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The Porsche 944

Renowned for it's fine handling characteristics, the Porsche 944 was a success right from the start.
In 1981 Porsche produced a total of 28,000 cars. By 1983 over 26,000 944's alone had been built.
Together with the earlier 924 and later Porsche 968 models this four cylinder water-cooled model accounted for one-third of Porsche's all-time production output.

In spite of some critics seeing these models as not 'real' Porsches, the 944 in particular is generally accepted as saving the company's dwindling fortunes in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The model was particularly popular in the USA.

The 924 enabled the motoring public to carve itself a slice of Porsche exclusivity, but it wasn't long before the model was under attack from the likes of Mazda which produced lower priced imitations even Datsun (Nissan) came out with a Cherry 1200cc which was a 2 door coupe with the 924 look-alike.body shape.

Although the 924 Turbo went some way to tackling the issue of under performance of the original 924, it was the arrival of the 944 that provided the answer.

The 'young upwardly mobile' wanted a young upwardly mobile transport, and what better than a 944? Porsche met the demand but at the expense of new model development. With the stock market crash of 1987 sales plummeted and left Porsche with showrooms full of unsold cars. Less tangible was the image Porsche now had as a brand that epitomized the worst of the 1980's excesses and greed.

The company was in trouble. Enter Wendelin Weideking who was given the job of heading up production at Porsche and latterly became CEO. Changing emphasis back to the 911, the front-engine water-cooled models were dropped. Even the fabulous new Porsche 968 had not halted the decline and production of that model ceased after only three years ready to make way for the Boxster which was to be the new "baby Porsche".

The 993 model generation signalled Porsche's return to fortune and the rest is of course history.

So where does that leave today's enthusiast? - with the opportunity to buy into the Porsche marque for a modest outlay and get a return on their investment measurable in pure fun and enjoyment.

The galvanized body ensures longevity and the robust engine which was originally developed from the Porsche 928's V8 should be good for mileages which run into six figures with out the need for major overhaul. A transaxle incorporates the final drive and gearbox in one housing enabling near perfect front to rear weight distribution.

The models history can be split in to two distinct periods. 1982 to 1989 and 1989 to 1991. A summary of the major changes are tabled below.

The superb 944 Turbo apart, the 944 S2 was seen by many as the ultimate 944 and the S2 was the 944 in it's final form as a coupe and as the lovely cabriolet.

Engine power was up to 211bhp, courtesy of the 3 litre, four cylinder engine. This was a large engine for only four cylinders but Porsche used a balancer shaft to even out any roughness in the engine's balance, as indeed it did had done in the earlier 2.5 and 2.7 litre engines. Compared to the 944 Turbo the S2 represented good value for a car that could be used and driven easily every day without the massive and sometimes unexpected power delivery of the 944 Turbo, although the 944 Turbo is seen by many sports car drivers as a relatively cheap 'super car' giving the performance of many cars that are two or three times the price.

 

The 944 is a high performance road car with predictable understeer due to the front engined, rear transaxle layout giving a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution so understeer can be transformed into oversteer progressively with accurate throttle control, thus making this one of the best and most predictable handling cars available.

The body design achieves a low drag coefficient and retains a beautiful classic GT line from the hidden pop up headlights along the flared front wheel arch back into the door panel then out again for that rear wheel arch which helps to give it it's aggressive stance. The power steering is progressive with full power assistance at low speed, which gradually decreases as the speed increases. In this way the traditional problem of apparent steering vagueness at higher speeds disappears. The car is a joy to drive cross-country, the excellence of the chassis revealing itself to the driver. Long inter-continental mileages can be consumed effortlessly making this a great touring car in the true sense.

As always it is probably better to buy the best example you can afford which will hopefully result in lower maintenance and repair costs during the period of ownership. You would be well advised to seek the opinion of a respected Porsche specialist before parting with your money.

Many of the older 944 range will now qualify for classic car insurance so costs can be kept to minimum here with a little shopping around.

Don't skimp on servicing as this could be costly in the long run. These are strong cars but are after all performance cars and regular maintenance should ensure your safety.

Not all Porsches are renowned for comfort but the 944 is comfortable enough to easily be used as an everyday car.

If you would like to offer stories, facts or comments on 944 issues for this website about these extraordinary cars, please do get in touch by email. info'at'944uk.com

 

Model history

1982- 1989

  • June 1981 - 944 model announced with 2.5 litre engine
  • November 1981 - Production gets underway
  • April 1982 - Launched in the UK
  • May 1982 - US launch
  • August 1983 - Optional electric tilt sunroof and rear window electric release
  • August 1984 - Power steering standard. 'telephone dial' style wheels introduced
  • Feb 1985 - New oval dashboard and optional central locking.
  • August 1987 - All markets get the same 160bhp engine
  • August 1988 - Engine becomes 2.7 litres
  • July 1989 - Model discontinued

1989 to 1991

  • January 1989 - 944 S2 production starts - 16v 3 litre engine
  • July 1989 - 944 S2 Cabriolet production starts
  • July 1991 - 944 S2 production ceases to make way for the Porsche 968.

 

 

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