An interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s GTI is today’s early 944. They were produced at the same time; the waning days of the normal A1 production, while Porsche was at the same time accelerating production of its watercooled transaxle lineup to meet the demands of the heady 80s. There are other similarities as well; the shape is iconic, they have an oversized (for their class) 4-cylinder and a manual transmission. Both are no-frills, relatively speaking; few electronic or power gadgets adorn the interiors here. And both are heralded as driver’s car, with intimate connection to the road and experience through each corner.
But while the A1 GTI is pretty much universally lauded as a legend, the 944 remains firmly an “also ran” for enthusiasts – even within the water-cooled arena. Perhaps that’s because there were much more potent versions of the 944 out there. Beyond the mid-’85 refresh, 1986 saw the introduction for U.S. fans of the new Turbo model, 1987 saw the 16V version launch and a larger 2.7 8V – and, of course, then there were the 944S2, Turbo S and 968 models. Early 944s, then, are about as unloved as the Volkswagen Dasher.
If you’re an enthusiast, though, that means great return on your investment. And like the GTI, it’s not just entry price that is relatively low on these 944s; compared to the 928 and 911, repairs are far less expensive and the glut of examples (nearly 57,000) brought to the U.S. means used parts – or even entire parts cars – are quite easy to find. So while all of them are worth at least consideration, every once in a while a really neat example pops up that is worth a longer look:
It’s no great revelation that values of the transaxle Porsches are all over the place. I looked at two of the most expensive you could buy recently with the twin low-mileage Turbo S Silver Rose examples:
Double Take – 25,000 Miles Total: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S Silver Rose
In impeccable condition, it was no surprise that the asks were out-of-reach for nearly all enthusiasts. On the other end of the spectrum sits the lowly 924; you recently had your choice of either of these very clean examples for about $4,000, both special in their own way:
Face Off: 1980 Porsche 924 Turbo v. 1988 Porsche 924S Special Edition
But I have to say, the one I covered recently that bothered me the most was the $20,000 ask for the 1988 944 Special Edition, or “Celebration”, model. Sure, it had one of the coolest interiors offered by Porsche in the period, though it’s soundly outdone by the Silver Rose.
1988 Porsche 944 ‘Celebration’ Special Edition
But I just can’t wrap my head around why you’d want to pay a premium for one. For the 924S Special Edition, it makes sense, in a way. The delta between normal and SE values is small and there are tangible performance gains for the Special Edition. But the Celebration was effectively just a loaded 944 with a neat interior. Surely, there must be a better option?
Alongside the appearance package offered on the regular 944, Porsche introduced the “Super” 944. The new M44/40 double overhead cam motor upped power output substantially to nearly 190, but outside of the subtle “S” badge on the rear and the embossed “16 Ventlier” on the side trim, there were no signs of the performance gains under the hood. There was a substantial change, however, to the base price, which cut the middle ground between the ~$32,000 944 and ~$40,000 Turbo at around $37,000.…
We’ve managed to stick to a red interior theme so far today, and I’m going to further that just a bit more. But while red interiors in the 70s and 80s were super chic, few for me match the sheer audacity or execution of today’s twin 944 Turbo S Silver Rose models. And as I’ve spent the last few transaxle posts dancing around special models, it would seem fitting to cover what many consider to be the most special of all. Coincidentally, outside of some exceptional limited production models like the Turbo Cup, 968 CS or Turbo S, and 924 Carrera GTS, few are worth as much as this model either.
1988 saw numerous changes in the 944 Turbo lineup. The new option M758 “Turbo S” included a new turbocharger with redesigned vanes and a remapped DME which increased boost to a max of 1.82 bar. The resulting M44/52 had 30 more horsepower and 15 lb.ft torque to a max of 247 and 258, respectively. But the “S” package was far more than just more boost, as the cooling system was revised, the clutch and transmission were beefed up with hardened first and second gears.
Brakes were borrowed from the 928 S4 and now measured 12″ in front with four piston aluminum calipers. Wheels were Club Sport 16″ forged, polished and anodized units measuring 7 inches in front and 9 in the rear. Suspension was also beefed up with the M030 package; this included adjustable rebound Koni shocks and adjustable-perch coilovers in front. Limited slip differentials (Code 220) were not standard, but a must-select option.
Within the already limited edition S (of which about 1,900 were shipped to the US), there was another special edition. The “Silver Rose” launch cars took all of the special aspects of the M758 S package and added a unique color (Silver Rose Metallic, LM3Z) and a very unique Burgundy Studio Check interior.…
Continuing on the 944 theme, there are of course a few transaxles that actually are worth some big bucks right now. The development models – the 924 Carrera GT, GTS and GTR – are pretty well priced out of this world. In the 944 run, the Silver Rose cars are highly valued, too – but value-wise, they’re relative bargains compared to this car. Yet I’ll still claim that this car is a relative bargain compared to its contemporaries. Let me explain.
As a promotional series in 1986, Porsche teamed with Rothmans for sponsorship of a one-make support race series in Canada. The result was the 944 Cup, which ran normally aspirated lightweight examples of otherwise stock 944s in 1986 and 1987. Every once in a while, one of these rare rides (there were only 31 sold) pops up and we’ve covered them before. The big draw on these cars are the lightweight aspect thanks to no sunroof and manual windows, and of course the Rothmans livery.
But the series proved successful and in 1987 Porsche followed up with the more developed, more powerful and more excited Rothmans 944 Turbo Cup. In fact, the Turbo Cup cars were developed for single-race series around the globe – in total, there were 5 series and just shy of 200 Turbo Cup cars produced. Like the prior 944 RC, the formula was pretty simple – lighten a 944 Turbo, leave the engine “stock”, and fit it with race equipment. But Porsche, being Porsche, went a bit above and beyond.
Though the Turbo Cup looked for all intents and purposes like just a 1987 Turbo with racing colors and a cage, the reality was far from that. The engine retained most of its stock components, but Porsche fit magnesium oil pans and intakes to lighten the load.…
The takeaway from yesterday’s twin Baltic Blue 944S2s was that, while the model is generally a good bet for collectors, neither of the examples was a stellar buy. But they’re not alone; even though I’ll continue to argue that they’re undervalued relative to what they are, the reality is that many come to market with price tags that are just too high. Even though sellers’ ‘whataboutme’ attitude towards the model is arguably justified, the asking prices usually aren’t.
Yet today we’re looking at another 944. And not a top tier one at that – generally speaking, this particular model is the least appealing of the end of the run. It’s the last-year 8-valve motor, so you can imagine that if the 944S2 was overshadowed by the Turbo, this model was positively left in the dark. You got early 944 appearances with the slightly punched-out 2.7 liter inline-4. That gave you a bump to 162 horsepower, up from 158 in the high-compression 2.5 from the previous year. That didn’t sound like much, but with revised gear ratios and a healthy bump in torque, these ’89s are claimed to be the quickest of the 8V normally aspirated run. But without a “S”, “S2”, or “Turbo” script adorning its rear, and with the 924S gone to greener second-hand dealers, the regular old 944 assumed the position at the very bottom of the totem pole in the Porsche lineup.
So why buy it?
Simple. Price. It’s very easy to forget just how darn expensive Porsches were in the late 80s – even the 4-cylinder ones. That was why the 924S was so appealing. Sure, it wasn’t the glitziest Porsche out there. But it was also the only one you could buy new in the $20,000 range. By 1989? If you wanted a Turbo, you’d pay the best part of $45,000 delivered.…
I’ve been ignoring the 944. It’s not that I have changed my opinion, or no longer love the thorn-in-Porsche-purists collective sides. But after spending plenty of time telling everyone what an incredible value the 924/44/68 series are for a while, I just capitulated that the market was unwilling to lift these well-built sports cars to a level which they deserve to be. Or, at the very least, I really felt like they should be on level footing with models that were their contemporaries; the Turbo, for example, which still regularly trades well below Quattro and M3 prices despite superior performance.
Yet while my attention swayed, some light has been shed on the model. As insane prices continue to reign in Munich and the Quattro has begun to rise precipitously over the past year, what was once a sure-bet value has commenced rapid appreciation – at least, in some cases. The high-water mark recent was just set with a 66,000 mile Grand Prix White 968 Coupe which sold for $36,250. That’s big money for the big four-cylinder. While not every single example is going to similarly take off, the writing may be on the wall.
So today I’ve got two 944S2 models to consider. Down on power (211 v. 237 with VarioCam) and a gear from the later model, they’ve always played second-fiddle to the Turbo S/89 Turbo models and the updated 968. Both are presented in the neat color of Baltic Blue Metallic. One is pristine, and one’s more of a project. Which is the one to grab?
Edit 9/30/2017 – A little over a year later, the 5th owner of this high-mileage 944 Turbo has placed it up for sale with a $15,000 ‘Buy It Now’ after adding only about 20 miles to the odometer. The auction is also no reserve and the starting price is exactly what the seller paid in 2016. The seller even gave us props! – Ed
It’s easy to become obsessed with low mileage, absolutely pristine museum pieces. Walk up to one at a show and it’s like stepping into the DeLorean with Doc Brown, because apparently wherever that owner’s car is going they don’t need roads. On the other end of the spectrum are cars that have accrued countless miles; an old, torn pair of jeans that has more stories behind it than threads in its behind. Occasionally, though, a car pops up that is a testament to careful enthusiast ownership while still having been used for its original intent and purposes. Wearing mileage as a badge of honor rather than, as many do, acting like it is a death sentence, they are impressive cars without consideration of mileage but moreso when one does. Generally these high mileage heros turn up as Audis or Mercedes-Benz products that have rolled odometers into the stratosphere. More than occasionally we’ll come across an E28 BMW nearing a quarter million. Porsches, however, usually don’t see those types of numbers – especially highly prized turbocharged models. But though today’s 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo is pushing 300,000 miles, it looks like it has only seen a fraction of that number:
The market rage surrounding BMW’s M products and their lesser stablemates and all things Porsche air-cooled continues to mask one of the best all-around performers of the period – the Porsche 944 Turbo. This was the car which brought supercar performance to the masses in a package that was both reliable and practical. Perfect balance meant you could approach the limits of the chassis, and it rewarded you for doing so. Over 200 horsepower gave you super-human acceleration normally reserved for small-batch thoroughbreds. And there was even a race series to give the 944 Turbo the credentials to back up the Stuttgart crest on the hood. They were exceptionally well built using high quality materials, and quite a few people who owned them treasured their foray into the exclusive world of pioneering Porsche forced-induction. The original purchaser and steward of this 951 appears to have done just that:
Occasionally we don’t have the time to get to all the auctions that catch our eye. With that in mind, we’re going to be putting together some auctions that are interesting and may offer you a good value – or we’re just curious where they’ll end up!
Click for Details: 2000 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
This 2000 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG looks great with only 93,000 miles on the clock. Condition throughout seems to be very good and records are present, as well as a clean bill of health on the CarFax. But the real draw is the no reserve auction format – at time of writing, the car sits under $6,000!
Click for Details: 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo
The 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo isn’t the most desirable model year, but this one looks nice in Guards Red over Linen leather. While it’s a TMU car, there’s a healthy bit of recent service history and the overall presentation looks like a nice driver. The TMU and 1987 build status should keep bids down, but the auction is no reserve. It will be interesting to see where a 944 Turbo driver ends up!
Click for Details: 1992 Porsche 911 Turbo
It’s a strange world we live in when you can ask close to MSRP for a 25 year old car and it suddenly seems reasonable. But that’s the case with this 1992 911 Turbo. Technically, it’s a no reserve auction with a $95,000 Buy It Now, but a single $85,000 bid would win it unless the seller ends the auction early.
Click for Details: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E
We looked at this Glacier Green 1992 Mercedes-Benz 300E before, but it’s back on a no reserve auction with a starting bid below $2,000. Though it’s got a lot of miles and isn’t 100% original, it still seems like a nice driver with a lot of work done.…
The Porsche 944S2 took the twin-cam out which had debuted in the short-lived 944S for the 1987 model year to the next level. Bumped from 2.5 liters out to 3.0, the new motor crested 200 horsepower, producing nearly as much twist as the standard 944 Turbo had only a few years before but with no turbo lag. Beefed up too were the looks, which mimicked the Turbo’s design with smoothly integrated bumpers, brake ducts and fog lights as well as a rear diffuser. Wheels looked visually like the Club Sport, but were a different offset. The new “Design 90” style was also seen on the 928 and 911 model and became the signature Porsche look for a half decade. Though many point to the 968 as the ultimate development of the transaxle 4-cylinder, the 944S2 offers most of that package with the chunkier looks of the 951. Few come to market looking as nice as this example does: