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:
Anthony Bourdain has been pretty successful with his show Parts Unknown, in addition to the many other reasons he’s been an award winning chef and writer. In that show, he’s always on the lookout for new and rarely heard of cuisine from around world. And, for the most part even though I’m not a ‘foody’, I find his presentation, travels, and quick summaries of far reaching historical periods pretty enjoyable. He is, for lack of a better comparison, the Jeremy Clarkson of food critics – at least, a bit. In one memorable-to-me episode, he set out to find this magical, amazing and hereto unheard of cocoa plant. But he wasn’t going just to taste this new and interesting food; he was going to secure rights to harvest the plant and to profit. And, frankly, he couldn’t have seemed less interested or involved in any step of the process. He complained, whined, and lackadaisically mused about the chocolate he’d later offer for $18 a bar throughout the episode, ignoring the cultural and economic aspects of the lives the people of Peru – where the bar’s magical ingredients come from. I was left feeling at the end of the episode that it was less an investigation of the process, and much more an advertisement for the overpriced consumerism he was going to attach his name to. Why wouldn’t you pay $18 for a chocolate bar – he’s Anthony Bourdain and he obviously knows more than you, so ante up!
The point of this is story that I’m left feeling that many of the inflated markets are doing just what Bourdain did; cashing in on a name and a reputation coupled with a market surge. One classic you can get into without all of the market hoopla, though, is pretty much any classic Audi outside of the Quattro – for now:
First year model. Undiluted European specification. Rare non-sunroof. Rare air condition delete as well. Paint to sample. Pascha interior. Clean history. Under 100,000 miles. Overall great condition. Were these the statistics for a model named “911”, the price would be through the roof already. Yet while enthusiasts bemoan the increasingly unreachable air-cooled variety of Porsches, their water-cooled brethren remain steadfastly affordable – at least, for the time being. Let’s take a look at this 1982 European-specification 944:
In the early 1980s, the name “Fuchs” was synonymous with Porsche – but if you ordered either a 911 or a 944, you had to specify you wanted the Fuchs wheels. Otherwise, your car would come with these ATS-made cast wheels known as “Cookie Cutters”. While they’re not held in as high regard as the Fuchs, the reality is that these cast wheels were nearly as light as the forged wheels at a fraction of the price. For a fraction of the price of a set of Fuchs wheels, you can get a great set of track wheels for your 911, 944 or 924S:
Bolt Pattern: 5 x 130
Tires: Not Included
Price: No Reserve Auction
HISTORY: These are the original wheels and hubcaps from my 1983 Porsche 944. My car, though nice, will not qualify as a museum piece so I’m using Phone Dials because they were handy and already had new tires on them. These “Cookie Cutters” have been decorating the wall of my garage for a year now and need to go to an enthusiast’s home. I have another such wheel, which is not in this auction, but did not list it because it has a tire on it.
CONDITION: These wheels were painted in an earlier life. I asked a Porsche mechanic to clean them in his hi-tech parts cleaner. The after-market paint came off in large pieces and really messed up his parts cleaner. (Sorry, Tom!) He took them out before the paint was completely removed, thus some “splotches” are re-adhered and clinging to the metal. Some flakes can be removed with a fingernail but others not so much.