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The time to buy a Porsche 944 is now… 

If you ever wanted a Porsche 944, or if you think you may want one in the future… my gut tells me the time to start looking is now.  

Porsche 944 Gulf

Why I’m an expert…

I’m not an expert lol. And honestly you might want to run everything I say through a BS filter, because usually it’s my heart that does all the talking, thinking, & convincing… not logic. BUUUT I had a gut feeling about 7-8 years ago that I needed to jump on a < $10,000 911SC, and I’m sure glad I did. 

John Players 944

Anyway, when it comes to the Porsche 944…

I feel something stirring. See, a lot of the air-cooled 911 guys were recreationally racing 944s 10-20 years ago. The racing was close, competitive, and fun. But eventually, the 944s kind of started to age out as viable cheap low maintenance race cars… and a lot of those people moved over to Miatas & E36 BMWs. But now – there seems to be some activity & chatter from these guys around the 944s again. And this time, it’s more from a collector & retro/vintage standpoint, rather than just a cheap race car motive.

Porsche 944 martini

To put it plain: Porsche enthusiasts with car collections & dollars to burn… are starting to scoop up 944s again. 

It starts at the top with the most significant models – like Cup Cars, Turbos, S2’s, and/or low mileage cars. That’s how these bubbles begin… but then they ultimately grow & work their way through to the standard models. Right now the top-model 944s are bringing good money. The decent-to-nicer examples of regular 944s have started ticking up a bit. And the more ‘seasoned’ cars with some issues & abuse are still dirt cheap… today. All pointing to the fact that the time to buy a Porsche 944 is now. Historically, every vintage Porsche has its day. Even the 914. Even the 912. Why wouldn’t the 944?

Porsche 944 GTP IMSA

The 944 is iconic… 

Porsche as a whole worked its way deep into pop culture in the 80’s, and the 944 was no exception. The car was in movies; the car was romanticized. The 944’s exterior design set the bar for mid-priced sports cars in that era. It’s the sports car all the Japanese auto manufacturers had in their crosshairs. It seems like whatever Porsche did with the 944, Japan did a few years later. Turbos, flared fenders, dashboard designs, etc. 

When you look back at the timeline, it seems like the 944’s smooth & curved dash update in 1985.5 sent abrupt design shockwaves through the industry. Square was out; curves were in. And this trend held strong straight through the 90s. The 944 brought a lot of creative engineering, like a frontend-mounted engine & rearend-mounted transmission for near-perfect balance. And – it’s the car that saved Porsche’s financial ass in the 80s. The 944 is significant to the Porsche brand, and its automotive era. 

lowered 944

You might point out that Porsche made too many 944s to ever be valuable… 

But here’s the thing: Porsche enthusiasts have crashed, scrapped, or caged A LOT of them over the decades. As mentioned earlier, many 944s became weekend track toys. And because 944s were at a lower price-point Porsche than the 911, and because there were more of them made, 944s obviously didn’t hold their value as well as the 911. Which means when they started to have any serious mechanical issues, a lot of them weren’t financially worth saving. In other words, a mechanical failure or track fender-bender that was worth fixing on a 911, could be terminal for a 944. Plus there’s a 2nd real-world issue, that 944s got cheap to buy as they aged… but they weren’t & aren’t necessarily cheap to maintain. People could afford to buy the car, but could not afford to keep up with the maintenance. So they’d let it slip, until there was a real problem. Then you’re right back at square-1 where the cars aren’t worth saving.

Cut to present day: You look around, and where the did all the 944s go?? Add in a slick 944-owning social media influencer or two, and boom you’ve got your 944 bubble. 

tail of the dragon

What to look for at a glance…

The early model 944s were made from 1983 (in the US) to early 1985, with a 8v 2.5 liter.

Then in 1985.5 (mid-year change), the 944 got a lot of updates. The engine & horsepower actually stayed the same, but Porsche revised all the electronics. Wiring harnesses, gauges, and interior switches were all improved a lot. The ergonomics of the car got better overall, as things were just more comfortable, quiet, and easier to reach. Control arms went to cast aluminum rather than stamped steel. The car got better sound deadening & window trim, yada yada. 

Castrol 944

There were special performance variations over the years…

Like the Turbo models with a boosted 2.5, the S with a 16v 2.5, and the S2 with a 16v 3-liter (big 4-cylinder engine). But in keeping it simple for this article’s sake…

The standard 944 made slightly more horsepower for 1988, because Porsche used a slightly higher compression piston. 

Then in 1989, Porsche went to a 2.7-liter on the standard 944… over the 2.5 they’d been using until that point. 

If the price is the same, most people will choose a 1985.5+ over an early model 944, as it is a ‘better’ car. But as time passes & the cars become more vintage, there is a certain level of appeal growing for the imperfections of the early pre-1985.5 cars. A nostalgia back to when real sports cars were more awkward, crappy, and inconvenient. 

If you’re looking for additional sources & information, be sure to check out @944barn and Motor Werks Racing. They are good friends of S3, and incredibly knowledgeable on 944s. Photos by J. Tony Serna & Elliott Grafton. PS: Most of these 944s have been featured in S3 over the years, so be sure to subscribe to the print mag if you like the content.

Motor Werks Racing Rothmans 944

Muteki lug nuts