We have 15 years of archives. Links older than a year may have been updated to point to similar cars available to bid on eBay.
Building a track car can be a dirty business. You can start with a branded title car or one with a ton of miles, one in poor shape or maybe just a car that needs a ton of mechanical work. The results aren’t always Roger Penske perfection, but that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun. Indeed, there’s a certain freedom to having a less than perfect, not hugely valuable track-focused weapon. It allows you to head to the circuit without the emotional baggage of what would happen if midway through turn two something let loose. Take today’s 1988 Porsche 944, for example. Thorough upgraded and ready to head to the track, this S2-spec 944 may not be a lot to look at, but the entry price is less than a new set of BBS centerlock wheels for a GT3. No, I’m not joking. I just checked, and it’s $9,800 for a set of BBS FI-R wheels from Tire Rack – without tires, or shipping mind you. See, you could have a whole track car instead and still have $300 left to pay for a track day!
Let’s be honest; going to the track is a bit of an addiction. Few make it out the other side without having at least contemplated heavy and expensive upgrades to their cars. The symptoms of the illness vary from patient to patient, but most exhibit similar characteristics; starting with a somewhat sporty road car, the owners quickly engage in a series of modifications that will make them “faster”. These modifications nearly always degrade the everyday usefulness of your road-going machine, and ultimately no matter how much you modify a street car, it will still be a compromised design. You simply can’t create a track weapon that is road-legal without some compromise. The result, then, is bobble-headed enthusiasts driving their barely-suspended, over cambered and too loud cars around looking – let’s be truthful – a bit of a fool. What’s a smarter option? Well, if you really want to drive faster on track, you find a slow car that someone has already made into a racer. First off, you’re getting into a more pure track car. They’re not road legal generally, so all of the goodies that make life bearable on the street are gone making them lighter. If the build was done right and well, you’re probably saving a lot of money, too. But the real benefit of getting a slower car is that you’re doing more of the driving – ask any racer, and most will say that extracting maximum performance from a slow car is more rewarding than allowing the computers in your GT-R to obliterate the pavement for you. Two of the most popular German cars to hit the track in are here today – the venerable E30 in 325is form, and the iconic Porsche 944. Which will hit the finish line first?
For some time, there has been an ongoing conflict in my head. All of me agrees that the Porsche 944 is a pretty awesome car; great looks, handling and performance in a bargain package with classic Porsche reliability and build quality. But I fight with myself over just which of the Porsche 944s I prefer. Some days, the forced induction Turbo captures my imagination; there’s been a 1989 Turbo in my family now for two decades and it’s a wonderful car. But I have to admit that it’s not been without its problems, and while it’s a cool package it seems almost too predictable as the “go to” “cheap” Porsche. Should it be criticized for being a spectacular performance bargain? That may not be fair, but just like the BMW E30 represents a good balance of performance and practicality, it’s sometimes just too popular for me. What’s the alternative? Well, the 944 has its own answer: the 944S2. Visually, the two are nearly indistinguishable to most non-enthusiasts. But the driving experience is quite different; the M44/51 turbo motor is legendary as a tuning platform and offers typical ’80s lag-prone explosive launches, while the M44/41 big 3.0 16V motor has seemingly effortless torque at your disposal but loves to run up the tach as well. Stand on it in a drag race, and the Turbo will win – nearly a second faster to 60 miles per an hour and 5 m.p.h. faster on the top end. But if you’re a clever S2 driver and catch the Turbo slightly off-guard, you’ll be right with them – and the S2 isn’t about drag racing, it’s about making a better all-around driver. So the S2 is the better choice? Well, perhaps – but then there’s the mystique of the Turbo model. Who doesn’t want to say they own a Porsche Turbo, really? Today I have an example of each – which will be the winner?