While the 924 never really shook off its VW origins, the Porsche 944 was an altogether different beast. An all new slant 4 engine was essentially half of a 928 engine, giving it genuine Porsche pedigree, reflected in the power and durability of the unit. The rest of the car was heavily evolved from the 924 with timeless looks, a great power to weight ratio, even in 2.5 guise, and it is one of the best handling Porsches ever made.
If, like us, you have always fancied owning a 944, hopefully this Porsche 944 Specialist Guide will help you find a good one.
As with most exotic cars, buying a good one to start with is critical. Even though values are rising, a nut and bolt restoration is still not a viable financial proposition unless you have the skills to do the work yourself.
The most important thing is the condition of the bodywork. Walk away from any signs of accident damage in the form or poor panel gaps. Equally be very wary of rust. If in doubt walk away again – there are enough good ones out there to avoid the expense of extensive rebuilds.
Mechanically you can take a few more risks. These are very strong cars and the engines will do huge mileages if properly maintained, as will gearboxes. Given their age, most cars will have one or two electrical issues but these should not be walk away issues.
We would always advise against cars that are modified in any way – originality is key to long term value as well as reliability.
Mobile Porsche Specialist is based in Berkshire and we have just travelled all the way to Cheshire to retrieve our new 1987 Porsche 944 2.5. Below are some of the things that we looked out for – hopefully useful to you.
Engine and Gearbox
- The engine should have been serviced every year or 12000 miles. If there is poor service history, while it might not be terminal for the engine, it says all you need to know about how well the car has been maintained – walk away! Properly serviced with an annual oil change these engines go on and on – there are lots of cars running beautifully with over 250k miles on the clock. However look for smoke on higher mileage cars. It might just be valve gear but bore wear / piston rings would be expensive.
- Timing belts must be replaced every 4 years or 48000 miles and we recommend replacing the water pump at the same time. If there is not clear evidence of the timing belt having been replaced in the last 4 years, then do it urgently. Failure is terminal.
- The more complex 16 valve engines are slightly more fragile than the 8 valve due to the small toothed belt which drives the exhaust cam – this needs to be change every 4 years.
- White sludge in the coolant header tank could indicate a cylinder head gasket failure
- Oil leaks around the oil pressure sender, oil cooler, balance shafts and camshaft are not walk away issues but will mount up in labour.
- Vibration at idle is most likely worn engine mounts, rather than something more terminal.
- The ignition system is weak and these cars are notorious for not starting and cutting out. Not starting and / or cutting out when warm due to no spark is likely to be the DME relay, a well-known 944 weakness – it is almost worth carrying a spare. Coils are unlikely to go but just routinely replace the distributor cap and rotor arm. The crankshaft speed and reference sensors are the other main culprit to non starting and you can check their resistance to see if they are faulty. If still no spark, check the DME ECU and the loom between it and the sensors. You will get there in the end.
- Steering pumps and racks can leak, as can power steering pumps, although the latter may just be old hose clips.
- Gearboxes are tough and long lasting whether manual or automatic. Any whines from the rear are likely to be differential bearings.
- You may find leaks from the two output shaft seals. Regardless, we would always do a transmission oil change, unless there really was evidence of a recent one.
- Check the clutch as you would on any car. There should be no slip or judder. If there is, it is not terminal but you will face a big bill compared to less exotic machinery.
- Starter motors are all slow on 944s.
- Assuming no accident damage, your biggest worry is rust. These cars are 30 years old and many are still used as daily drivers.
- Rust areas are fairly obvious:
- Check the sills, especially if there is under seal painted on them
- Muck collects in the bottom of the front wings, causing corrosion
- There may be blisters between the front wing and bumper and the rear panel and bumper. If there is a blister there will be a hole.
- Check around the windscreen for blisters.
- Have a good look underneath, in particular where the rear beam mounts to the body, which would be an expensive MOT failure if corroded.
- Wet carpets may indicate a leaking sunroof due to old rubber or a broken mechanism. Check that all is working properly.
- As with all Porsches, welcome to a life of stone chips! A few will indicate an honest car but if there are lots you will need a front-end paint job. It may then be worth wrapping the front in protective film.
- Despite the name you are just looking for the usual suspects. Bangs and clonks mean work but do not mean you have a bad car. Ball joints are the usual suspect and the rear anti-roll bar bushes can wear.
- If your 944 handling is not razor sharp, go looking for some play – not big money but worth getting suspension perfect for your enjoyment.
- If the car has not been used recently you may find that one or more of the brake callipers stick and the brakes bind, requiring a straightforward strip and rebuild.
- With the Porsche 944 now around 30 years old it is reasonable to expect some electrical problems to check what is and is not working. No need to walk away if something is not working but you need to budget for some work.
- Known weak spots are slow windows, stuck mirror adjusters, rear wash wipes, headlamps not raising, and fan problems so make sure you check all of these.
- Typically 70s/80s Porsche, the 944 interior is functional rather than luxurious. The condition of the interior tells you a lot about how the car has been treated by previous owners. Be wary of one that is heavily worn.
- Most materials are hard wearing but seat fabrics can wear with re-trimming being a costly route.
- 30 year old rubber will likely be perished and the boot seals might be leaking, resulting in fumes and a wet boot.
- The luggage blinds often do not retract fully.
- Bonnet and boot struts are not particularly long lasting.
Mobile Porsche Specialist is a mobile specialist. We bring our state of the art mobile workshop to you. We have Porsche specific diagnostics and a ramp for all of those jobs done from underneath. If you would like help with your Porsche 944 please contact us for a no obligation chat.