it’s not really a sports car. It’s a GT, or Grand Tourer, and it excels at that. Boasting 300 horsepower, which was virtually unheard of in 1978 (the 911 that same year had 180 bhp), it was a cross country cruiser—a fact which I put to the test several times over the years in my 1986.5.
Every car model has its sweet spot, and I like the ‘86.5 model because it maintained the lines of the original body style but the upgraded brakes and drivetrain of the ’87 model. It really was the best of both worlds. Just as much as its performance, its design was equally and completely unique. So much so that not only did Steve Jobs purchase an early model, but the car served as inspiration for the design of the first MAC computer.
It also has the distinction of being the first completely clean sheet design from Porsche. The 356 had been a derivative of the VW bug, and the 356 begat the 911. In fact, the impetus for the design was that Ferry Porsche feared the 911 was becoming long in the tooth and that sales had started to wane, and they would need a replacement. Just imagine that 40 years ago Porsche thought the end of the line may be nearing for the 911. Notwithstanding, the 928 became a totally new thing dreamed up by some of the best automotive engineers in history.
The 928 appeared in several ‘80s classics, like Weird Science (who is this Gary character ?) and Scarface, but its turn in Risky Business is certainly the most memorable—and now that car is for sale with no reserve.
Most underappreciated cars have a moment that shifts their fate. In 2014, Steve Mcqueen’s Ferrari 250 Lusso sold for $10 million dollars. That certainly woke up the market; the Lusso, which theretofore was a solid $200,000 to $300,000 car, now sells for $1.5 million and up—celebrity pedigree or not. The reality is that the 928 has had a nice appreciation in value over the last few years, coupled with solid parts availability and a truly enthusiastic community devoted to these cars, which should put any potential buyer at ease.
One of the big points of differentiation around the 928 is the automatic versus manual transmissions. I am going to make a controversial statement and say that I preferred the automatic, and I owned both versions. The automatic is more true to the car’s nature, the gearbox being built by Mercedes, as Porsche had no experience with auto-boxes—and it truly is a bulletproof unit. The manual version is more valuable as far fewer were made with the five speed gearbox, however, it is more susceptible to the dreaded thrust bearing failure which will condemn your 8 cylinders to a very noisy and expensive demise.
As a guy who loves cars, especially those of the 1980’s, I can say I’d buy another one in a heartbeat. The community and modern upgrades make it a truly reliable and appreciating classic, and a very easy car to enjoy, which ultimately is what’s best for the car and the owner.