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.…
I still recall my first trip up to Mosport well in the early 2000s. I accompanied my father to a Porsche Club of America race up there, and his 924S was running against some pretty stiff competition. The fastest cars in his class at that event were a pair of pale yellow and black 944s, both wearing “Rothmans” livery. At the time, I figured these were custom graphics applied to mimic the look of the period Porsche race cars, but it didn’t take long for me to be corrected, as one of the owners schooled me about the Rothmans Cup series. Even with a fair amount of brand-specific race knowledge, I had only been aware of the Turbo Cup that was run concurrently around the world as a support series for larger races, but Canada also had an earlier normally aspirated 944 Cup. These racers were the lightest 944s available, and though modifications were quite limited they were still very potent in original form when driven well. As the seller notes, only 31 of these lesser known racers were built, making them much more rare than their later Turbo counterparts, and these cars are now accepted at events such as the Rennsport Reunion, though properly driven they’re still class leaders in PCA 944 Cup racing:
Last week, I wrote up a 944 Rothmans Cup car, a model that introduced the idea of a factory-backed, one marque race series as an opener for larger races. In truth, this was no new concept; the unused M1 race cars got turned into the “Procar” series in the late 1970s/early 1980s and run with F1 drivers before races, as well as prior forays by Porsche in the IROC series. But the 944 Rothmans Cup was an effort that any gentleman driver could partake in, and that made it a bit more special. While the racing was close for sure and generated plenty of great action, the lightweight 944s really weren’t particularly fast in the grand scheme of things. Having launched a new Turbo model of the 944 in 1985, Porsche nearly immediately started development of the Cup version of the 951. With sealed motors pushing a bit more power that stock thanks to some revised engine mapping, catalyst-free exhaust and a revised magnesium intake, the real gains came in further use of exotic materials to lighten the cars. While the regular 944 was a bit lighter, the Turbo Cup went the next step; lightened suspension, magnesium wheels, stripped interior and plastic pieces. Undercoating was never installed on these cars and as a result of many small changes, the 944 Turbo Cup weighed in some 400 lbs less than the roadgoing version. Even with a modest power increase, this made for one potent and very special race car:
There are people who will definitely “get” this car, and those that will scratch their heads. A lot of it comes down to priorities and what you’d like to do, honestly. If you just want to go to the track, you could easily buy any number of Porsches or other cars that would be considerably faster than what is effectively just a lightened and stiffened naturally aspirated Porsche 944. While they’re well balanced and entertaining to drive, they’re certainly not the rocket ships people usually associate with the terms Porsche Race Car. However, what they are is very special – the Rothmans Cup was a limited run of special cars with special drivers. Together, they created a racing history that many fans still talk about. The precursor to race series like the Turbo Cup and Carrera Cup, this was a defacto Porsche factory effort – and the result of that is that this car is classified with the very rare group of cars that are Porsche factory race cars:
If you don’t know about the Rothmans Cup 944s, you’d be not the only one. As one of the lesser known single-make race series from the 1980s, the Canada-only Rothmans Cup series didn’t have the flashiest, fastest cars on the planet. It wasn’t even as crazy as the later Turbo cup, where the cars had magnesium and unobtanium bits. No, what the Rothmans Cup was all about was the bare-bones racing. Some of the best drivers in the world signed up, proving the idea was a good one – and the sealed motors ensured a level playing field. It was all about the driving! To help a bit though, the Rothmans cars were stripped to the bones; no A/C, no power steering, no sunroof – and they were beefed up with the M474 Koni suspension and M220 limited slip differential. This isn’t the first time I’ve written up a 944 Rothmans car, as last year we saw a Rothmans Cup in need of a restoration that had trouble trading hands. In much better overall shape and ready to race, this car looks splendid in its original colors:
Porsche – this is a name not usually associated with the term inexpensive. Add the words “Factory Race Car” and “Rothmans” to the title, and you usually need to start dipping heavily into your retirement savings if you want to play. Even the cheaper 944 Turbo Cup cars push $100,000 or more in good condition; but there was a lesser known support series in Canada for non-Turbo 944s. The Rothmans Cup 944s are some of the quickest out of the box 944s you can buy; a few years back my father raced two at Mosport and though he had a more powerful engine the Rothmans cars were quicker around the circuit. They were lightened substantially over the production cars and were equipped with the M474 Koni suspension package, though they didn’t receive horsepower upgrades. With only 31 produced, they’re a very rare find and usually command the strongest non-Turbo money amongst 944s. Today there is one for sale on eBay:
Model: 944 Rothmans Cup
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 17,865 mi
Price: $12,000 Buy It Now
1 of 31 Rothmans series race car.
Vehicle has been sitting in the showroom for 15 years.
Suspension and transmission is same as equipped as it was raced in the series.
Some parts had been remove but it won’t take too much to have it put back together.
Open trailer also available for $1500.00
By the way, this is consider to be a factory race car, therefore, next time when Porsche is doing the Rennsport Reunion, this vehicle is eligible to be on track with those factory 935, 962 and probably you will be racing Hans Stuck and Derek Bell.
The 944s are great budget racers, with near perfect balance and are pretty reliable in stock form.…