Deputy editor Matt Burt found a pile of old Autocar magazines on his desk. We’re not sure where they came from, but they’re fascinating.One particular issue caught my eye. Dated 21 October 1987, it was an extra-fat 250-page edition, the guide to that year’s Earl’s Court ‘Motorfair’.
The cover star was the redesigned and recently unveiled Lotus Esprit. Glancing at the magazine’s news section showed how things change. The lead news story was Lotus’ sudden expansion under General Motor’s ownership, with the Engineering arm expanding rapidly and a £2m profit, twice what was expected.
The late Jeff Daniels, then technical editor, reported that Fiat made a ‘thumping’ profit in the first half of 1987, back in the days when it was still selling the Strada and the Tipo had yet to be launched. Things are very different today, for those two companies.
In the sports pages, Nigel Mansell won the Mexican Grand Prix for Williams ahead of team-mate Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese in a Brabham.
But what really caught my eye was a flyer from the Porsche dealer Lancaster, which was based in Colchester and Norwich. A nearly-new Porsche 928S4 Auto, resplendently 1980s in white with red leather, with just 5500 miles on the clock was listed at £53,950.
At first glance, that seemed to an huge amount of money for 1987, City boom or not. So I searched the net for a calculator to work out the price in today’s money. The answer surprised me: £124,085. That is just about what you would pay for a pre-registered, low-mileage, Bentley Continental GT today.
I suppose the 928 and Conti are remarkably similar cars in concept, the Porsche being almost exactly the equivalent of the GT 25 years ago. I briefly drove a 928 and was surprised by its weightiness and the need to properly take control of it. I’d always admired the 928’s incredibly prescient styling and expected to be light and effortless to the touch. But the two-door coupe layout and huge performance is pretty much where the GT is today.
This price comparison across a quarter of a century also shows how much more car you get for your money. The Bentley is a more thoroughly engineered vehicle, made from higher-quality materials, much safer and more fuel-efficient mpg-per-bhp. There’s no doubt that you get more car for your money today.
Just one other thing struck me about the Lancaster listings: this white and red über-80s D-plate 928 was £500 more expensive than an '87 E-plate 928 S4 finished in tasteful ‘Venetian Blue and linen leather’. It seems premium bling is not a recent phenomenon.