I was once told by someone far wiser than I that in life, a man must own a certain spectrum of vehicles. Essentially, by maintaining a proper collection of cars, we can experience the finest the world has to offer on a daily basis. For example, one should own a Ferrari, if even only for the briefest of times. Sure, 360s are sliding in prices but even at a $70,000 low end I’m hard pressed to find a DotW from the Prancing Horse brand that I can recommend with a straight face. I was also told that I should spend more than just a few years with a Mercedes Benz, but I’ve already featured one for the Deal of the Week. He further said that I should move from the Benz to a Cadillac, but it has been so long since GM’s luxury offering has actually been luxurious, I don’t think I could advise as such in good conscious. He did say, that while young and unwise, I would without question need to own a Porsche.
Like most that bleed Bavarian Blue and White, I have a strange sort of love hate relationship with the Stuttgart brand. The ass engined super Beetle of death known to rest of the world as the 911 has always held a top spot in my dream garage, regardless of how hard it is to reconcile that it would sit next to an M3. The 911 is one of those cars that is wrong on multiple levels, yet everything that is wrong comes together to be perfect. But deals on 911s really aren’t. You can pick up a 80s pre 964 for cheap, but it isn’t going to be cheap in the long run. The 996s are starting to really come down in price, but as with all modern German cars maintenance is going to break the bank unless you are really into DIY*, and you have to deal with all those idiots that say that Porsche doesn’t make a real Porsche anymore while lovingly gazing at their 993s that haven’t run in months because they can’t afford a new head or rebuild**. But fear not good readers, there is hope.
In 1982, Porsche introduced a front engined, rear driven (“BLASPHEMY”-911 owners) sports car based on the brand’s sports coupe/touring car, the 924. Internally designated the 951, the Porsche 944 was the budget minded (compared to the 911, at least) enthusiast’s choice. It followed the tried and true front engine, rear wheel drive, DIY cogswapper in the center formula that we all love. Offered in a base, Turbo, and Turbo S/S2 specifications, the 944 was well known for not only offering a great drive, but also racing hot on the heels of the 911. This did not go unnoticed by Porsche***, and it is a well respected unofficial truth that the 944 was detuned from the factory in order to not cramp the Carrera. While not blazing fast by today’s standards, the 944 in its Turbo and Turbo S, and S2 configuration will still offer most of us an acceptable level of performance thanks to its low curb weight and decent power output and modibility. The S and S2 will offer better performance, but are harder to find for a deal, much like the 968 that followed. For those that care for such things, it still carries the cachet of being a Porsche, and even most modern 911 owners must tip their hats to the 944.
Finding a Turbo that hasn’t been molested for a good deal is like finding a fair priced Supra. There are specimens out there running around on well over 150k miles with owners feeling put off that they can barely move their metal for the paltry sum of twenty grand. If you are buying a turnkey race car, sure that number seems appropriate. However, if you are like me and considering a 944 as a secondary toy and project car, then picking up something decent to start with is on par with a clutch job on a Carrera GT. Much like picking up one of Germany’s other favored brands, you must look for one that has maintenance records. Be prepared to do a timing belt job every 40-50k miles, and unless you have the prohibitively expensive tool you’ll need a good shop for that. Other things to keep an eye on are a failing water pump and a cracking dash. Further, most examples for sale are pushing thirty years old, so budget accordingly.
Excellence magazine (yes, Porsche owners are that douchy) gives us a range of ten to thirteen seven depending on year and condition for a Turbo. I found this pristine example in Canton, OH. At an advertised 48,000 miles, this has been someone’s garage queen. It is on the third owner, so I would take him to task over the miles. Other than that, the body is straight, the paint is clean, and the interior is nice. It sits right in the mid range of the prices Excellence suggests at $8995, so while not a complete steal, it is a deal for what you are getting. I’d offer $8000 cash as it stands, and work from there. After that, cross one of the wise man’s list. Click here to go to the AutoTrader link.
*Anyone who says Porsche doesn’t make a real 911 any more should be held in the same regards as someone who says a factory turbocharged M car isn’t a real M car. In other words, ignore them.
** You must remember that even though deprication and age has dropped that $65k car down to $20k, you are still paying for repairs and parts from an out of production $65K car.
***Finally, a history lesson. Porsche was actually set to end production of the 911. It had been the same car for almost twenty years when we crossed into 1981. Porsche had every intent to kill the 911 at the end of the 1981 production cycle. However, CEO Peter Schultz nixed that idea from the engineers, indicating that he and future CEOs would keep the 911 alive for what would essentially be the life of the company.