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The extravagant claim in the title is based on the fact that these cars no longer depreciate noticeably, and can be driven on classic insurance. They are also very long lived and generally reliable, and don't do too badly on fuel. Essentially you can run an old Porsche for a fraction of the cost of a new Mondeo!
The text below describes the features, weaknesses, and benefits of the 944 model variations.
First a bit of history. The Porsche 944 was introduced in 1983 based largely on the earlier 924 model. However the 944 included many changes and upgrades compared to the earlier model, the most obvious visual clue being the flared wheel arches to cover the wider track of the new model, the air dam and the rear spolier. Perhaps the biggest change however was in the engine department.
The 924 used a VW derived 2 litre engine, but the 944 was fitted with a Porsche developed four cylinder engine, effectively half of the porsche 928 model's V8. The first Lux model developed around 165bhp from the 2.5 litre engine, this was increased through various model increments up to the 250bhp of the Turbo version.
This new engine made the 944 acceptable to the Porsche customers that had previously rejected the 924 as a rebadged VW, and led to the recovery of the company through the 944's sales success.
The standard engine was enough to power the car to 60mph in under 8 seconds, figures as low as 7.4 have been quoted for the Lux, quite respectable even by todays standards.
The S model from 1986 featured 16 valves but offered few extra horsepower and was in fact slower in magazine tests from the time. A possible cause for this was the extra weight of the new S model.
The S model increased in capacity for 1988 to 2.7 litres, and for 1989 as the S2 it rose further to 3.0 litre capacity and 211 bhp. The S2 is often regarded as 'the one to have', but along with the performance hike came a raging thirst for fuel. The S2 does 0-60 in around 6s, while the Turbo really moves and is down in the low fives.
Fuel economy varies considerably with usage and the weight of the driver's right foot. Early models were sometimes fitted with a fuel economy meter as an optional extra, later models from 85 on (with the face lift dash) had this vacuum driven device fitted as standard. My 944 Lux averages 29mpg in mixed use, on a long motorway run this can increase to 36mpg if driven carefully, although 33mpg is more usual.
The Turbo and the S2 drop into the low 20s in fuel economy, I've been told it's all but impossible to get either to pass 30mpg no matter how carefully they are driven.
So the newest 944 you can buy is 14 years old, the oldest 22! At this age most cars will start to give trouble at some point, but as with all cars there are particular things to watch for that will be costly.
Possible Problem Areas
Engine - All
Pictures of Porsche 944 Coupe
the variants have special surface cylinder bores - very tough, but if you run them low on oil virtually impossible to repair, no simple rebore is possible on these engines. The engine is fed by a fuel injection system though 8 valves on the Lux model, most other features are straightforward making for relatively simple maintenance. The engines are otherwise very long lived, certainly capable of 200,000 miles plus.Fuel lines - These are steel, and run from the rear of the car to the fuel injection pump. A new set from Porsche is about £500, but some specialists have a cheaper replacement option which brings this down to £200 ish.
Oil seals - The engine is fitted with a balance shaft to eliminate vibration, unfortunately this has an oil seal that fails with age or use! The crankshaft end oil seal also fails, so whilst the timing belt is off for one do the other. The seals are cheap but the time to do the belt is costly.
Tailgate leaks / rattles - This is very common on these cars, and is fixed by fitting new catches on the boot. Not cheap, £100+ from Porsche, £50 from a specialist.
Heater sticks on - Boil yourself away if the heater sticks on, if combined with the tailgate leak can proved dangerous as the car will suck exhaust gas in from the tailgate if driven with the windows open to let cool air in. The part that fails is a simple solenoid motor that moves a flap in the heater, relatively cheap to fix for someone that knows where to look. Expect £40 from a specialist.
Valve stem oil seals - The seals can harden over time causing the engine to smoke and use oil. This is not to be confused with bore wear that is much more terminal! With the valve seals the problem can be rectified for around £250-£300, most specialists will be able to do the job without removing the cylinder head.
Engine damage due to low oil - All Porsches of this age use oil, they all did when new. Change the oil frequently, and check the levels regularly. If the level drops too far below the bottom mark on the dipstick the engine will be written off, with no economic possibility of repair.
Clutch - Clutches wear on all cars, but on the 944 a clutch replacement can cost £500. I've seen 40,000 miles quoted as typical, although mine with 149,000 miles on the clock has only had one. Recently the clutch master cyclinder failed, this left the pedal on the floor with the clutch still engaged. Not good. The master cylinder was £70 from Porsche and easy to fit. This is apparently relatively common and can be confused with a failed clutch - a potential bargaining lever
Exhaust - As with all cars the exhausts rot. If planning to keep the car it may be worth investing in a stainless pipe, but the pattern part distrubutors all carry pipes to fit.
Wheels and tyres. The standard for the Lux model are 15" wheels, but many have later or optional extra 16" items fitted. The offset for many of these wheels can be wrong for the 944 and the fitting of spacers is common. This had been done frighteningly badly on mine when I bought it, I had to buy a full set of wheel studs to correct it as the originals had been hacksawed to fit. Tyres last well in most circumstances, abnormal wear may be a sign of crash damage
Interior trim. The drivers seat wears badly if cloth covered, Porsche can still supply the original material and a trimmer can repair the seats. Most models have an electric drivers seat, at least one of the motors will have failed by now! Not a big issue as long as you can get comfortable either manually or otherwise. The 944 was not fitted with rear seat belts as standard, these are available at extra cost. Most models did not have air conditioning fitted either, although this was a common optional extra.
Electrical. Age again comes into play, these cars will ave electrical problems at some point simply down to age. Nothing specific to watch for except for perhaps the heater controls which are all electrical.
So what's it like to drive...
It can be a car which is not for the faint hearted. The 165bhp is more than enough to kick the back end out in the dry, let alone on a greasy wet road. However if you are an experienced driver that's not a bad thing, as the near perfect 50:50 weight distribution makes it all controllable, and if I'm honest, more than a little fun. You can really crack on and push the limits in a way very difficult in more powerful and recent cars. The limits are closer, but no worse for that! The car has excellent brakes for its age, and the suspension is sporty rather than hard. Again these contribute to the overall experience of the machine. The driving position is all day comfortable, just as long as you don't have to get in and out too often. I'm 6'4" and there is enough head and leg room for me, in fact I find it quite a comfortable car to drive. On the down side I wouldn't want to be sat in the +2 seats behind me, kids only and if the driver's tall like me it might mean feet on seats. The boot is surprisingly generous, the top of the rear seat folds down hatchback style. The original German advertising campaign showed a Porsche 944 carrying several crates of beer in the back, something probably not allowed to be shown on TV these days!
Perhaps the best bit of having one of these is the 'extra' bits that owning a car like this gets you. There are specialist garages that will maintain it and can be trusted to do a good job. There are owners clubs (Alternative Porsche Owners Club is less snooty than the Porsche Club of GB) which are invaluable sources of parts and experience.
There is cheap classic insurance available which lowers the cost of ownership, plus depreciation is pretty slow on these - good ones will be more or less the same value if looked after in fiver years time. There are even web-rings, unofficial owners clubs, online registers and so on. People can really become involved in these cars, far more so than something that is merely transport.
The badge and pose value are almost the biggest negative for me, I love the car but don't feel it's anything to be snooty about. Accomodation for the most part is basic, most modern hatches are better appointed. So the Porsche is still quicker (just) than most GTis, that really isn't the point nowadays.
So what to pay? The original 944 Lux from 83 is the cheapest option, a rough one on ebay can go for as little as £750, a good lowish mileage one with service history can fetch £3000 plus privately. A later 944 Lux, the facelifted version with extras goes for a little more, maybe an extra few hundred pounds. The 944S does cammand a small premium over the Lux, but price is more dependent on condition between the two. The 944 S2 definitely ups the price range, a roughish one can fetch £2000, whilst a low mileage service history example can go for £5000 plus. The Turbo prices seem to be pretty much in line with the S2, the last remaining variant is the Cabriolet. The minimum you can expect to pay for one of these is about £4000, the last S2 models in good condition could fetch as much as approaching £10k.
Non-running project cars for restoration should be avoided unless they are virtually free... they will cost a fortune to put right.
Whichever one you buy, make sure you set aside a decent amount to fix unexpected problems, £1000 can easily disappear on service items and minor repairs even on a £10k minter. The cheapest ones can be a false economy, as to make them reliable you may have to spend as much as buying a decent one in the first place.
Buy a good one and it is a lot of fun that is very cheap to own. Get a bad one and get the cheque book ready!
Footnote: I still own the Porsche, and having fixed all the major problems with mine I'm using it to commute once or twice a week to Liverpool from Nottingham. In the four years I've had the car it has been utterly reliable, it has never broken down and always, absolutely always, starts first time. 155,000 miles up, and every intention of making it cover 200+ I've also managed to enormously improve the handling. My car came with 16" wheels with 205 front and 225 rear tyres, I sold these on ebay and replaced them with the original size 15" teledial wheels, and fitted Dunlop SP Sport 195/65x15 tyres all round. The corner grip with these is absolutely amazing, utterly transformed in fact. Now able to corner much faster, attacking bends leads to very slight understeer on the way in, and very sliight skipping only on bumpy exits. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this change to anyone, the only drawback being an increase in road noise from the tyres. Prices have dropped a bit since I wrote the review, but good cars still fetch good money, they are just a little rarer!