Here's one for the pub quiz: did you know there was a rear-engined Porsche 944? It emerged in 1981 from the Weissach Development Centre as, and I quote "a top-secret test project." Exciting. Until you see that it was a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre with a 105hp. The engine was commissioned by Volkswagen as one that could be mounted sideways under a floor, so the Porsche engineers stuck it under the 944's boot floor, supplying drive to all-four wheels. Presumably it had something to do with rallying, because the engineers were eventually told to focus on Group B development elsewhere, so clearly that's where their skills lay.
I have good memories of the regular Porsche 944. I have never owned one myself, but my brother had a Turbo in glorious Guards Red - the later model with the 250hp engine. What a lovely thing it was, and I preferred it to the S2 my friend had. You still got the inherent 944 balance - the front-engine transaxle layout that kept the weight evenly distributed - but the 2.5 eight-valve turbo motor just added the extra layer of character that, to my mind, the S2 lacked.
Normally I'm not a big lover of forced induction, but while the S2's 3.0 16-valve motor offered great performance, it always seemed a little insipid. The Turbo, however, was different. Yes, it was still a four cylinder and no, it wasn't in the same league as a 911, but it had some sparkle nevertheless. When the turbo spooled, it switched on and flung you down the road - in a very old-school way with lots of lag - and changed the engine note from humdrum to highly tuned. It sounded good on the inside but from outside it was even better. If I was following behind and my brother hoofed it, the sudden rush of angrily expanding gases being pumped out of the large, oval exhaust in front would certainly give me something to smile about.
They look great, too, don't you think? The 944 has just the right mix of 70s design with a welcome degree of 80s excess. When I look at a 924 and 944 side by side and see those plumper arches, I am reminded of the transformation of a gangly, awkward-looking teenager who's blossomed into a handsome adult. This one isn't cheap, but it presents well and looks to be original, bar (from what I can see) a light smoke on the windows and sympathetic update that encompasses USBs and sat-nav. And it comes to you via the Porsche dealer network for some added peace of mind.
Off the top of my head, there are a few things to look out for when buying a 944. The sunroof gears tend to strip, so make sure it opens and closes as it should. Make sure also that it's had a recent belt change, because you've got the cost of the cambelt and the balancer shaft belts, plus the water pump and tensioners to think about - you may as well while it's stripped. Check the turbo is providing the correct boost, sounds smooth and isn't pumping out smoke.
And on that point, the 944 has Nikasil-coated aluminium bores, so be very wary of anything puffing out blue smoke - if it's bore wear that's a new block. I also remember the Brembo calipers corroding, which causes the pads to stick so the brakes bind. I ended up splitting the calipers and rebuilding them, saving the cost of renewing all four, which at the time was exorbitant, so I can only imagine what it would cost you now.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 944 TURBO
Engine: 2479cc, 4 cylinder, turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 250 @ 6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258 @ 4,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 101,000
Year registered: 1991
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £49,500
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