If you have not owned a Porsche and are thinking that it is time to get into one, what should your first Porsche be? Sure it would be easy to just saw the latest 911, 718 Boxster or 718 Cayman and call it done. However, if you have the cash for a new Porsche then the cars in this series are not for you. These are cars for someone that is wanting to get their first Porsche, but they don’t want it to break the bank. All of them can be had for under $30,000 with some being as low as about $5,000 for a running car in good condition.
With a lower budget a buyer is likely to want a car that they can do routine maintenance themselves. It also needs to be fairly dependable as it may double as a commuter car and a weekend driver. Below is the list of Porsche’s that we think best fit this criteria. Over the next few articles we will cover each model, so make sure to subscribe to our updates now (scroll down to get our daily updates in your email box for free).
The first car on our list is the Porsche 944.
We think the 944 is the perfect first Porsche for someone that can’t afford a new one. All 944s feature near perfect 50/50 balance thanks the the use of a front engine, rear transaxle layout. This makes it quite easy to drive quickly on a curvy road.
The Porsche 944 was first available in the United States for the 1983 model year. The early cars carried over essentially the same interior as the Porsche 924 (the model that the 944 replaced), but in mid 1985 an updated interior was introduced. These 1985.2 cars received a modern (for the time) interior which featured an improved ventilation system.
The early models used a 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine designed by Porsche. The power output was decent for its time at 150 horsepower. While that doesn’t sound like much now, this was the early 80’s and because manufacturers were still trying to work with more stringent emissions standards, V8 muscle cars of the era struggled to put out more than 180 horsepower.
For the early 944s Porsche claimed a 0-60 mph time of 8.3 seconds, but many magazines of the time managed times in the mid-7 seconds. It should be remembered that in the 80’s speed limits in the United States were considerably lower than they are now. Freeways often had a posted speed of 55 mph. Because of this many early ads for the 944 showed the 0-50 mph time, which was 5.9 seconds. The more expensive 911 SC could hit 50 mph in 5.8 seconds, but it had a lower stated 0-60 mph time than the 944. Much of the difference in 0-60 mph time had to do with gear ratios which made it possible to hit 60 mph in 2nd gear in the 911, as opposed to third gear for the 944.
The 2.5-liter 944s are pretty reliable cars and are easy to work on yourself. What isn’t easy is to do fairly inexpensive modifications to produce a good amount more power. Some have tried to supercharge or turbocharge a standard 944 engine, but it greatly reduces the reliability.
For those who want more performance there are a few options. The Porsche 944 S received a 2.7-liter engine that upped the power to 187 horsepower. 0-60 mph times fell to 6.5 seconds, but the power difference over the standard 944 was only felt at higher RPMs. Because of this on a normal drive the S model felt very close to a standard 944.
The 944 Turbo changed everything for the performance of the well balance Porsche. The early turbocharged cars made 217 horsepower which reduced the 0-60 mph time down to 5.9 seconds. For 1988 the 944 Turbo S was introduced with upgrades including anti-lock brakes and more horsepower thanks to the use of higher levels of boost. Horsepower shot up to 250 horses and 0-60 mph times went down to 5.5 seconds. In 1989 the S model changes were adapted to the standard Turbo.
The 944 Turbo and Turbo S was fast by any standard straight from the factory. It was quicker than Corvettes and some Ferraris of its day.
The final incarnation of the model was the 944 S2. Styling was similar to the Turbo with the integrated front bumper (the standard 944 and 944 S had impact bumpers) and rear diffuser. The S2 featured a large 3.0-liter inline four cylinder engine that outputted 208 horsepower. This helped the car manage a 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds flat. The 944 S2 was also the only 944 model to ever be available as a convertible from the factory. Thanks to its less complicated naturally aspirated engine, the S2 is considered the best of the bunch from a maintenance cost to power perspective.
Thanks to the 944’s front engine placement, maintenance tasks such as oil changes, air filter changes and changing spark plugs are all fairly simple and can easily be done at home by an owner. One big maintenance item is the timing belt as if it breaks it usually leads to expensive engine repairs (or a replacement engine). When looking at a potential purchase ask when the last time the timing belt was changed, so you know if you need to change it (Most recommend changing the belt every 50,000 miles). 944s don’t usually have a huge problem with rust, but you want to check the battery tray and sunroof for signs of rust as these areas are more prone to cancer.
Recently, 944s have been raising on the used market. Even so you can still find a standard 944 in good condition for about $6,500. Running cars can be found for as low as $3,000, but they will often have plenty of needs. The more powerful 944 Turbo commands a higher price tag with a car in good condition running about $12,700. This goes up toe $14,800 for the 944 Turbo S. The 944 S2 commands less than the Turbo models and you can find good examples for about $8,700. This makes the S2 the best value available in a 944 today (although the turbocharged cars look like they are likely the better investment).
When looking for a 944 remember to get a pre-purchase inspection from a shop familiar with the model. Doing so can help you find any hidden issues. Cars with documentation of routine maintenance are a better purchase and it is usually better to buy a more expensive better maintained car than a car with needs in the long run.
Porsche made enough 944s for you to be a picky buyer. Choose a good car and you can be happy with your first Porsche for many years without it burning a hole in your wallet.
Picture source: EurovisionNim