I’m back with another “Which would you buy?” scenario, but this one is quite a bit different from the twin S6s I took a peek at over the weekend. Today I’m looking at two very different 80s icons – the GTI and the Porsche 944. In their own right, both were also 80s film stars – the Porsche 944 in John Hughes Sixteen Candles, while the A1 Volkswagen appeared topless in nearly every other movie – most notably, ‘The Coreys’ License to Drive. Today’s subjects are higher performance, driver-oriented examples, and like last time both fall into driver-quality examples. Yet while the performance and original sticker prices of these cars is quite far apart, today in the market they’re not only within reach of budget-minded enthusiasts, but also they’re in direct competition with each other. So which would you score?
Update 12/18/18: After apparently selling last year off of eBay, the second of this duo has returned for sale with a new seller, new photos and a higher $17,500 asking price.
I’ve been ignoring the 944. It’s not that I have changed my opinion, or no longer love the thorn-in-Porsche-purists collective sides. But after spending plenty of time telling everyone what an incredible value the 924/44/68 series are for a while, I just capitulated that the market was unwilling to lift these well-built sports cars to a level which they deserve to be. Or, at the very least, I really felt like they should be on level footing with models that were their contemporaries; the Turbo, for example, which still regularly trades well below Quattro and M3 prices despite superior performance.
Yet while my attention swayed, some light has been shed on the model. As insane prices continue to reign in Munich and the Quattro has begun to rise precipitously over the past year, what was once a sure-bet value has commenced rapid appreciation – at least, in some cases. The high-water mark recent was just set with a 66,000 mile Grand Prix White 968 Coupe which sold for $36,250. That’s big money for the big four-cylinder. While not every single example is going to similarly take off, the writing may be on the wall.
So today I’ve got two 944S2 models to consider. Down on power (211 v. 237 with VarioCam) and a gear from the later model, they’ve always played second-fiddle to the Turbo S/89 Turbo models and the updated 968. Both are presented in the neat color of Baltic Blue Metallic. One is pristine, and one’s more of a project. Which is the one to grab?
While cars like the Audi Quattro and BMW M3 may have popularized boxy flares with their racing credentials to back it up, in my eyes no one pulled off the muscle-bound economy look better than the Porsche 944. The addition of several inches of width and wider wheels to the 924 chassis meant an entirely new feel that mingled with supercar lines instead of Volkswagen lineage. Simply put, they were the most sensual looking German car in the 1980s, and that got even better late in the run with some subtle aero additions that enhanced and updated the look. The smooth Turbo bumpers and rear diffuser carried over to the S2 model, along with some lovely “Design 90” wheels that were also highlighting the 964 model. As Porsche moved to a full update of the watercooled transaxle cars with the introduction of the 968, the outgoing 944S2 even adopted the new “bridge” spoiler design from the not yet introduced model. Turbo looks without the associated power may have seemed strange for Porsche, but the 944S2 was no slouch in its own right. Powered by the M44.41 3-liter inline-4 that had been enlarged from the double overhead cam 944S motor, the 208 horsepower wasn’t as much as the 968 would sport but was still awfully close to what the original 944 Turbo had produced in power, and with instant torque the S2 was, and still is, a very entertaining drive. Hardly cheap, on paper they were not immediately the smart choice for a sports car buyer in 1990 and 1991, as twin-turbocharged monsters from Japan were all the rage and often less expensive than the $50,000 a 944S2 would cost you. With only around 3,600 imported to the U.S., they’re a bit rare to see but offer great Porsche build quality, performance and even practicality in a very attractive package:
As Yogi Berra famously said, it’s deja-vu all over again. If you missed the opportunity to jump in with the two 944 S2s I wrote up last week, you’ve got another opportunity this week, plus one for good luck. Again today we’ve got two of the S2s, in Graphite and Glacier Blue, and a golden 87 944S 16V as well. Perhaps one of these will strike your fancy? Let’s start with the newest: