Proving you can still buy into classic Porsche motoring for peanuts
Think a classic Porsche is well beyond your means? If you’re a follower of the 911, then almost certainly. Prices of Porsche’s iconic sports car have been spiralling upwards for years. But that’s not the only classic it has in its back catalogue; the 944 is, for many, the perfect route into collectable Porsche motoring.
It was launched in 1982 as a stepping stone from the entry-level 924 towards the 911 SC. It was equipped with a 161bhp 2.5-litre engine developed by Porsche, and a rear-mounted gearbox for perfect weight distribution. The engine was uncommonly smooth as it was fitted with balancer shafts, and the favoured gearbox was the five-speed manual: the three-speed automatic wasn’t great.
Porsche added more firepower in 1985 with the launch of the 217bhp Turbo (the standard model was called the Lux), and built upon this with the 247bhp Turbo S in 1988. Enthusiasts these days reckon the 944 Turbo is the most collectable of the lot.
By 1986, Porsche felt it had a hit on its hands, so rolled out improvements. The suspension was upgraded, the windscreen was made flush-fit and distinctive new ‘phone dial’ alloys were fitted. Significantly, an ‘oval’ themed dash gave the interior a significant lift over the 924, as did seats from the 911.
A 2.7-litre 944 S arrived in 1987, with a revvy 187bhp 16-valve motor that drivers weren’t keen on. The 2.5 engine became a detuned version of this 2.7 in 1989, with 163bhp and more mid-range pull. But the focus was on the S2 which also arrived that year, replacing the 944 S. It had Turbo looks, coupe and cabriolet bodystyles, and a desirable 3.0-litre 16-valve engine that produced 205bhp.
It was every inch the Turbo substitute, which is why Porsche soon replaced that car’s 217bhp engine with the 247bhp motor from the Turbo S. There was even a Turbo cabriolet in 1991, just months before the 944 was replaced by the 968.
Experts say around £8000 is the starter price today for a decent 944, and £14,000 for an immaculate one. As mentioned, the favourite is the Turbo, closely run by the S2, although connoisseurs rate the original 1983 944 with manual steering, for its agricultural appeal and connected feel.
Nash Hunter is a long-time 944 owner, buying his first back in 2005. He perfected it so much, other owners began asking him to work on theirs. He’s now set up a business, called Retro Restorer, and hasn’t looked back.
It’s all thanks to the 944, and it looks like the car’s time is coming as well. “For a long time, the 944 was under-appreciated and as recently as five years ago prices were on the floor.” Not any more. Best get in before the prices start to go crazy.
What to check:
Engine – you want to see regular oil changes, timing and balancer shaft replacement every 40k miles or three years, exhaust smoke, vibrations at idle, oil and water mixing
Gearbox – clutches are expensive to replace; they last 70,000 miles. All will exhibit some transmission whine
Suspension – listen for clonking noises (worn bushes), feel for floaty handling (worn suspension) or vague steering (worn system)
Body – rust areas include the sills, rear wheelarches, suspension mounts, jacking points. Make sure the shut lines are even and the boot floor isn’t rippled
Interior – check the headliner, all the electrics; make sure the dash isn’t cracked
What to pay:
£4000-£7000 – 161bhp 2.5-litre cars, both pre- and post-1985 facelift
£7000-£9000 – Early 208bhp 3.0-litre S2s from 1989-on
£9000-£11,000 – High-mileage S2s, lower-mileage 2.5s
£11,000-£13,000 – Wide range of S2s and we also spotted a tidy, rare 1987 187bhp 2.7 S
£13,000-£15,000 – Low-mileage 2.5s; we found a 1987 Turbo with 73k miles and 1989 3.0 S2 convertible with 100k, each for £15k.