A Porsche 944 S2
When it comes to sports cars there are a few marquees that show you have made it. Included in this list are Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. Of these three Porsche is the most attainable of the bunch, yet they build cars that rival the performance of the Italian cars we mentioned. All this while largely being dependable and relatively practical, for the type of car.
New Porsche sports cars, even the “entry level” Cayman (for those not aware the Boxster now sits above the Cayman in the model lineup) are too expensive for most folks (with the 718 Cayman starting at over $55,000 and you know you’ll want some options on top of that). Fortunately, the used market provides enthusiasts with plenty of options. Below are what we think are curt the best 5 bargains for those looking for an affordable Porsche. This list includes cars that can be found in fair condition for low as $3,500. This means Porsche ownership is available to just about anyone in the market for a sports car.
Over the next few weeks we’ll highlight the below models with their current market value as well as common issues that you need to know about before purchasing a cheap Porsche. If you haven’t subscribed to Daily Rides do so now to make sure you don’t miss an article (scroll down to the end of this article to signup).
- Porsche 944
- Porsche 914
- Porsche 928
- Porsche Boxster (986)
- Porsche 911 (996)
Today’s post will cover the incredibly handling Porsche 944.
The Porsche 944 was based on the Porsche 924. The 924 road car received criticism for its Audi sourced in-line four cylinder engine that, especially in the US, was underpowered. With the 924, turbocharging helped and the 924 Carrera GT showed the real potential for the platform (along with muscular flared fenders that would later be used for the 944).
While the 924 had an Audi sourced power plant, the 944 received a Porsche designed engine. The four cylinder engine sitting up front had a large 2.5-liter displacement which would eventually grow to a full 3.0-liters. The initial horsepower output was 150 in the US which helped the car launch from 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds in 1983.
Straight line performance wasn’t bad by early 80’s standards, but it is in the corners that the 944 is at its best. Thanks to its front engine rear transaxle layout with nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the 944 is best described as feeling like it is on rails when the road gets windy. The earliest cars did not get power steering (unless you count power steering by arm strong), which provides an unfiltered analog driving experience.
As the 944 matured it received a revamped interior in the 85.5 rework. The result was a more modern interior and much improved airflow ventilation. Power output would grow slightly through the production of the 944, but turbocharging made the biggest difference.
When first introduced the 944 Turbo offered 217 horsepower in 1985. That’s a huge power increase over the standard car’s 150 horses for the 1985 model. 0-60 mph times of under 6 seconds were recorded with the turbocharged version, although it did suffer from turbo lag. Porsche wasn’t done with the 944 Turbo and in 1988 power went up to 247 horsepower with the 944 Turbo S. The Turbo S also received ABS for better stopping power. For 1989 all the improvements first seen in the Turbo S were introduced to the standard 944 Turbo. The Turbo also introduced a more aerodynamic and better looking front fascia with an integrated bumper versus the impact bumper of the standard 944.
Performance improvements weren’t just for the turbocharged version. The standard 944 would get small power output increases, eventually outputting 163 horsepower with the displacement growing to 2.7-liters.
In 1987 Porsche introduced the 944 S which offered 190 horsepower. The S model got reworked heads with four valves per cylinder. This change helped with the available power, but most of the performance gains were at upper RPMs making it necessary to rev the engine a bit more to experience most of the added performance.
The final naturally aspirated version of the 944 was the 944 S2. The 944 S2 received a 3.0-liter in-line four cylinder engine making 208 horsepower. The exterior styling of the S2 was similar to that of the 944 Turbo. Because of this some refer to the 944 S2 as the Turbo look. For the S2, Porsche for the first time introduced a convertible model. This was the first time that a Porsche with a four-cylinder engine up front would offer a complete open top experience (most other 944s were sold with a sun roof).
The Porsche 944 is a perfect first Porsche, but one that you could be happy with as the car you keep for the rest of your life. But, beware the 944 is a gateway drug that could lead to many other Porsches gracing your garage.
There are no perfect cars and the 944 is no different. While a well maintained example will last you practically forever, one that has been neglected can cost a small fortune. Don’t forget that even though the 944 has become relatively inexpensive, parts still cost a good amount of money.
The good news is that a competent backyard mechanic can do most of the maintenance themselves. Things like oil changes, brakes and clutch master / slave cylinder changes are fairly easy. Where you may want to pay a professional is for items like changing the clutch (not so much that it is hard, but you have to remove a lot to get the job done and then put all of that back together) or suspension work, unless you are a good mechanic yourself and have (or can get) the right tools for the job.
For 944’s the timing belt and balancer belts are major maintenance items. If the timing belt snaps chaos will happen and a new engine (or at least a major rebuild) will be the result. It is a good idea to also change the balance shaft belts (the balance shaft helps the large displacement four-cylinder engine run as smoothly as silk). The recommended change interval is every 45,000 miles.
Another area that you want to make sure keeps functioning is the water pump. Most people will put in a replacement when changing the timing belt is replaced as an insurance that a failure does not happen.
Thanks to the use of galvanized sheet metal, the 944 rarely has issues with rust. However, the battery tray can rust as can any panels with body damage. The other place to check for signs of rust is where the sunroof (if equipped) weather stripping is. Water can get stuck in the area and from removing the sunroof panel, the paint around weather stripping can chip and if deep enough rust can form.
With the addition of forced induction, the 944 provided near supercar performance (for the time). However, with the addition of the turbocharger more stress is put on the internal parts, which means higher mileage examples may start costing more in repairs soon. You also have the added cost of additional parts in the Porsche 944 Turbo and Turbo S, such as the turbocharger and intercooler.
Current Market Value
Currently, Porsche 944 values make them a great way to enter the world of Porsche ownership. If properly maintained they can last practically forever.
2.5-liter naturally aspirated Porsche 944s are some of the lowest priced Porsches you can buy. You do get a lot of car for the money, especially the performance in the corners. Prices of 944s have been on an upward swing in recent years, making them a purchase that isn’t likely to loose money. Top condition cars are very rare which has pushed their values higher faster than lesser quality car.
1983-1985 Porsche 944 prices:
Fair Condition: $3,500
Good Condition: $6,900
Great Condition: $18,800
Perfect Concours Condition: $28,500
1985.5-1987 Porsche 944 prices:
Fair Condition: $3,200
Good Condition: $6,400
Great Condition: $15,600
Perfect Concours Condition: $20,600
1988 Porsche 944 prices:
Fair Condition: $3,200
Good Condition: $6,400
Great Condition: $16,400
Perfect Concours Condition: $22,700
1989 Porsche 944 prices:
Fair Condition: $4,500
Good Condition: $7,500
Great Condition: $17,200
Perfect Concours Condition: $24,700
The S models provide more horsepower. Finding a good 944 S is difficult, but finding the more powerful 944 S2 is much easier and it is available in both a coupe and cabriolet version.
1987-1988 Porsche 944 S prices:
Fair Condition: $6,500
Good Condition: $9,400
Great Condition: $12,400
Perfect Concours Condition: $39,000
1989-1991 Porsche 944 S2 prices:
Fair Condition: $9,500
Good Condition: $14,250
Great Condition: $19,000
Perfect Concours Condition: $37,300
The best performing 944s are the turbocharged models. As such they command a premium over the same year’s naturally aspirated options.
1985-1988 Porsche 944 Turbo prices:
Fair Condition: $7,400
Good Condition: $9,250
Great Condition: $12,150
Perfect Concours Condition: $46,500
1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S prices:
Fair Condition: $9,600
Good Condition: $12,150
Great Condition: $34,700
Perfect Concours Condition: $52,900
1989-1991 Porsche 944 Turbo prices:
Fair Condition: $9,300
Good Condition: $12,000
Great Condition: $15,800
Perfect Concours Condition: $51,000
As with all Porsche purchases we highly recommend a pre-purchase inspection with a mechanic that is familiar with the model. Doing so can save you a small fortune in repair bills by helping you to avoiding a car with hidden problems. Along the same lines it is best to purchase the best car that you can afford. A slightly more expensive, but well maintained 944 will usually save you thousands in repairs versus a car with needs.
There are still plenty of 944s to choose from, so waiting for the right one is a smart move. If you are patient you can end up with a Porsche that will last for as long as you want, providing you keep up with maintenance items.
Have you owned (or currently own) a Porsche 944? Let us know about your expectations in the comments below.
Picture Source: Daniel J. Leivick