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944 [1982 à 1991]

Porsche 930 Turbo vs 944 Turbo… Préjugés !

Finalement, tout les oppose. L’une à un 4 cylindre, l’autre un Flat 6 refroidi par air. L’une à le moteur à l’avant pendant que l’autre l’a dans son sac à dos. L’une à une ligne carré avec pop up et l’autre est une grenouille rondouillarde aux courbes musclées. Pourtant, les deux embarquent une bricole qui […]

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Is There A Better Car For Weekend Drives Than A Porsche 944?

This 1984 Porsche 944 is an incredible tool for certain purposes. For the purposes of driving some of the best roads in coastal Southern California, it may be one of the best tools. This particular example is a European model, originally delivered to a customer in Germany, which means it has a manual steering rack deemed too raw and unfiltered for an American audience (only 1983 US-spec 944s had manual steering). It’s a non-sunroof car, which is a true rarity, and features a gorgeous, if faded, pasha interior. It’s comfortable and dynamically engaging, and while the A/C does not currently function, the serpentine belt squeals on cold starts, and the whole car smells of fuel with a full tank, it’s been a great pleasure to drive this thing for the last year or so.

[Before we continue, I’m going to disclose a few things. I am a part-owner and co-founder of RADwood events. The event I attended in this story, the Coastal Range Rally, is planned and executed by two of my business partners, both members of the Driving While Awesome! team, though I did pay the event’s entry fee myself. Some of the components on this car were supplied gratis, including the Group 4 wheels, and Pirelli P6000 tires (supplied by TireRack). With all of that said, let’s get on with the story.]

In order to prepare for the rally, I first had to swap in a spare transmission as the original differential decided it was done working this winter. Once that was all buttoned up, the clutch hydraulic system failed on the test drive. And of course, in the process of removing the starter from the car to access the clutch slave cylinder, the starter solenoid gave up the ghost. It’s always something with old cars, am I right? Once it was all buttoned up, I took the car for a 50 mile test drive in the mountains (top shot) and called it sorted. The rally was just a week away, and it was as good as it was going to be.

Packed up with rations for myself and a co-driver, I hit the road for four massive days of driving that could not have gone better if I had planned it in advance.

The first order of business is the trip from my home in Reno to pick up my rally co-driver Adam in Orange County. It’s a good long 8 hours of pensive solo driving to get down there, but luckily I enjoy racking up miles. The weather to the west looked nice on the radar, so I took the simple route of I-80 over to CA99 south. It was the boring route, but it’d get me there quickly. Last year I went on this same rally with Adam in my 76 912E, and we had an absolute blast, aside from a minor breakdown. Why not try it again in a different car?

I left my comfy cozy Reno home at dawn and headed across the Sierra mountain range. The weather at the Donner pass summit was cold, and surprisingly snowy, but I didn’t need snow chains, thankfully. This snow has been piling up all winter, and it’s not going anywhere for at least a few months more. Wild to see it that tall, though.

Day one was absolutely uneventful. Once I’d convened with Adam, and we had a bit of dinner, we headed to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the participants at the start of the rally in Palmdale. If you’re not familiar with the geography of SoCal, Palmdale is a bit inland and northeast from Los Angeles. There isn’t much there to speak of, but it allows for easy access to the northern end of the roads in the Angeles Forest.

The next morning we met up for a quick hello with everyone on the event. Through three years of attending these rallys, I’ve become quite friendly with many of the other drivers, and the ongoing joke is that this is something of a weekend camp for big car-loving kids. We’ll happily trot across the length of California a couple times a year to enjoy these tremendous roads together. With frequent stops every day to chat about cars and life, it’s easy to see why this community comes together the way it does.

In that first stint before lunch I became quite impressed with the quality of the Pirelli tires under foot. While I will admit that I’d selected the P6000 tire (in 215/60-15 sizes on all four corners) for this application based largely on aesthetic reasoning, I was floored by how competent these were when combined with the neutral handling character of the 944. There was a seriously impressive amount of grip in all circumstances, even across some of the sections that had seen water and dirt from recent rains and minor mudslides. While this particular 944 is equipped with some thin factory anti-roll bars, and it does wallow a little in corners, the tires kept everything under control. Even with tall sidewalls, it was easy to recognize that there was far more deflection in the suspension than in the tire itself. Even by pitching the car into a tight corner and sawing the wheel sharply, the grip did not relent, and as I approached the outside of the limits of lateral adhesion, the tire communicated quite well, and groaned audibly at the limit.

It’s good to know that you can still get a good set of vintage-looking tires from a reputable source. I live just a few dozen miles from Tire Rack’s Nevada warehouse, so it’s quite easy for me to pick up from them and take fresh tires to an installer. When combined with the bronze Campagnolo replicas, this car looks like it’s straight out of a 1980s tarmac rally stage, which is perfect for my aesthetically minded desires. Thankfully the performance doesn’t suffer because I like my car to look good.

Day one of the rally saw us running down some roads that you may be familiar with if you watch some car YouTube folks from Southern California, including Aliso Canyon, Angeles Crest Highway, Little and Big Tujunga Canyon, and on up to Agua Dulce for a lunch meetup. Post lunch it was more of the same with a blast to Ventura for the evening.

Saturday woke with the promise of even more awesome driving. I climbed aboard the good ship 944 for a run from Ventura to a tiny little town called Taft for lunch. This was perhaps my favorite segment of the whole day, as the two towns are connected by a twisting and winding Highway 33 that runs up one side of a mountain and down the other. It’s about 100 miles of absolutely gorgeous mountain roads that dumps out at the edge of the desolate and empty Carrizo Plains. With the recent record level rain fall, we were lucky to witness a beautiful desert in the midst of a super bloom.

It’s a good thing I’d packed plenty of provisions, because the tiny town of Taft never saw our group coming. With around 100 cars participating on this tour, the lunch rush was more than many restaurants could handle. After sitting in one for over an hour without any indication that they had even started on our order, we paid for our drinks and got back on the road with a Clif bar and a fistful of jerky. There’s more driving to be done, let’s get on with it!

On last year’s running of the rally, my little 912E had an unfortunate breakdown that took us a couple of hours to diagnose. Adam and I accepted some gracious help from Jason Cammisa to get back on the road, and it’s run better than ever since.

This year, as our 944 was running like an absolute champion, we stopped in the same location to pay homage to our former failings. We left the car running just in case anything were to go wrong, but it all went off without a hitch and we got back in the car for more rippin’ driving.

Down at the bottom of the hill, we had a short transit out to see the beautiful Soda Lake. While usually the lake is a white and barren desert of dry, the recent rains had dumped enough water to fill it to about half-full. I’d never actually seen the lake with water in it, so it was pretty cool to witness, especially with all of the little yellow blossoms carpeting the hills behind.

Day two ended in Paso Robles with a dinner of delicious and well-earned tacos. It was an incredibly fun weekend, but it was time for me to return to the real world. Sunday my co-driver and I returned back to his Orange County home, and then Monday morning saw me making the 500-mile trek back home to Reno, just me and the 944 again.

Life is nothing more than a collection of fun memories among friends. You won’t remember anything else but the experiences you’ve accumulated together. I will always recommend a weekend spent driving with friends over buying some new piece of technology or renovating your bathroom. Will you remember the shade of tile you selected when you’re on your death bed? Get in your car and go for a rip this weekend with friends, you deserve it. Oh, and if you can, take a 944. You won’t regret it.

 

  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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@racing_ali caught a pic of @hove.ab and @turbohbrad fording some water in the #Rad44. What a great day to get rad on the #CRRRewind!

A post shared by RADwood (@radwoodofficial) on

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Project 944 GTS: New Seats and Catching Up

Flatsixes readers haven’t heard from Project 944 GTS in over a year, and in that time we haven’t been wholly idle. The car has seen a lot of use, and a fair amount of work has been handled by professionals rather than myself. As it happens, most real mechanics don’t like bespectacled Porsche nerds hanging over their shoulder with a camera, making some of it hard to document. Annoying, but worth considering if you wish to maintain a good relationship with your mechanic. This past weekend I installed some new seats in Project 944 GTS, and figured it was time to update everyone on the status of the car.

Credit to Kleigh O Photos.

Work Borne of Necessity

For reasons unrelated to the 944, 2018 was a busy year for me. I got married back in August, and my wife and I opted to use the Porsche as our transportation to and from the wedding. This moved up some planned maintenance to ensure that I wouldn’t leave my wedding in a haze. A cylinder head rebuild that I had planned for this winter got bumped up to before the wedding, and took the car off the road for a few weeks. Being a ~90k mile S, the valve guides were worn, and the car was prone to occasional oil smoke.

This led to some, « well, while we’re in there, » services and modifications. As most of you are aware, this can be an expensive rabbit hole to fall in to. The previous owner had modified the factory exhaust, eliminating the rear muffler and installing a resonator in its place, terminating in a chrome oval tip before the rear bumper. Coupled with a rich running condition that was present when I bought the car, the underside of the bumper was scorched and sooty. Though I had addressed the richness, the exhaust system really had to go.

Enhancing Flow

While the head was off I decided to replace every part of the exhaust. Everything from the exhaust manifold gasket to the back of the car required a re-think. A set of headers were sourced from the good people at MSDS, and I had them ceramic coated by Jet-Hot. My mechanic then fabricated a custom stainless-steel exhaust system. This included a 50-state high-flow catalytic converter secured with V-bands, a single Borla muffler, and a simple slash-cut tip.

The new system is significantly quieter at idle than the previous system, which has improved relations with my neighbors. The new exhaust is also less bellowy throughout the rev range, and sounds more like ripping burlap than unchecked-flatulence at high RPMs. Thanks to the rebuilt head (which unfortunately, doesn’t look much different from the outside), the car feels far stronger, and has lost its penchant for burning oil.

Sport Seats

About a year ago, a family friend and Porsche enthusiast passed away. Upon his passing his brother enlisted my dad’s help to clean out his barn, which was then a trove of spare parts and some oddball non-Porsche cars (including an ASC-Mclaren Mercury Capri convertible). While many things were sold off, they found a set of grungy sport seats, and asked if I wanted them. Being filled with cleaning-confidence from hours of Larry Kosilla Youtube videos, I gladly accepted the seats.

The seats were completely caked in ground-in dirt. When I initially got them they also smelled a bit off, so they went in to storage at my house for a while to let them air out. After cleaning with foaming upholstery cleaner and a soft brush, the seats rapidly looked better and better. With my optimism apparently justified, I rented a steam cleaner, and gave the seats a few more passes. After this they didn’t look new, but I was shocked by the transformation.

Swapping seats in a 944 is not much of a job. Six bolts secure both seats, and are easy to remove with an allen key. Perhaps the most challenging part of the job was reconciling my own cleanliness with how much stuff worked its way under the inner seat rail over three decades fixed in place, including about $2 in mixed change.

Unfortunately, the weather has not been conducive to getting the car out for a drive. The car is stored in a family member’s garage, atop a 1,500 foot long dirt driveway that is currently sheeted in ice. While I certainly would have made it to the base, getting the car back in the garage would have been nearly impossible. Hopefully it’ll be just a few more weeks until I can actually retrieve the car from its winter retreat.

We are not done with Project 944 GTS, and more changes are on the way for the car, which really needs to earn its moniker. Watch this space for more updates!

Catch up on Project 944 GTS

PROJECT 944 GTS- PART 1: INTRODUCTION

PROJECT 944 GTS PART 2: THE SWAY BAR AND THE ALL WEATHER SPORTS CAR

Project 944 GTS Mini Update: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

PROJECT 944 GTS- PART 3: SHORT SHIFTER AND NEW LEATHER

Project 944 GTS Mini Update: Lights, Hatch Issues and Parts Delays

PROJECT 944 GTS PART 4: Chipped!

Project 944 GTS Mini Update: Rear Konis and Snapped Nuts

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This 1986 944 Turbo Just Sold For $74,000: Is It A Sign Of Things To Come?

Has the 944’s time finally come? The model’s popularity has led to a steady upward creep in prices in recent years, and this recent BAT result may just be the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, even Jerry Seinfeld is getting in on the action, having just acquired a black Turbo and this S2 Cabriolet. This 5k-mile 1986 Turbo just smashed Bring a Trailer’s auction record for the model, doubling the previous top result for a 944 Turbo, and besting the previous top 944 sale by more than $30k. At $74k, this Pearl White coupe has reached beyond the model’s typically-modest pricing, and well into territory normally occupied by low-mile Supra Turbos, Ferrari 328s, and well-optioned 993s.

Photo from Bring a Trailer

This result is the latest in a streak of increasingly impressive results for the model. Recent results from other auction houses, including an impressive $72,600 result at Gooding & Co’s Monterey sale, have approached the result achieved on BAT. According to the included original window sticker the car originally sold for $33,600, meaning that over three decades the car more than doubled its original sticker price, and roughly kept pace with inflation.

Photo from Bring a Trailer

Credit is due to the seller’s exceptionally thorough approach. While BAT sellers are generally very thorough, with galleries often creeping beyond 150 images, this seller went above and beyond with over 400 images. Everything from paint meter readings, to the stampings inside the included set of color-keyed Fuchs wheels were documented. It is pretty clear that this is an exceptional 944 Turbo.

Interestingly, this car came from the same town as the Utlimate Enthusiast Garage featured here in 2017, though it was not owned by the same person. It’s pretty clear, however, that this car lived an extremely pampered life.

While aficionados may argue about the merits of this first-year Turbo compared to the later cars, we challenge anyone to find another comparable Turbo of any year. The real question with this car is whether to keep the phonedials on the car, or mount up those deliciously-’80s Pearl White Fuchs.

Photos from Bring a Trailer LLC used with permission.

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Is Subaru’s BRZ the spiritual successor to Porsche’s iconic 944?

Despite our name, Flatsixes loves transaxle Porsches. Between Bradley and myself, we currently own four 944s and 924s. Project 944 GTS, (which will have an update soon, by the way) is among my favorite cars I’ve ever owned. Barring often extremely cheap early Boxsters, it’s hard to beat the 944’s smile per dollar ratio. That said, the newest 944s are nearly as old as I am. While that’s young for a human, nearly three decades is quite elderly for a sports car, especially one you want to use every day.

Enter the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86.

Jakob and Yuri from the Straight Pipes posited that in terms of driving fun, the BR-Z is like a junior 911. We don’t think that’s accurate. While it does have a slightly Porsche-like boxer engine, that is about where the similarities between the BRZ and Porsche’s senior sports car end. I would argue that the BRZ is the spiritual heir to the 944.

An Unlikely Pair

When the nigh-identical Toyobaru twins debuted back in 2012, they were immediately the subject of criticism. While the pair offered excellent driving dynamics, their modest output has been continually under fire since their debut. In an era of 400+ horsepower Mustangs, a 200 horsepower sports coupe seems rather underwhelming. Indeed, 200 horsepower is solidly in hot hatch territory rather than sports car territory in 2019. Just a few horsepower separate the pair from my own Fiesta ST.

For long time Porsche fans, this all sounds rather familiar. When the 924 launched in the 1970s, its double-digit output wasn’t even impressive for the depths of the malaise era; a sad time when 150 horsepower Corvettes and 140 horsepower Mustang IIs were top-sellers in the United States. These criticisms followed the 924 through its first evolution into the 944. Though power was up significantly, to about 150 horsepower, the car was not going to win the stoplight drags, despite coming with a significantly higher pricetag than Corvette and Mustang.

But, the 944 and the Toyobaru are not meant for that- they are designed to deliver driving pleasure in a different way. Through superbly balanced chassis, the 944 and BRZ are meant to be engaging when the road winds, not when it snaps straight. The BRZ is more overtly meant to slide than the 944, blame the low rolling resistance tires installed on most variants. With grippier rubber the BRZ can do a credible imitation of the 30-year old Porsche.

Indeed, getting out of my ~200 horsepower 944S and in to a BRZ feels more like reinterpretation than revolution. The dashes are simple, all the controls are driver oriented, even the reach from the steering wheel to the shifter is nearly the same. From the driver’s seat, the two are most clearly separated by their steering. Compared to the quick ratio rack in the Subaru, the Porsche’s sluggish rack feels rather bus-like.

The Porsches do have some advantages; where the BRZ has craved more power from the beginning, Porsche answered the brought out more powerful models midway through the 944’s life cycle. The 2.5-liter S offers slightly less power than a BRZ, but the Turbo, Turbo S, S2, and 968 all have a power advantage over the Subaru. Barring the early 8-valve cars, every 944 offers more torque than the BRZ, making it an easy car to drive in traffic.

The 944’s big aluminum four also sounds significantly better than the Subaru’s boxer, though that may just be my biases talking.

Takeaways

Though one car was designed as an entry-level sports-luxury car, and the other as a tuner’s dream, the Subaru/Toyota, and Porsche have a lot in common. Yuri and Jakob felt that the BRZ was like a Porsche on a budget, though that is only when compared to the 911. With the exception of rare or very low mileage cars, most 944s are still significantly cheaper than a new BRZ (or most used ones, for that matter).

For those of us who want to scratch the 944 itch, but need the security that comes with a new car and a warranty, the BRZ is about as close as you can get to the classic transaxle Porsche formula.

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