Motoring | Reader's Drives

Michel de Martigny's 1988 Porsche 928 S4

Most people give up on their rides when things start to go badly wrong. Not Michel. He has stuck by his Porsche 928 S4 through thick and thin and is finally enjoying life with this classic.

  • By Imran Malik, wheels magazine
  • Published: 11:14 January 31, 2013
  • Wheels

  • Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/ANM
  • Now that I have finally found a competent, professional and motivated mechanic, I am starting to enjoy the car. It sounds great with its deep, rumbling 5.0-litre V8.
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Your dad loved cars and brought home quite a few beauties during your childhood, no wonder you caught the car bug. Which ones stand out the most?
He had a string of Buick Electra 225 convertibles, a 1965 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron convertible, a Buick Riviera, and several Cadillac Coupés de Ville. For my mum, he bought a late-Fifties’ Volkswagen Beetle, a Chevrolet Corvair station wagon (very unique), and a 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang — the first one sold in Quebec. My dad put a deposit on it almost a year before it was launched. I enjoyed taking care of all of them and I’d say I am a classic-car petrolhead — I prefer them to newer cars.

Your first car was pretty special — a 1964 Pontiac Parisienne. Tell us about it…
It was special because of where it took me, but very rusty. I purchased it one summer in my university days for $200 (Dh730) and drove it across Canada and back with my best mate. It was wide enough to sleep in. I sold it for $150 (Dh550) when I returned — after which it was used for ice racing.

And then you picked up a Triumph TR6…
After a string of boring company cars, I purchased a 1973 TR6 at auction and then did a full restoration. It was mimosa yellow and lots of fun. Currently, I am looking at a 1971 Citroën SM being sold by an aging rock-star who bought it at the height of his career.

Who? Bob Dylan? Tom Petty? Do tell.
It’s a Quebec rock star — unlikely someone your readers would know. That’s all I can say.

Marc Dupré?
Not telling.

OK, moving on. You’ve had more than your fair share of problems with your Porsche 928. But you’re finally enjoying it, having sorted out most of the issues. What attracted you to this car in the first place?

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Its brutish power in a refined GT delivering both comfort and performance and style.

I’ve always been attracted to cars that are unique and special but not necessarily popular or mainstream — like the Volvo ES 1800 and Saab 900 Turbo. After meeting my wife, I needed a second car for myself. So when I saw this 928 posted at Spinneys, I jumped — probably a bit too quickly…

It needed a little TLC, to put it mildly, right?
Well, when I purchased the car in 2005 in Dubai from a German businessman, it seemed like a perfectly good old car. I knew the mechanic the previous owner used to service the car and I was informed by him that it was sound mechanically. So I purchased it thinking it just needed a bit of tweaking — not a full rebuild.

This sounds like a painful story. We’ve got the tissues at the ready…
You’re going to need them. On my very first drive with my very sceptical wife, there was a total failure of the Engine Control Unit within five minutes. This took the car off the road for two weeks. Once it was running again, I had a full diagnostic check done and learnt that the engine was pretty much fried. When I showed the original mechanic the failed compression test, he denied telling me the car was sound — even though he had told me this to my face. Moral: get your own test done by someone not suffering from total memory failure before you buy — or walk away.
 
I had read early articles praising the car, but did not do enough research on the 928’s more recent history and long-term reliability as a classic. Had I done, I would have been more patient and sourced a better car — which is possible, as there are a few knocking around.

But it’s looking really good now. What gives?
Well, I took it with me to the UK when I relocated in 2007. There, I discovered a mechanic in Stroud, the Midlands, who works exclusively on 928s. He did a lot of tweaking and sorting out — eventually telling me that my car was one of the best in the UK. I have his bills to suggest why. I came back to Dubai with the car in 2010 and after yet more horror stories with self-proclaimed Porsche-specialist garages, I finally found Terry — a 928 fanatic who is not only a great mechanic, but a brilliant diagnostician and he loves 928s. So it has never run as well as it does now. It’s a different car thanks to him.

Since you’ve owned it, you have almost swapped every major component there is.
Indeed I have. Since the initial ECU failure on day one, it had a complete engine rebuild. It got new fuel injectors, a new timing chain, new shocks, springs and bushes for the suspension, new brakes, new steering rack, the starter had to be rebuilt and I had to change the AC compressor three times, believe it or not. It also has a new radiator core, including hoses, sensors and thermostats, and it  needed a new windscreen. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s been much more, like a new stainless-steel exhaust, new front spoiler and new rear taillights.

Blimey, you had to build yourself a whole new 928.

It sure feels that way. But it’s running great now, finally, and I have been able to sort out the finer points, which has gone a long way towards making it look great, such as new carpets, leather upholstery, dash cover, headliner, custom wood trim for the console and LED illumination for the instrument panel and interior lighting — it’s all really made a difference.

Now that I have finally found a competent, professional and motivated mechanic, I am starting to enjoy the car. It sounds great with its deep, rumbling 5.0-litre V8. And it cruises like nothing else. It gets lots of attention wherever it is parked. Indeed, the last three times I parked at five-star hotels, they left the car out front with the Rollers, Bentleys and Ferraris.

My six-year-old son loves it. Hopefully one day it will be his. At least, that’s the plan.

Bio
  • Name Michel de Martigny
  • Job Corporate governance consultant, lawyer, businessman
  • From Montreal, Canada
  • Wheels 1988 Porsche 928 S4
  • In the UAE 15 years

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