Litmus Test: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S with 37,700 Miles

Following up on Rob’s “presence” post about the 928, here we have the embodiment of presence and speed in the 944 Turbo S. But we have much more than that, too, in this particular example.

As I talked about at length in the last 1988 Turbo S post, there was a lot that made this car more special than the regular Turbo – and, arguably, more special than the 911, too. But the market on 944 Turbos has been all over the map, with nice examples struggling to break $10,000 at times and excellent examples three to four times that. So where does this Turbo S lie?

Well, we have a great combination of factors that make it quite desirable. First, it’s one of the S models. Second, it’s a claimed one owner car that appears to be close to 100% original. Third, it’s got very low mileage, with only 37,700 accrued. But the coup de grâce that beheads the typical unrealistic asks in the Porsche world is that this is a no reserve auction. Rarely do we get to see all of these things combine and get a real feel for the market.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S on eBay

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1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S Silver Rose

Porsche is famous for launching a special edition just about every six minutes, and in the late 1980s they launched quite a few for 1988. First off, they created a special edition of the 944 Turbo. 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. Outside of the Turbo Cup cars, these very limited original models have become the most desirable of the 944 Turbos:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S on eBay

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1988 Porsche 944 Turbo

We’ve talked quite a bit about increasing values on Porsche 944 Turbos, and especially the high market price of the 1988 944 Turbo S and S-specification 1989 models which are highly prized. While in 1989 you could not opt-out of the S trim features (hence no S designation), in 1988 you could. With more power, bigger brakes, and better suspension, why would you? Well, because in 1988 ticking the “M030” option box to get the S-specification cost you a staggering $5,510, and Porsche then declared you “needed” another $2,000 worth of options like cruise control and a nice radio – but, ironically perhaps for Porsche, not a limited-slip differential, which you had to tick option 220 to get, too (*it was a mandatory option in 1989). That brought your already pretty pricey 4-cylinder Porsche from $40,000 to a nose-bleeding $48,000 – around double what you’d pay for a Porsche 924S. So, it was no surprise that while the S specification was popular, it was not chosen by roughly 2/3rds of 944 Turbo buyers in 1988. Still, it feels almost unusual to see a non-S 944 Turbo today as so much attention is focused on the special upgraded model. When you see a 944 Turbo that looks like today’s example does, though, it’s worthwhile choosing the lesser:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

We’ve often lamented on these pages about when enthusiast cars used to be more affordable. Pick your poison; there were days you could buy a pretty sorted E30 M3 for under $10,000, a clean 911 in the teens, a pristine W113 Pagoda for under $20,000. At least for the foreseeable future, those days have left us, and enthusiasts on a modest budget need to pick and choose between the few remnants of a once vibrant sub-$10,000 market. I’ve spent a fair amount of time predicting and watching the ascension of the 944 turbo – the understated, underrated giant killer from Porsche. It’s been no surprise to see soaring values on clean 944 turbos, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that once again another classic has been priced out of sight. But if you’re willing to prioritize driving over shows, there are still some great deals to be had out there:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo on Omaha Craigslist

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Feature Listing: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

I recently read an article on Hagerty’s site which indicated that they were expecting values on some of the German performance cars from the 1980s to continue to increase in value. Certainly, we’ve seen this first hand from the explosion of values in the 911 and M3 market through the continuing appreciation of models like the M5, M6, Quattro and GTi. In the middle of all of those vehicles lies the no longer secret 944 Turbo. Faster than most of the equivalent competition yet comfortable, relatively easy to maintain and economical, the 944 Turbo has long been considered a massive value on the used market. For about 1/3 of the investment even a average Quattro or M3, you get the best performance, a still fairly modern looking interior and classic lines outside. But days of affordability in the 951 market appear to be numbered, as Hagerty has recorded sharply increasing values in the Turbo lineup. While condition 3 and 4 cars – the most common – have been slowly increasing, there’s been a Alp-esque rise to the best examples. Condition 2 cars now peak at around $18,000 – about double what they were 3 years ago. Move to the best condition examples, and you’re looking at a projected market price in excess of $30,000. That’s for the early cars, too – keep in mind, if you move to the later “S” or 1989 models, add a few thousand to the value right off the bat. But not everyone needs a show car, and the 944 Turbo remains a fantastic value as a classic driver if you look for an unmolested and clean example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo on Cleveland Craigslist

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Motorsports Monday: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

While there are faster cars, cheaper cars, flashier cars and cars that are easier to drive at the limit, few manage to be quite the combination of speed for dollar input as the 944 Turbo. Naturally almost perfectly balanced and with seemingly endless amounts of tunability and tweaking, the 944 Turbo is effectively now a 35 year old design that somehow still seems fresh. Every time I see a new 944 Turbo build I smile, as each time they just seem so naturally suited to the track-biased modifications. Today’s example is no exception and comes from a group who recently have been doing many of the best looking track builds, Motor Werks Racing. They’ve turned up these 944s and then dressed them in period livery that makes for one heck of a great looking package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo on Racer Connect

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Honorable Mention Roundup

Time for another Honorable Mention Roundup of the cars we just didn’t have a chance to get to this week. In addition to a few reader submissions in this edition, I found a few affordable performance options that caught my eye. Which is the one we should have spent more time on?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi TT 3.2 quattro at Coventry Motorcar

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Motorsports Monday: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo v. 1989 BMW 325is

A fan favorite symbol of the 1980s with a perfectly balanced chassis, great aftermarket support, capable of massive upgrades in power, brakes and suspension, and avid race series still today; both the BMW E30 and Porsche 944 fit this mold. Since new, many have been hitting race circuits and autocrosses and now going on 30 years later they remain staples of their respective marque racing club events as well as amateur race series. Today I have a showdown between two modded examples; who will outbrake the other into turn one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 325is on eBay

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Reader Ride Success Story: Buying the Perfect 944 Turbo

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Back in April, I wrote up a quite low mileage 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo. While we write up quite a few cars on a weekly basis, it’s not often that we hear that one of them was bought; even more rare is to find one of our regular readers that has ended up with the prize. But this 944 Turbo was special; with only 30,000 miles on the clock and in near perfect condition, the listing was a bit vague and it flew under the radar just a bit. Luckily, the person who ended up with it chimed in almost immediately that he had bought it and, if anything, it was better than it first appeared. I asked the new owner to tell us a bit about his experiences and his garage, because while not all of us are lucky enough to have stumbled upon the perfect 944 Turbo and add it to our collection, we can all enjoy the story:

GCFSB: What made this Turbo “the one”? Were you considering other cars too?

Jeff: I was actually in the market for an 80s M6 – I’m still looking for the right M6. There’s just something about late 80s German cars. I’m kicking myself for not buying the Bronzit M6 you featured in March. It was a mile from my house and in great shape and reasonably priced. Not sure why I waited on that one, and then it was gone. Lesson learned.

Anyway, GCFSB is one of only a couple of sites I troll daily for something to catch my eye and then in April I saw your coverage of the Stone Grey Metallic 951. I hadn’t considered a 944/951. The color combo of this one got my attention. But, what REALLY made the difference for me was your coverage and link to the previous ad which was much more in depth and showed a thick binder of service history. I’m certain if that ad or at least the information regarding documentation was in the then current ad the car would have gone for much more money.

Taking the lesson learned from losing out on the M6, I clicked the link over to eBay, put in my highest but still below market bid. A few days later my Targa had a 951 stable-mate.

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GCFSB: Were there any problems with the purchase, and what did the post purchase reveal relative to the original description?

Jeff: The purchase went very smoothly. It was a Porsche specialist called Road Scholars in North Carolina that was selling the car. I wired the funds and they overnighted me the title, bill of sale and the service history. The service history on this car was even better than I had expected. The binder contained almost every single document from the very first owner at 1150 miles. It was not chronologically organized and took me an entire day spreading it all out on my living room floor, but it turned out to be truly worth the effort. The history showed how well cared for this car was. It was even a winner at the North New Jersey Region PCA concours in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Unfortunately the window sticker got lost between the most recent owner and Road Scholars though, so I had Stuttgart Studios reproduce a copy. I also sent away for a Porsche COA which confirmed color combo and options. The only misstep in the car’s history was when the most recent owner had an extensive and costly service performed at his BMW dealer in Colorado in October of 2014. The invoice was missing the last two pages. I was able to get in touch with him and he was able to get me a copy of the invoice. Several items that were serviced by that dealer needed to be corrected by my independent Porsche specialist.

-They replaced the motor mounts with incorrect units. Porsche used hydraulic mounts on these without them there can be too much vibration felt.

-They replaced the compressor on the air conditioner, but the condenser was leaking and had to be replaced.

-The owner reported a rough idle that they supposedly “adjusted” but it turned out to be a bad vacuum line.

– The timing belt/water pump had been replaced, but the belt was improperly tensioned. Fortunately the belt was still on good shape and just need to be retensioned correctly.

I asked my indy (Performance Auto of Malvern, PA) do a full going over of the car and aside from those four items which have since been corrected they said it was the cleanest, nicest, most well cared for 944/951 they had ever seen. They even remarked how the belly pans were still in place as these tend to almost always be removed. Can’t say enough good things about Paul, Pete and Ken at Performance Auto. These guys REALLY know their way around these cars and they are VERY reasonably priced.

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GCFSB: Now that you have this low mileage example, are you planning on keeping it as a show and occasional car to keep the mileage down, or will you drive it without worry? Does the car have any needs to address, or any modifications you’re planning?

Jeff: I’m a huge fan of all original lower mileage documented cars. I’ve been down the restoration and customizing route in the past. The costs of those projects always seems to outweigh the enjoyment of the cars and the cars spend most of their time being worked on rather than being driven. With all original cars you just have to be a good steward for the next owner. It’s a no brainer, just maintain and enjoy until you’re ready to move on to the next one.

Cars need to be driven. The worse thing for a car is to let it sit. I really like to drive my cars. I’ll take them on my short commute to work, to Cars and Coffee West Chester, PCA events and The Radnor Hunt Road Rally each year. I can’t stand sitting at shows being judged. Each week I have a Google calendar reminder for which car should be driven that week so no one car gets more use than another. It works out quite well.

GCFSB: In your decision process for buying this type of car, were you looking for something that you thought would be an appreciating asset? Or were you looking for this particular package – and why?

Jeff: I buy what appeals to me at the time. If I can drive it and enjoy it for a little while then it’s been worth it. I don’t think of them as investments. Although it appears 951s have gone up in value since I bought this one. So, I think I’ve done alright with her.

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GCFSB: Besides this pristine 944 Turbo, would you share other cars that you currently own, or notable ones you owned in the past?

Jeff: I was recently up to seven which for me is a tipping point. I really only have room for six max, but four would really be best. So I recently sold one and I’m going to try to replace instead of add from here on out.

Notably the 951 currently shares garage space with a 1987 Guards Red Porsche 911 Targa and a 1987 Buick Grand National. Both are lower mileage, fully documented examples. The Targa is particularly pristine and with all original paint that just looks amazing. There is just nothing like a cool summer evening, targa top off and the sound of that air cooled lump right behind you. I never understood the “air-cooled 911 thing” until I owned one. Now I TOTALLY get it and will never be without an air-cooled in my collection. I just love that funky little car. The Buick is like driving a freight train. Just push on the gas and hold on. I graduated in 1986, so this era of cars are like reliving my youth.I’ve owned dozens of cars. Mostly late 60s to late 80s – a few Mercedes’ (GREAT cars), a couple of Jags, a couple of Mustangs, a Volvo T-5R, a Saab 900 Turbo. I went through an old Cadillac/Lincoln phase for a while and then had nothing but Corvettes for a couple of years. I had a Fathom Green over Saddle ‘69 Corvette convertible, big block, factory air, 4-speed, yadda-yadda-yadda. Beautiful to look at, but it was like playing roulette to see if I’d make it home every time I took it out. I just sold my last Corvette a month ago – a pristine silver over red C3. Local car, one owner with 33,000 miles. Great car. But, I’m just completely over Corvettes and pretty much all American muscle.

The German cars of the era are just soooooo much better and more enjoyable to drive. I’ve never had a BMW, and would really like to try an M6 and/or an Audi Ur-Quattro. Also, I have my eye on 89/90 Nissan Skyline GT-R now that they’re starting to show up here. Maybe someday a Ferrari 348GTS, but my wallet runs a hides every time a start to look at those.

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GCSFB: Jeff, thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us. It sounds like the Turbo is in great hands, excellent company and will enjoy some time both in and out of your garage! Enjoy and keep us updated on what’s next!

-Carter

1987 Porsche 944 Turbo

The last few transaxles I’ve looked at have been a bit eclectic; the 944S was a well priced, good looking driver candidate, but the Turbo S and 924S were both high dollar, ultra-low mileage examples. Is there still a mid-ground? Absolutely, because if you’re willing to look just north of the asking price of many of the normally aspirated models from the 1980s, you can look at the lovely and high performance version of the breed, the 944 Turbo. Introduced in 1986 and upgraded virtually every year, each Turbo model has impressive driving dynamics, are capable of triple digit cruising and are capable and reasonable reliable exotics. Today’s example is presented in more rare to find Nougat Brown with brown Porsche Script interior:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo on eBay

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