944 Buyers Guide

The words budget and Porsche, are rarely found in the same sentence, particularly when discussing 911s. Yet in the case of one Porsche it is actually true. Because for the price of a tatty example of perhaps the most undesirable of 911s, such as the 150bhp mid '70s 911Lux, you could be in the driving seat of a superbly balanced and more powerful Porsche 944.

How much, how fast?

With prices ranging from £1500 for early cars and topping out at around £8-9,000 for late low mileage and mint Turbo examples, the 944 was available in many different guises and is affordable on almost any budget.

At the very bottom of the budget we have the 1982-1988 2.5 litre 944Lux which is not only the cheapest 944 to purchase, but also the cheapest to run. Examples are available for not much more than a thousand pounds or so, but unless you are building a track car, or are really handy with the spanners and like a challenge, it is best to budget in the £2,500-£4000 area where surprisingly good examples - such as the car pictured here, can be found.

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Although it is capable of almost 140mph the 944 Lux is not rocket ship fast in performance terms, with similar power to a TVR S, but weighing around an extra 250kg. The 163bhp four cylinder engine which is essentially half of the 928s V8, is however a reliable powerplant offering good midrange torque, a possible 30mpg and if regularly serviced, the engine should be good for over 250,000 miles without a rebuild. The 2.7 litre engine replaced the 2.5 unit in the Lux in 1988, it only had a few more bhp but the midrange torque was noticeably improved.

The cheap choice

Other than the cheaper purchase price, two main factors make the 2.5Lux such a good budget buy over later 944s. Firstly the unlike the later 16v cars such as the 944S and the S2, the 8v Lux (along with the Turbo models) is not equipped with the potentially troublesome chain tensioner unit situated between the twin camshafts. This unit is quite a common weak point and although regular mantenance minimises this risk, its failure can basically destroy the top end of the 16v engines, resulting in a bill that could basicaly purchace an entire 944Lux!

A fine set of callipers

The second budget advantage of the Lux is with regard to the braking department. The early cars feature large cast brake callipers more akin to something the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel created for his steam locomotives. They may not be items of beauty and you don't get the famous PORSCHE letters appearing behind your alloy wheels, however they are still strong & powerful, with huge advantages over the later 944s alloy callipers. This is because over time, the alloy callipers can corrode and react with the brake pads steel backing plates, this problem can result in quite large expenditure at service time.

Younger & more expensive brothers

The most powerful 944 is the 2.5 litre Turbo which was available in both 220 & 250bhp forms. Both are easily uprated quite cheaply, with a reliable 300bhp easily achievable from the 250bhp unit without even changing the turbo. Many enthusiasts rate the 211bhp S2 as the best all round 944 however, with its torquey & free revving 3.0 litre normally aspirated engine.

Billy no mates

Many consider the 944S, which essentially is the 944 Lux engine with a 16v cylinder head, to be the runt of the 944 litter. I disagree, as although the S may not have the power & torque of the S2 & Turbo models, this car with its rev happy engine, can be a heck of a giggle to drive fast. Rather like 16v engines in hot hatchbacks, the engine does need to be worked hard to really feel its 190bhp, however it does offer a noticeable power boost over the Lux if you bounce it off the red line at every gear change.

What does 'Oval Dash' mean?

In late 1985 came the updated dashboard that is commonly known as the oval dash. The oval dash does however lack the Italian sports car like separate instrument pods of the early cars and I quite like the design of the early dash, paricually the quirky wrong way round rev counter. The updated arrangement will however appeal to most, as it looks much more modern and the bonus is it offers improved ventilation.

Sweet handling

The handling of the 944 is what most journalists and indeed owners rave about, with the rear mounted gearbox producing predictable and balanced characteristics. Indeed many people agree that the 968CS is one of the best ever handling Porsches, and in essence the 968CS is a facelift model 944 with the MO30 sport option.

Track frolics

It is worth remembering, if track days are your thing, that much of the 968CS suspension can be transplanted on to the 944. Although an early 944 Lux may not possess the 240bhp of the 968CS, it is however almost 200kg lighter in standard form, so can make a great base for a fun & great handling track car.

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Those with larger budgets often use the 944 turbo as a base for very rapid road driveable track cars, with easily uprated power from just simple modifications. Supercar humbling lap times are possible if more involved engine tuning and uprated turbos are used, along with suspension changes.

How the 944 made the Japanese over a million $

Due to the Japanese car firm Mitsubishi, holding the patent for the unique balance shaft system - that smoothes out the lumpyness of the big four cylinder 944 engine - Porsche had to pay $8 to Mitsubishi for every time they used this system, which made them a tidy profit with well over 163,000 944s sold. So if you ever meet Mr Mitsubishi and he tells you that the 944 is a "velly glood car" its probabally not the driving dynamics he is praising!

944 Models & key dates

1982 944 first introduced, one model the 2.5 Lux
1985 Update inc oval dashboard & the battery now placed in the boot, 220bhp turbo introduced
1986 944S introduced
1988 Lux gets 2.7 litre engine, 944S discontinued, limited edition 250bhp Turbo SE model introduced with special equipment inc M030 handling pack i.e. brakes suspension & LSD.
1989 S2 introduced, & Turbo has 250bhp as standard, Lux discontinued

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1990 Turbo coupe discontinued
1991 Turbo Cabrio introduced
1992 944 discontinued, replaced by 968

Links: [links]944|porsche944[/links], 944 Owners

Comments (38) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Thom 15 Jan 2003

    Nice comprehensive short article.

    (Just one little error:

    in essence the 968CS is a facelift model 944 with the MO30 sport option.

    The M030 was offered as an option on the CS; it was not a standard fitment

    Also the 944 Turbo was still for sale in 1991, maybe not in the UK though...)

    >>> Edited by Thom on Wednesday 15th January 18:58

  • dazren 15 Jan 2003

    Nice work Doc.


  • jamer 16 Jan 2003

    What you need is a £5K BMW M6 CSi on classified, 150MPH, 285 bhp, 250 lbft torque

  • Basil Brush 16 Jan 2003

    It's nice to see someone being positive about the 944S too. Makes a change from the it normally receives.

    Happy Runt Owner

  • williamp 16 Jan 2003

    Basil Brush said: It's nice to see someone being positive about the 944S too. Makes a change from the it normally receives.

    Happy Runt Owner

    Here here Basil. Mine's a 944S as well. Are you going to the Virginia water meet??

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