Ad of the Week: The Car Projected to Take Porsche Into the Next Century

Back in 1981, it wasn't the Taycan.

If you take a good look at Porsche's Vision 960 Turismo concept from 2016, you see a car that could have been a rear-engine sports sedan or a proper four-seater 911, yet became the starting point of the all-electric 2020 Taycan instead. Stuttgart's latest four-door sedan and five-door wagon (Cross Turismo) models are the most important Porsches since the 2002 Cayenne, and it's not like Porsche would be stopping there. Bentley, Audi, and the rest of the Volkswagen Group are all switching to electric drive, because that's in, and naturally-aspirated flat-six engines burning fossil fuels refined to high octanes are on their way out. Ready for the EV-only next-gen Macan?

Mind you, back in the early 1970s, instead of internal combustion engines, Porsche almost gave up its entire 991 lineup, thinking that in order to fight Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the United States, a front-engine transaxle V8 luxury coupé would be the way to go.

Welcome to Ad of the Week! Vintage ads are fun. They come from a time when enthusiasts gathered their knowledge mostly from print magazines, TV and radio ads, and billboards sized to fit several land yachts. We'll be taking a deeper look at one every week to explain the claims, context, and how that all worked out in reality.

The project that led Porsche to the production of a unique V8 engine in the nose of its most luxurious car to date began in 1971. However, the 928 only appeared at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, following an oil crisis, and arriving to the dealerships just in time for the second big one. With its pop up headlights, 4.5-liter single-overhead cam V8 rated at 219 horsepower in America, optional three-speed automatic transmission sourced from Mercedes-Benz, bigger brakes and much safer weight balance thanks to the front-engine transaxle layout with the "Weissach" rear axle providing basic rear-wheel steering, it was a huge step up from the 911, the iconic Porsche that even went turbocharged in the mid-1970s to get the nickname "widowmaker".

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Porsche + Audi: Nothing Even Comes Close

By the time this 1981 ad came out, the 928 was priced at "more than $37,000," which meant $38,850 in reality. Porsche was quick to point out that you got a clean sheet of design for your money, not some updated rear-engine wonder frankly originating from the Beetle yet making the most of that design, or a transaxle car powered by a four-cylinder engine.

The 928 was the top dog, and while more powerful and better equipped evolutions were launched in Europe up to two years before North America, by 1981, the U.S. version also featured Bosch L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection instead of the previous mechanical, as well as 219 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, along with 265 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000.

Air-conditioning, tinted glass, cruise control, four stereo speakers and an automatic that would only become a four-speed for the 1983 model year. The 928 was truly tailored for America, and while other markets got the stronger 4.7-liter engine rated close to 300 hp, at least the U.S. got Porsche's optional "Competition Package." This pretty much meant the European 928 S spec without the better engine, thus pairing those 219 horses with Recaro sports seats, a padded steering wheel, front and rear spoilers, and the all-important limited-slip differential.

140 mph top speed or not, in was hardly the 928 that put Porsche into the next century. It wasn't even the equally luxurious Panamera, which started out as a concept in 1989, only to become a product well into the 21st century two decades years later. Now, all eyes are on the electric Taycan, which has a top speed of 143 mph in base form. Throw the heavy passenger seat out of your well-maintained 1981 Porsche 928, and you might just catch it a few miles into the game.

If not, still well done to you, and welcome to Porsche's future, which contains no dogleg five-speed manuals.

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