Update 5/25/18: After apparently selling in mid 2016 for $9,500, this rare 1988 924S Special Edition is back on the market with a new seller, 1,400 more miles and a much higher price – now it’s listed for $14,975.
Why the enthusiast world hasn’t thoroughly warmed up to the Porsche 924S is a bit beyond me, and that’s especially true of the 1988 model year. Not only was compression slightly up resulting in 160 horsepower channeled through the rear wheels, but Porsche also signed the model out with a fantastic lightweight special. The 924S Special Edition was also marketed in Europe as the 924S Le Mans; limited to 500 copies in each market, the U.S. models were black only. In classic Porsche “add lightness” style, the 924S SE had manual windows, no air conditioning or sunroof, and they even dropped the passenger mirror off the car. While power didn’t increase, the car did get more suspension in the M030 factory Koni suspension and wider ‘Phone Dials’ in the back with integrated mud flaps. Also lightweight was the interior fabric, which was so thin it doesn’t seem to be able to actually cover the seats even on a low mileage example like this:
Increasingly as some of our childhood (or, adulthood) heroes get priced out of sensibility for weekend warrior on a budget status, there are still some bastions of hope for the shoestring enthusiast. One of the best must undoubtedly be the underrated Porsche 924. As Sciroccos, GTIs, 944 Turbos, Quattros and the like take off in value, here lies a plethora of well-cared for, well-built and fun-to-drive cars that have good parts accessibility, reasonable repair costs and surprising amounts of practicality. Sure, it’s ‘just’ a 924, and Porschephiles will probably poo-poo your choice. So, too, will most of the rest of the automotive world. Their loss is your gain. Try as they might, outside of some very special 924 Carreras, these models that helped to keep Porsche afloat in the 1970s and 1980s still haven’t caught on with collectors.
So today I have two special 924s to consider once again. The first is a lofty Turbo model; finicky even in period, they’ve developed a reputation for lack of reliability and expensive repairs, but then have you ever seen the bill on a proper flat-6 rebuild? I’m going to compare it to the end-of-the-run 924S, and this one is the lightweight Special Edition model, too. Both are quite affordable and both appear to be in great condition, so which one is the winner?
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. The S2 wasn’t much better, ringing in at registers as $42,000. So it’s there that you can start to see the appeal of the base model, which had most of the look of the higher-spec models but could be yours for $33,000. Today? It’s the same deal:
Let’s get the not-so-subtle elephant in the room out of the way – this car isn’t, and probably never will be, a collector example of a 944 Turbo. Heck, perhaps the 944 Turbo will never be appreciated on a more grand scale, either, though I personally find that one pretty baffling.
Okay, can we move on?
Let’s say that instead of just hoping that some day your car will be worth a mint, or indeed even caring what other people think about your vehicular choices, you just want have a car which looks good and is enjoyable to drive. Let’s not forget, this advice is coming from someone with somewhat polarizing vehicle choices…so, take the advice with a grain of salt, but I’m going to persist in my argument that the 944 Turbo is the car for you. A true David of the 1980s, the 944 Turbo was the understated and unassuming Goliath slayer, turned down by the factory so as not to have its performance overshadow the 911 range. Being faster than a 911 is pretty much verboten in Germany and especially in Stuttgart, but nearly everyone that experienced a 944 Turbo in the 1980s came away with the impression that in every statistical (and in some non-statistical ways) it was a better car than the Carrera.
But, as one of our astute readership noted, certain cars – the Audi Quattro, the BMW M3 and M5, and of course the 911 range – were the cars of certain groups of individuals dreams. The 944 Turbo really wasn’t. There weren’t many people that hung 944 Turbo posters on their walls, because there was always something from Porsche that was a little bit more special – the 928 was more futuristic, the 911 was more comforting as a predictable classic and “Turbo” was synonymous with only one Porsche in history.
That model wasn’t the 944, nor was it the 924. And though both of those respective cars outperformed their brethren in period and were very impressive outside of the Zuffenhausen lineup, the market of today in many ways continues to mimic the original sales trends. The 944 Turbo outsold the Quattro, outsold the M3 – neither, it should be noted, limited production cars. But today, probably in part because of its success, the 944 Turbo just doesn’t get the wows, the attention, or the press of its contemporaries. Of course, there’s one more thing it doesn’t get as a result – their price:
The world of collector cars is full of hyperbole. Yesterday’s Quattro is a great example of this; take a legendary car and start pontificating about how it’s a collector model, and reason, objectivity and affordability fly out the window. Certainly we’ve seen this most in the Porsche world; the whiff of air-cooled over the past half decade has translated into moving the decimal point one position (or more, in some cases) to the right.
But that doesn’t mean automatically that all cars that come to market are fakers. Some are the real deal – good values in the marketplace and a collector car that should be both a good return on investment and enjoyable to own. They can be quite eye-catching, too, so while you’re rolling down the street looking like a million bucks your smile will be all the wider.
So which scenario is this 1986 944 Turbo – the real deal, or more fluff for the nutter market?
I’ve looked across the 924 range over the past week, from the well-optioned 1980 Turbo through the interestingly-modified 1978 924 base model. But in the case of either of those, the strong argument if you just want a nice driving, cheap entry level Porsche is the later 924S.
Offered for only two years in the U.S. market, nevertheless a bulk of the 924S production was sold here. Some 16,669 were made in total, with 9,137 making the trip across the Atlantic from Neckarsulm. Of those, the much more prevalent to find would be the first model year, with 6,947 accounting for 1987 production. Yet there were few changes across the run; 1988 received a slight bump in compression for a 5 horsepower gain, and there was the limited run of Special Edition final models that were quite special. But all offer lightweight driving fun with near-perfect balance and poise, reasonable running costs and sprightly performance. Plus, since many 924 owners treasured their foray into Porsche ownership, it’s possible just about any day of the week to find a really nice condition 924S like this impressive 43,500 mile Zermatt Silver Metallic example.
What’s not to like?
I’m going to continue my string of 924s with an interesting 1978 today. This car represents the early run of the original design. It was a simple, no-frills, lightweight sports car – in essence, what Porsche was all about. However, Porsche’s headlining cars had moved on to powerful 6- and 8-cylinder designs, and turbocharging ruled the roost in performance options – so the EA827 derivative normally aspirated 4-cylinder from corporate partners Volkswagen and Audi was selected. That relegated the 924 to only about 100 horsepower, but with good handling and excellent aerodynamics they were still entertaining – albeit relatively slow – drives.
And, at less than $10,000 new, they were an affordable sports car with good build quality and a name established in winning prestigious races around the world. Yet, as Porsche does, sales success didn’t stop them from launching marketing-targeted limited production models nearly every single year – and charging a lot more money for them with options (up to around $15,000!). Today, if you want to collect an early 924, they’re generally the ones to grab. 1976-7 saw the Martini World Championship cars, while in 1978 you could have the Limited Edition model, and in 1979 the Sebring model. There was a 1980 Le Mans edition and further specials that we’ve seen, too. Along with the addition of the Turbo to the lineup in 1980, then, there generally isn’t much of a call to look at a non special edition early 924. But, this is one that might buck that trend….
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:
Strange though it may seem, the 1988 Porsche 924S is not a model we often write up. We do feature just about every Special Edition 924S I find, as they’re a really neat fly-under-the-radar package. This isn’t one of those cars. It’s a “plain” 1988 924S, which you can immediately identify by it being Guards Red (all the SE models were black). But as I said in my article about limited 924 models back in September, the 1988 S is a subtle upgrade and the one to have if you don’t go with a hard-to-find SE. The compression bump meant 160 horsepower, and coupled with the 944 driveline bits underneath it was a fun, sporty car. However, best of all – and unlike most of their other watercooled brethren of the same ilk, these 924S models are often overlooked by the market.
But there are a few reasons to look at this particular 924. First, the ’88 models are pretty hard to find. They accounted for only 2,190 sales (including the 500 Special Edition models) compared to the near 7,000 1987s sold. But above scarcity, it’s in pristine condition with only a claimed 25,000 miles covered since new. And while it seems most of the really nice late 924s that come to market are automatics, this one is a 5-speed manual:
It’s easy to get lost in a sea of low mileage, crazy asking price 1980s cars – they’re out there, and in reality not particularly hard to find. But then there seems to be a gulf between the cars that are above average with sellers hoping to capitalize on market trends, and forlorn project cars in need of more help than their value. While it would be wonderful to contemplate the salvation of every single example, it’s simply not economically viable. Nor, too, is the idea of just buying the best example in existence and paying a ridiculous premium.
Look in the right place and there is still a happy medium for enthusiasts. Today I’ve located two quite affordable options of 944 Turbos. The miles aren’t crazy, the condition of both is quite good, they each have unique options that make them appealing in their own way. And, each is a no reserve auction. So which is the one you’d want to take home?