The 1987 Porsche 928 CS prototype formerly owned by Derek Bell. Photos courtesy Bonhams.
The words “company car” tend to conjure up images of de-contented Fords and stripper Chevrolets, but world-class racing drivers have different vehicular expectations. For Porsche racing great Derek Bell, his Stuttgart-issued company car from the late 1980s was a 928 prototype, one that foretold the 1988 launch of the model’s lightweight Club Sport variant. One of five such prototypes built for Porsche’s top drivers, the former Derek Bell Porsche 928 Club Sport prototype heads to auction in Belgium on October 7.
By 1987, Bell had amassed five wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including four behind the wheel of a Porsche. For much of the 1980s, the Porsche 956 and 962 seemed unstoppable in endurance racing, adding to the legend of team drivers Bell, Jochen Mass, Hans Stuck, Bob Wollek and Jacky Ickx. In recognition, and to test the concept of a lightweight 928 variant, Porsche constructed the five 928 Club Sport prototypes, one for each of its top drivers.
Building a lightweight Porsche 928 was no easy task. Though initially conceived as a replacement for the Porsche 911, the 928 had evolved into a somewhat luxurious, but fast, grand tourer, complete with ample insulation, leather upholstery and trim and power everything. Shedding pounds, then, required a complete re-work of the model, and as a starting point Porsche began with its latest 928 version, the S4.
First to go was the sound deadening material, followed by the power locks, power seats, external molding, passenger side mirror, cruise control, rear sun visors, remote tailgate release, cabin storage bins, rear wiper, windshield washer, and the transaxle vibration damper. The air conditioning was reworked to save weight, as was the wiring harness and even the onboard tool kit. Forged seven-spoke wheels, wider yet lighter than those found on the 928 S4, were also adopted, bringing the total weight savings of the Club Sport version to 220 pounds.
As for performance enhancements, the 928 CS models received a 17mm wider rear track, thanks to the use of wheel spacers; shorter and stiffer (by 10-percent) front springs; and Boge dampers on all four corners. Under the hood, the 5.0-liter V-8 from the S4 was modified with higher-lift camshafts and a reprogrammed ECU, and the engine exhaled though a straight exhaust with dual tailpipes. All cars came only with five-speed manual transaxles, and left-hand drive was the only available configuration.
The Porsche “company car” prototypes differed slightly from later Club Sport production versions, reportedly receiving additional engine tuning and weight savings. All five came with dual external mirrors, and a full leather interior, but otherwise were virtually identical to what European buyers were offered by Porsche dealers in 1988. On the road, the production versions were limited to a top speed of 173 MPH, but the prototypes were faster still. One unnamed CS prototype owner reportedly complained to the factory that the car wasn’t geared properly, as he routinely hit the rev limiter in top gear, at 297 km/h (184 MPH), while driving on the German Autobahn.
When Porsche tried to present the 928 CS prototype to Bell, he initially refused the car, claiming that a left hand drive model would be difficult to operate in his native England. Several months later, Bell saw the car in a Zuffenhausen parking lot and became enamored with it, asking Porsche to simply swap the speedometer calibrated in kilometers per hour for one calibrated in MPH. First registered in the UK in February of 1988, Bell kept the car in his collection for 17 years, longer than any of his former Porsche teammates given the CS prototypes.
In 2005, Bell sold the car, then showing 42,000 miles on the odometer, to Porsche 928 enthusiast Justin Pressland, who held onto the car (exercising it regularly at Porsche events) until 2009, when it was sold to the JFD Collection. Today, the car shows just under 69,000 miles on the odometer, though one would likely guess a lower number given the condition of the interior (which still features the custom floor mats embroidered with Bell’s helmet design).
Of the five 928 CS prototypes built, three are known to survive today. When Bell’s former car crosses the auction stage at the Place Albert De Knokke Le Zoute, Bonhams expects the Porsche to sell between €225,000 and €265,000 ($250,000 to $300,000).
For more on the Zoute sale, visit Bonhams.com.