[V8] 2 more of the ten best - Roger's list

Roger Woodbury rmwoodbury at roadrunner.com
Tue Nov 24 08:59:01 PST 2009

I find I am rethinking the last four on my list.  But having said that and
after driving around yesterday, I find that I am less inclined to change
much.  Here are two with my personal thoughts.

--Mazda Miata up to 1995.  --  This is the sort of car that everyone who
loved sports cars loved in the 1960's.  Back then there were many of
them...Triumphs, MGs, Morgans, Lotuses, and for the well heeled, Porsches
and even stone slow Mercedes 190's.  Mine was a Triumph TR-3 (1961), and I
came very, very close to buying a Lotus Elan that needed help in 1967.  The
thing about a Lotus was that it handled like nothing else and until and
unless you have driven one, you have NO idea what handling is all about.
Unfortunately, the Lotus Elan was impossible to maintain, with its
electrical and mechanical quirks that only a demented Englishman could love.
Then along came the Miata in a moment of genius by the same people who had
the nerve to use a Wankel engine in a small coupe, then cabriolet at a time
when everyone knew that you shouldn't do that.  My second wife had an RX7 as
her car, until I got goofy and insisted that we lease her a new 944.  The
944 was a vastly superior car and probably a better value: almost as much
sheer acceleration and far superior handling and ride for not a whole lot
more money.  And better fuel mileage if you had your foot in it.  Which my
wife did, quite a lot of actually.  But I digress.  Anyway, the early Miata
was light, and successful as a basic car.  The pop-up headlights were really
neat, and the cars were rugged and reliable.

But after the first series they gained weight, and lost the distinctive
headlights...oh, I know, I know...for 'safety' reasons.  Eventually they
gained more power and got heavier and "better" still, and are still a nice
enough car, but the early ones were the best imho.

--And speaking of sports cars, I guess I need to get down to it and pick
another one.  I know that it has been predicted that I would want to include
the Porsche 928 here, and perhaps so.  I personally do think that it is the
best Porsche ever built, but I am not entirely sure that I want to call it
one of the best cars that has been built in my lifetime.  The 928 has some
"issues" that Porsche has refused to address, and never will now that the
car is so old, but major issues existed that could destroy the engine
through no real fault of the owner and no amount of "scheduled, scripted"
maintenance could prevent.  I am referring to the dreaded thrust bearing
failure that allowed the crank to be pushed forward against the webbing thus
destroying the engine block.  This seemed to occur in 1986 and forward 928S
and S4 cars with automatic transmissions.  The fix was to inspect the
forward most part of the torque tube and the pressure plate.  If it had
crept forward, then pushing it back, retorqueing and applying loctite seemed
to fix the problem, but this was not a fix that was invented by Porsche.  I
believe that the problem was that the car was never intended to be driven in
US style traffic with sudden starts, relatively high acceleration and then
sudden stops in traffic or with such large numbers of traffic lights
regulating the traffic flow.  This placed a substantial strain on the drive
line itself, and eventually allowed the driveshaft to migrate forward.  The
problem didn't seem to exist in older cars nor in the late GTS's although I
think the problem is one of documentation and not of mechanical history.
The problem occurred primarily after 65,000 miles, when the cars had long
since left warranty and for the most part were no longer serviced by
Porsche.  While the 928 was a wonderful riding and handling long distance
car for two, with spectacular performance in all aspects, this is a serious
engineering defect and below the standard for Porsche.  I have owned two of
these cars and would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have another one, but probably will
not.  Relatively late 928s are either VERY expensive with low miles or are
cheap with medium to high miles and spotty histories.  A 1988 through 1990
928 with less than 60,000 miles is rare, but they do exist as there were
quite a few 928's produced.  Anything with the Porsche crest on it is very,
very expensive and makes Audi V8 parts seem cheap in comparison.  I am
debating whether to include it on this list or not because there is
something else out there that makes me very, very curious.....and it is

.....The BMW 850.  Actually, there are several BMW 800 series cars that
picque my curiosity.  Like Porsche this was a clean sheet car for BMW.  This
is the first car by BMW (and almost every manufacturer for that matter) that
was largely designed by CAD program from the beginning.  A number of other
very special treats came with this car...the "drive by wire" system for
throttle control in the 12 cylinder cars, for instance.  Originally it was
thought to be the Ferrari fighter from BMW, but in the early stages the car
simply did not have the power or performance, which in actuality is exactly
what BMW wanted.  This was a car being produced for the upscale touring
market and not for the vroom-vroom children who liked the loud Weber
carburetors on their 2002's.  It was disappointing to the BMW "enthusiast"
who had bought into the marketing hogwash about "the ultimate driving
machine".  But it was and is a great long distance touring car for two,
primarily for where the weather is bland, or at least where there is no ice
and snow.  

Eventually BMW did get this car right with the BMW 850CSI, which rode lower
and had much more power and torque....five or six speed manual transmission
only, and offered for only two years.  This is a REAL "BMW", whatever that
means.  Unlike the Porsche 928, this car had no real quirks, and with
relatively inexpensive maintenance the fleet is running pretty well.  Not a
commercial success,and because it was a failure with the vroom-vroom set,
the cars are remarkably cheap as we speak.  Ten to twelve grand will buy a
very nice example with less than 75,000 miles.  That's the good news:  the
bad news is that there aren't a huge number of them anywhere.  Eventually
one might find it way into my garage as a primarily summer car.  

If I ever actually get to a place when I want to buy one, it might be an
840i.  BMW produced this car with a V8 engine and the late model
years...1994-97...had the "good" V8 engine.  Almost as quick as the twelve
cylinder and without the very expensive and sophisticated engine control
system, the 840 is a great buy and a bit more plentiful than the twelve.

Still and all, there is something about having a twelve cylinder coupe in
the garage that makes me drool just a tad....sigh:  maybe if I win the

OK.  So now I have vented about the BMW 850/840 cars.  In the end, on my
list will be the Porsche 928S4 Automatic from 1987-91.  I will omit the 928
GT (1989-91) and stick with the S4.  The cars were better as long distance
touring cars and with this much power and torque in my opinion, there exited
no reason to use a manual transmission.  What makes these cars so remarkable
is that the design work for this car was begun in the early 1970's.  To be
able to produce a car with this kind of handling and performance without
modern computers is an accomplishment that exceeds the leading edge CAD
process that BMW used for the 850.  

I haven't driven a BMW 850.  I would like to and sometime will make a point
of it.  It is entirely possible that it is one of the best cars ever built
in my lifetime.  But for now, I KNOW that the 928 is the best Porsche ever
built, and the best Porsche is good enough to be included on my list.


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