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Porsche 924 and 944 cars Club PORSCHE 944 TURBO It’s no secret that the 944 was developed from the 924, Porsche re...
Porsche 924 and 944 cars Club

PORSCHE 944 TURBO

It’s no secret that the 944 was developed from the 924, Porsche replacing the VW/Audi engine with its own four-cylinder unit – effectively one bank of the 928’s V8 – and adding aggressive wide-arched styling. With the standard 2.5-litre engine the 944 was a brisk car but when Porsche turned its turbocharging expertise to the car in 1985 it gained the pace to challenge the 911. With 220 bhp on tap, it was foo for 0-60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, which made it faster than the non-turbo 911 and not far behind the 911 Turbo.

In purely technical terms, the 944 was the best model produced by Porsche to that date, easier to drive fast than the 911, cheaper than the 928 and faster than the 924. What’s more they’re a practical car to own as a modern classic today.
How much? £1000-£10,000

Classic status: Without a doubt. Unless you’re an air-cooled Porsche snob…

The ‘poor man’s Porsche’ offers driving thrills at affordable prices. Get in quick, though...

If you don’t think the 944, and the truly remarkable price/performance package it delivers for MGB money, is a real Porsche, it begs the question: what is a real Porsche?

Let us not forget that the very first Porsche, the 356, borrowed heavily from the VW Beetle, which was designed by Ferdinand Porsche. Then there’s the Porsche 924 - a significant machine, not merely because it saved the company from bankruptcy, but also because it offended Porsche purists.

What became the 924 had in 1976 started as a Porsche design project for VW/Audi. Then, when Volkswagen backed out, it become a Porsche assembled by Volkswagen with bits from the VW/ Audi parts bin, including the Audi 100’s four-cylinder engine. Not only was it water-cooled but, for the first time in a Porsche, it was put at the right end of a car.

The 924 served Porsche well, slotting in comfortably below the 911. In 1982, with the 924 still in production, the 944 was introduced to fill in a growing gap between the 924 and the base 911SC.

The floor pan was 924, as was the profile (although butched up a bit), but the four-cylinder engine was Porsche’s own, essentially half the 928’s V8 canted over. As with the 924, the gearbox was mounted in the rear transaxle to provide near-equal weight distribution. However, despite the common genes there’s a gulf between the first 125bhp 924 and the initial 163bhp 944, with its sub-eight-second 0-60mph time and near-140mph top speed. The sub-supercar/hatchback/coupe had become a GT.

I suppose you should also know that it’s a tight-fit 2+2 coupe and, although production was still contracted out, the 944 retained Porsche’s famed build quality and came with a zinc-galvanised body.

It also evolved rapidly. The 944 Turbo of 1985 punched out 217bhp to hit 60mph in 5.9 seconds and top out at 152mph. In 1987 the 944 S, with 16-valve head, filled in between the 944 and Turbo.

In 1989 the S2 increased capacity to 3.0 litres, and with 211bhp was only a little shy of the Turbo, although the Turbo S launched in 1988 brandished 247bhp. Then, for the last two years, there was a cabriolet, available with normally aspirated and turbocharged motors. That’s only a précis, because along the way virtually every aspect of the 944 was developed and improved.

In its ten-year life the 944 sold 175,000 units and, along with the 924, helped restore financial security to Porsche - until Black Monday and the stock market crash of 1987 kicked the company into turmoil once more. Driving enthusiasts will tell you that the 944 is an extremely sweet performer and handles superbly, without that sphincter-tightening tendency to swap ends that 911 zealots so relish but which real-world motorists are relieved to live without. And as more people become aware of its talents - and more ratty ones head towards the scrapyard, increasing the car’s rarity - so the 944’s values are starting to rise.

Until recently the 944’s problem was one of perception. Your man in the street carped: ‘Yeah, but it’s not a real Porsche.’ But let’s remember that they once asked that about the VW-Porsche 914...

PRICE POINTS

UK LAUNCH At launch in 1982 the 944 cost £12,999, bridging the gap between the base 924 at £9103 and the 911SC at £16,732. That also pitched the 944 just beneath the pacier £13,998 924 Turbo. For wider-world comparisons, Mazda’s RX-7 came nearly four grand cheaper at £9199, while the Lotus Eclat was in base 911 territory at £16,750. Ferrari’s Mondial was £24,500, just £750 less than the Porsche 928S.

944 EVOLUTION At launch in 1985 the 944 Turbo cost £25,311; the 944 S, appearing two years later, cost £23,977; and in 1989 the final evolution S2 was priced at £31,304.

TODAY After decades in the doldrums, the 944’s descent to the bottom of the values curve has ended and prices are beginning to bounce vigorously upwards for good-quality examples. Unlike air-cooled 911s, later-built models have higher values, on account of youth and model evolution. Most valued are Turbos and the last S2s: the highest online asking price in the UK trade is £24,995 for a low-mileage 1991 Turbo S; a rare 1992 Turbo cabriolet, one of 100 right-hookers, is on offer for £19,995. In Belgium there’s a 68,000km 1991 S2 cabriolet, described as mint, up for £20,000. Amazingly, though, in the UK auction market, only two 944s have ever topped £10,000, and average 944 auction values over the past 24 months stand at just £4625. Away from the trade sales market, double that buys very nice examples of any but very superior Turbos, S2s and cabriolets. This is MGB money, for chrissakes, and it’s buying you a whole load of dynamic excellence.
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  •   Basem Wasef reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Suitably attyred / #1983-Porsche-944 / #Porsche-944 / #Porsche / #1983

    Owned by Glen Waddington

    Two kids, two mortgages, two oldish potential money-pits in the garage… And it’s been an extremely busy year. So much so that the 944’s road tax became rather suddenly due, at which point I realised it needed an MoT, too. And it failed.

    Nothing major, thankfully, but, even without any other work, the need for four new tyres meant I’d have to save up for a while. Before you knew it, late summer had turned into deep winter.

    I booked the Porsche in with Templeton’s Garage (www. templetonsgarage.co.uk), my local performance car specialist, owned and run by my mate Stuart Templeton. He’s serviced and worked on my BMW a couple of times, and it’s come back feeling so much better as a result. And he knows 944s as well as he knows E30s…

    First I wanted to sort my tyres. Handily, Vintage Tyres of Beaulieu (www.vintagetyres. com) is run by another mate of mine, Ben Field – we used to work together years ago on another magazine. I’d bumped into him at Goodwood Revival, and our tyre conversation grew from there: which make to go for? And which size?

    The latter was something of a mystery. It’s well-known that some Porsches of that era ran bigger tyres at the back, and the Michelin handbook states that standard-fit OEM front tyres for an ’1983 944 should be 185/70s. Only mine was on 215/60s all-round. Hmm.

    The Porsche-approved fitment is a Pirelli but, well, I told you about my financial commitments earlier. So Ben did some digging and suggested Continental Premium Contacts in the 215/60 size. But then he discovered that Dunlop makes a matching set (185/70s plus 215/60s, V-rated for 15in wheels) in its new Sport Classic range. And they’re much better suited to my budget than the Pirellis or the Avon ZZs that are also available in that combo.

    But then I did some digging. I discovered my original dealer brochure, which states that 185s are standard and 215s optional – though, unlike with the 911s of that era, they’re not mixed. I have a Porsche certificate of authenticity too, which lists the options my car was fitted with at the factory. Bingo! It should be on the 215s after all.

    So, 911 owners, you now have an option other than Pirelli for your odd-sized tyres. And, while I’ll report more on their ultimate grip next time, I have a set of Dunlops that look suitably period, are quiet, ride well, and have proved suitably safe in recent cold, damp weather.

    As for the rest of the works, Stuart discovered that the 944 was running lean and turned up the wick a little. That, and fresh sparkplugs, seem to have liberated more power! It revs much more keenly, and sounds sharper and deeper as it digs in from around 2500rpm.

    All four brake calipers have been rebuilt, and now bite harder. Best of all, my 944’s strange tendency to tramline and to weight-up in corners is now banished. Perhaps the tyres (29psi front, 36psi rear) are due some credit. But I reckon that refitting the front anti-roll bar the right way round certainly has something to do with it…
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