History of the 1988 - 1991 Porsche 944
The Porsche 944 was introduced in 1982 as a development of the 924. It is a front engine, water-cooled, rear wheel drive 2+2 sports car, although the back seat is small for adults, and was built in the Porsche Neckarsulm plant in Germany.
The Porsche 944 started life looking extremely similar to the 924, but with wider flared arches reminiscent of the 924 Carrera Turbo and with a more luxurious interior. The car featured all- round disc brakes and an all- aluminium 2479cc engine fitted with a Mitsubishi-patented Lanchester balance shaft which countered some of the 924’s vibration issues.
In 1985, the car received an improved interior- the now sought-after ‘oval dash’ model- which brought it more in line with the 911 and 928 models. Better seats were installed, as were a new steering wheel and an antenna in the windshield. The traditional Fuchs wheels were replaced with ‘phone-dial’ alloys.
Also in 1985, the 944 Turbo was released. This sports car used a turbo-charged and intercooled 2.5 litre engine producing 217bhp and featured a raft of other improvements to brakes, suspension and drivetrain.
Other mechanical improvements were made, and continued to be made across the range until the Porsche 944 received a more significant facelift in 1989. The S2 had a redesigned body that maintained the original aesthetic appeal but updated the car. Most noticeable was the loss of the rear rubber spoiler (which had been a water-trap and led to corrosion issues) with the new spoiler ‘floating’ over the rear end of the car. The nose was also re-designed.
In 1990, the Cabriolet was released. Based on the S2, the body was built by ASC (American Sunroof Company) in Weinsberg, Germany and had a powered electric hood.
Throughout its life, the 944 was offered with a mix of naturally-aspirated and turbo-charged engines. Standard 944 (8 valve) and 944S (16 valve DOHC) came with variations of the 2.5 litre (2479cc) straight four cylinder engine until 1989 when a 2.7 litre unit became the standard engine. Later that year saw the release of the S2 cars, which was fitted with a 3 litre (2990cc) normally-aspirated engine.
The Turbo used the original 2.5 litre engine, but generated 217bhp, an output that was increased in 1988 to 250bhp with the release of the Turbo S. A small number of Turbo Cabriolets were made, including only 100 right-hand drive cars.
The Porsche 944 is a delight to drive in all its forms. Balance is superb, helped by its almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution thanks to the rear transaxle balancing out the mass of the engine in the front. The suspension is very good, especially on later cars, making it perform very well at the edges of the performance envelope.
Even with the earlier 8 valve engines, none of the cars feel sluggish. They rev freely and deliver instant power to the road. Gearboxes are direct and no- nonsense, as you would expect from a Porsche.
The Porsche 944 is also exceptionally practical. With a large boot, folding rear seats and a substantial hatchback, items can be carried with ease. The back seat is a bit of a squash for adults, but the front seats are very comfortable even over longer distances. The driving position is good, and visibility excellent.
Common issues include electrical problems (especially with the dash clock, boot release and central locking) and rust. Although galvanised, dirt collects in wheel arches and under the sills, which eventually corrodes. A drain pipe from the petrol filler cap can also become detached, rotting the rear right hand stowage area. Rubber seals on the doors, boot and sunroof are also prone to leakage.
Remedies for all of these issues are readily available and not very costly. Indeed, Porsche still stock the majority of parts, and a number of specialist parts companies hold a good selection of second-hand items.
Mechanically, the cars are robust, but engines must be maintained properly and a good mechanical history and recent cam belt replacement are very important when buying.
Today, the Porsche 944 Turbo and later 944 S2 cars are most in demand, especially the very rare Porsche Turbo Cabriolet. However, all versions of the 944 have recently increased in popularity as they are seen as a great way of experiencing a classic Porsche sports car at a sensible price.
Similar cars to the 944 include the smaller- engined Porsche 924, the larger- engine Porsche 928, and its eventual successor the 968.
Other 1980s coupes that may also be considered are the Ford Capri Mk 3, Lancia Delta Integrale and the Alfa Romeo GTV6.