Used car buying guide: Porsche 944

Porsche 944

The 944 in ‘One we found’ on the opposite page could be your last chance to buy a classic Porsche for peanuts before prices rise beyond reach.

That it’s been in storage is a worry, though. A 944’s rubber seals and belts, and its alloy engine, need a regular workout or they’ll deteriorate. Many sellers who say their 944s have full service histories stop maintaining them the moment they go into storage, as if a rest doesn’t count. In this case, it does.

On the other hand, if this 944 is as good as its seller says, it could be the basis for a project and a nice little investment. There’s certainly enough interest in these cars.

The 944 was launched in 1982 to provide a much-needed bridge between the 924 and the 911 SC.

Its Porsche-developed 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, fitted with balancer shafts for smoothness, produced 161bhp, while its rear-mounted transaxle (made by Audi) helped achieve a near-perfect weight balance. Buyers could choose between a standard five-speed manual gearbox or a three-speed automatic. Most chose the former.

It was joined three years later by the 944 Turbo, with essentially the same engine but now with 217bhp.

A limited-edition, 247bhp Turbo S arrived in 1988. Today the Turbo is the rarest and most sought-after 944.

Both standard – called Lux – and Turbo models were a roaring success, inspiring Porsche to roll out a raft of improvements for the 1986 model year. They included revised suspension, a new, f lush-mounted windscreen and new ‘phone-dial’ alloys. Inside, the interior gained a curvier fascia and seats from the 911.

The 944 S arrived in 1987 with a 2.7-litre 16-valve engine producing 187bhp (look for the optional ‘16 Ventiler’ badge behind the indicator repeaters). Unlike the 2.5, which relied on torque, this engine was a revvy unit that liked hard work but which most drivers didn’t rate. These days, with good examples of all 944s thin on the ground, buyers can’t afford to be so sniffy.

A detuned version of this engine replaced the 2.5 in 1989. It produced 163bhp but more mid-range torque than the 2.5.

That same year the S2 arrived, displacing the 944 S and almost elbowing aside the Turbo thanks to its 3.0-litre, 16-valve four that produced 205bhp. It even looked like the Turbo but for that car’s rear wing, which it would eventually gain in 1991. It was offered in cabriolet and coupé forms.

Realising the threat the new S2 presented, Porsche replaced the Turbo’s 217bhp engine with the 247bhp unit from the Turbo S. With only a few months to spare before the axe fell on the 944 range, the Turbo cabriolet landed in 1991.

So which 944 to buy? In a perfect world you’d have an S2 for cruising, a Turbo for kicks, an S for hooning around and an early model for the track. As it is, whichever 944 is in the best condition for your budget is probably the one for you.

How to get one in your garage: 

An expert’s view, NASH HUNTER, RETRO RESTORER – “I bought my first 944 in 2005 and after I got it running right, other owners asked me to work on theirs. Soon I had a business and I haven’t looked back. For a long time, the 944 was under-appreciated and as recently as five years ago prices were on the floor.

Often, 944s were worth no more than a new clutch (£800). Today you’ll need £8000 for a good car and from £14,000 for a genuinely tidy one. Everyone wants the Turbo or, if they can’t find one, the S2. My favourite is a 1983 944 with manual steering. They feel quite agricultural but much more connected to the road.”

Buyer beware…

ENGINE – Check for oil changes at 6k miles on pre-’86 cars and Turbos, 12k on later cars. Needs timing and balancer shaft belts every 40k miles or three years, new water pump every 80k. Check exhaust camchain tensioner on 2.7 S engines. Vibes at idle could be the engine mounting or clutch thrust bearing. Test the latter by resting your foot on the clutch–if it’s failing, the vibes stop. Oil and water mixing suggests a failed head gasket or integrated oil cooler on all engines bar post-’89 Turbos. Smoke on start-up is worn valve stem seals; smoke in general running is the cylinder liners.

TRANSMISSION – Expect transaxle whine. Clutches last 70k miles but are expensive to replace. Check for leaking master cylinder.

STEERING, BRAKES AND SUSPENSION – Clonking noises or front wheel shake suggests worn suspension bushes; floaty handling means worn wishbone ball joints or dampers. On non-power- assisted cars, vague steering could indicate a worn rack; on assisted cars, look for steering pump leaks.

BODY – Rust hits the sills, rear wheel arches, suspension mounts and front jacking points. On early cars check the fuel tank. Check for even shut lines front and rear and a rippled boot floor.

WHEELS AND TYRES – Check for cracked alloys and look out for perished tyres.

INTERIOR – Check all ancillary motors work, the headlining is secure and the fascia isn’t cracked.

Also worth knowing:

Porsche dealers are an excellent source of OE parts. Everything is available, often at prices that beat independent suppliers. However, as new OE suppliers replace old ones, prices may rise, so still shop around.

How much to spend:

£4000-£6950 – Mix of pre- and post-1985 161bhp 2.5s, with mileages up to 130k.

£7000-£8995 – The first (1989) 208bhp 3.0 S2s with mileages around 110k.

£9000-£10,995 – Leggy 3.0 S2s but also 2.5s around 75k miles, most with patchy histories.

£11,000-£12,995 – Usual mix of 3.0 S2s but also a tidy ’87 187bhp 2.7 S with 100k miles for £12k.

£13,000-£14,995 – Low-mileage 2.5s plus an ’87 Turbo with 73k miles and an ’89 3.0 S2 convertible with 100k, each for £15k.

One we found:

PORSCHE 944 2.5, 1986 D-REG, 130K MILES, £3500 – Described as having a full history, although like many 944s, the last service was five years ago, since when it has been stored. No rust but failed its MOT on discs and hubs. Private seller says these will be replaced and the car sold with a year’s MOT and a service.

source:-autocar.