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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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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Long-term fleet #1986 #Porsche-924 S

    The #924 S has gotten off lightly this month, with very little meddling. This has not been in favour of the blue car, but merely outside factors and, in part, laziness. That same laziness has even seen a reduction in use, only as I cannot be bothered swapping the cars around in the morning.

    When I have been driving the #Porsche 924 the changeable weather has definitely provided some fun. Again this has been partly due to my student-like motivation. I had been very good at resetting the suspension after track days. It is quite easy: take the carpet from the boot, lay on the ground and turn the adjuster on the bottom of the coilovers to dial back the rebound and compression to make the car more compliant on the roads. The thought that I could be heading back to the track sometime soon means I save the small amount of time spent laying on the ground, trying to remember, upside-down, how a tap works, time that would otherwise be devoted to a combination of working, drinking coffee, eating Jaffa Cakes and watching the West Wing. So I have tended to leave the car set in track mode. In the dry months the firmer ride made very little difference, aside from the obvious rattles and bumps. In the wet there is a little more to contend with. The firmer setup makes the car more fidgety on the road as it moves with any imperfections, and where I live there appear to be plenty of sections where the road that may as well have been corrugated.

    There is an upside to the firmer setup, and that is sensitivity. The car may be moving around a lot but there is so much information about what the tyres are doing and what’s underneath them, that driving around the imperfections in the roads and slippery patches is far easier than one might expect. Even for me. With the shocks dialled down I get less information but the car absorbs the bumps, so I ultimately have less of a need to know every little mark in the Tarmac. Another factor with my track setup, is that I have the rear shocks set firmer than the front, in an attempt to dial out some of the understeer, not only does this stop the nose pushing wide but it adds a layer of entertainment.

    Busy times at work mean I have been heading into the office a little earlier these past few weeks; the upside of this is that I quite often have the more interesting stretches of road to myself, and goodness knows there are some dawdlers when I don’t. There is a lovely section of road that dips to a sharp 90-degree left into a short climb. One damp morning I exited the corner in third and applied the throttle a smidge too eagerly, with superb communication through the steering wheel I felt precisely what was about to happen: the rear wheels broke traction and the back of the car slipped gently to the right, no more than about a foot. The feeling from the road to the cabin was such that I could adjust the steering and maintain throttle and the car eased itself back into line.

    That briefest of sideways moments was not intentional but it felt great and I had a spring in my step when I arrived at the office. Trying to intentionally repeat the action at the next corner, while it could have left me feeling full of win, would more likely have seen me into a hedge.

    Interested in the limits of these cars I enjoy looking through Porsche driving videos on YouTube and, more often than not, the better rated ones see drivers drifting gracefully from corner to corner, something which GT Porsche’s Jethro Bovingdon makes look so natural and fluid, frustratingly so, although I like to think there are plenty of unpublished spins.

    I’d love to have that level of ability and confidence in my kit bag, partly for showing off, but mostly to have such incredible car control. In pursuit of that I could well go out each morning and try my hand at taking the corner sideways, but my commute really isn’t the place for such learning. Neither is the road, generally, for fear of damaging mine or other cars and being, you know, not legal. What confidence I do have, if the car gets out of shape, comes from track days. Technically speaking track days are not the place to master the art of oversteer either, but chasing better lap times there is often no choice but to get slightly sideways.

    Some of you may be wondering, other than for showboating and being a nuisance to other road users, what the point is in being able to drive my sensitive little 924 in anything other than a straight line? That is a valid point of view, and there is a lot to be said for driving to the conditions. However I believe there is merit in having a fighting chance of keeping the car on the road when things get out of shape. That applies double for the older Porsches that don’t have the hero monitoring technology of the modern cars. It isn’t always driving too fast or misbehaving that causes the little moments that I have, a big lift off due to some other driver’s antics or, as is more likely around here, Bambi bounding out in front of me, can provoke the 924 S into oversteer, even in standard setup. I should get myself along to Silverstone and take one of the Porsche driving courses as it would no doubt help me out on both the track and road, but for now I will keep on tracking and hopefully staying out of trouble.

    One factor is in no doubt: I will be dialling back the suspension settings before the full-on winter weather arrives. While I may have pretensions of being a handy wheelman I am no born again hooligan.
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  •   Matt Petrie reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The #1986 #Porsche-924S

    I find it odd how some things stick in my mind. A couple of years ago, I had planned on taking the engine out of the #Porsche-924 and changing the oil seals over the Christmas break. I booked my days off and got everything teed up. Infuriatingly the day after Boxing Day I put my back out and for 24 hours I could barely move from the floor, let alone anything else. So the job was on hold. In January of that year I got back on it and a while later the car was fixed, a few upgrades done, and was MoT’d. So it’s about early February that I start to get the sense that I need to sort the 924 for its MoT. Only this year, I was a little late. One day I arrive at work and I am convinced the MoT must be due imminently, so I go on to the web and look up the expiry date using the reg number – it was due that day! At least it wasn’t late…

    As soon as the commuter traffic had died down I drove to the local test centre and was told to return in a couple of hours. I was a little concerned about the emissions, what with the new exhaust not having been run in properly, but this would at least buy me some time to get the car sorted properly, and not be illegal. When I went back to the test centre to collect my car I was told it had passed! Again, I underestimate the 924 S and again it comes through. This is by far the oldest, tattiest car I have ever owned and yet it is also the most reliable. There were a few advisories, but nothing that wasn’t on there before – corrosion to non-structural parts that I am tempted to replace with lighter alternatives.

    It may have got a straight pass with none of the usual prep and testing (not even the once-round to check all of the lights!) but I had actually done a little work on the car in the weeks prior. Firstly I had another look at the rear light cluster, and the near side brake light was becoming a little intermittent again. The problem with the light turned out to be the connector. I cut and routed the wire for the brake light separately with a little bullet connector so it can be removed if needs be, along with the rest of the light cluster.

    I had also fitted the new exhaust. I didn’t believe the old one was MoT worthy (well, the centre section at least) and so it seemed like a good time to replace the back box while I was at it. I am happy to report that the exhaust has now quietened down a little. It seems to be getting quieter at the lower end of the rev range, which is better for pootling about, especially first thing in the morning as I leave for work – I can’t imagine I would endear myself too much with the new neighbours were I screaming by at daybreak. The weird thing about it, for a standard exhaust, is how loud it still gets as the revs climb. At about 3000rpm it still goes a bit nuts. I really need to bring it to work and get it sound-checked to make sure I will still be able to get on to some race tracks this year! I am itching to get out, but the house and other distractions have stopped me so far.

    How much track time I get will also depend on how long I keep the car. Its future is in the balance, and that actually makes me a little sad. This is the part in the article where I play a gentle melody in the background and get more serious. You see, I have now reached a point with the 924 where a good deal of time and money has been spent getting the car up to standard. I am pleased to report it’s a lot better than I originally suspected it ever would be, and it has proven its worth on track. But I think that I would now want to spend yet more on it. I would love to replace the wings and rear screen with plastic of some sort to drop some weight. The way the car looks in profile on the SPAX coilovers would look fantastic with a few of the dings hidden and a fresh coat of paint applied. From what I have read and been told about the difference one would make, I would also love to fit a lightweight flywheel. These updates are all going to cost and the improvements will be incremental compared to the money involved, but it would be fantastic to see the job through and finish the 924.

    So I am at a bit of a crossroad and need to make a decision, not that I won’t continue to enjoy the car as it is at the moment. If I do decide to let it go I hope it will be quick and painless. I mooted the idea on Twitter the other day and almost immediately had a message from someone I know from track days asking about it. I’m proud that I’ve rebuilt a scrapyard-bound nonrunner into something others actually see as a job well done.

    I have poured so much time and effort into the little Porsche that my view is arguably rose tinted but it has been a great starter car for both the garage and the track. It has taught me a lot. If only I had more space… and money… and time…

    Matt’s #Porsche 924 flew through its MoT this month, but could it be time to part with it?
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