"I couldn't find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself"

- Ferdinand Porsche

Porsche 944 Facts

 
1986 Porsche 944 Turbo coupe
Manufacturer Porsche
Production 1982–1991
Assembly Neckarsulm, Germany
Predecessor Porsche 924
Successor Porsche 968
Class Sports car
Body style(s) 2-door coupe
2-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Engine(s) 2.5 L I4
2.7 L I4
3.0 L I4
Transmission(s) 3-speed automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 94.5 in (2400 mm)
Length 1986-88: 170.0 in (4318 mm)
Turbo: 168.8 in (4288 mm)
1989–1991: 168.9 in (4290 mm)
Width 68.3 in (1735 mm)
Height 50.2 in (1275 mm)
Curb weight pre-85.5: 1180 kg (2778 lb)
85.5+: 1330 kg (2932 lb)

The Porsche 944 is a sports car built by Porsche from 1982 to 1991. It was built on the same platform as the 924, although 924 production continued through 1988. The 944 was intended to last into the 1990s, but major revisions planned for a 944 S3 model were eventually rolled into the 968 instead, which replaced the 944. The 944 was a successful model and was available as both a coupe and cabriolet in naturally aspirated and turbocharged forms.

History and model overview

Year Model Power
1983 - 1986 944 2.5L 150 hp
1987 - 1988 944 2.5L 163 hp
1987 - 1988 944S 2.5L 189 hp
1989 944 2.7 L 175 hp
1989 - 1991 944S2 3.0L 208 hp
1986 - 1988 944 turbo (951) 220 hp
1988 - 1991 944 turbo S (951) 247 hp

1985–1991 Porsche 944

 

The Porsche 924 had originally been a project of VW-Porsche a joint Porsche/Volkswagen company created to develop and produce the 914 which was sold in Europe as both a Porsche and a Volkswagen. In 1972 a replacement for the Volkswagen version of the 914, code named EA-425 began development. The model was to be sold as an Audi as part of the VW-Audi-Porsche marketing arrangement. Although testing had begun in the Spring of 1974 Volkswagen decided to cancel the program due to the expense of production as well as the feeling that the recently released Volkswagen Scirocco would fill the sports coupe sufficiently. At the time Porsche was considering introducing their own water cooled front engine 2+2 coupe to replace the 912E and their model of 914 and Volkswagen's cancellation provided an opportunity. Porsche purchased the design and finished development. The vehicle drove and handled exceptionally well and received positive reviews, but was criticized for the Audi-sourced 2 litre engine; Porsche introduced a Turbocharged 924 to increase performance, but the price was considered too high for the time, which hampered sales. Rather than scrap the design , Porsche decided to develop the 924, as they had with generations of the 911; although model numbers would change, the 924 would provide the basis for its replacement.

Porsche re-worked the platform and abandoned the Audi engine, installing in its place a new all-alloy 2.5 litre straight-4 engine, bore 100mm, stroke 78.9mm, that was, in essence, half of the 928's 5.0 litre V8, although very few parts were actually interchangeable. Not a natural choice for a luxury sports car, a four cylinder engine was chosen for fuel efficiency and size, because it had to be fitted from below on the Neckarsulm production line. To overcome the unbalanced secondary forces that make other four cylinder engines feel harsh, Porsche included two counter rotating balance shafts running at twice engine speed. Invented in 1904 by British engineer Frederick Lanchester, and further developed and patented in 1975 by Mitsubishi Motors, balance shafts carry eccentric weights which produce inertial forces that balance out the unbalanced secondary forces, making a four cylinder engine feel as smooth as a six cylinder. The engine was factory-rated at 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS) in its U.S. configuration. Revised bodywork with wider wheel arches, similar to that of the 924 Carrera GT, a fresh interior and upgrades to the braking and suspension systems rounded out the major changes. Porsche introduced the 944 for Model Year 1982 to great anticipation. In addition to being slightly faster (despite having a poorer drag co-efficient than the 924), the 944 was better equipped and more refined than the 924, it had better handling and stopping power and was more comfortable to drive. The factory-claimed 0-60 mph time of less than 9 seconds (8.3 seconds according to "Porsche the Ultimate Guide" By Scott Faragher) was actually rather modest. The factory-claimed top speed of 130 mph (210 km/h) was also pessimistic, Autocar having verified a top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h). The car had nearly even front to rear weight distribution (50.7% front/49.3% rear) thanks to the rear transaxle balancing out the engine in the front.[1] This gave it very balanced, predictable handling at the limits of adhesion.

In mid-1985 the 944 underwent its first significant changes. These included : a new dash and door panels, embedded radio antenna, upgraded alternator (from 90 amp to 115 amp), increased oil sump capacity, new front and rear cast alloy control arms and semi-trailing arms, larger fuel tank, optional heated and powered seats, Porsche HiFi sound system, and revisions in the mounting of the transaxle to reduce noise and vibration. The "cookie cutter" style wheels used in the early 944s were upgraded to new "phone dial" style wheels. (Fuchs wheels remained an option.) 1985 model year cars incorporating these changes are sometimes referred to as "1985B", "85.5" or "1985½" cars.

For the 1987 model year, the 944 was updated to incorporate anti-lock braking and air bags for increased safety. Because of the ABS system, the wheel offset changed and Fuchs wheels were no longer an option.

In early 1989 before the release of the 944S2, Porsche upgraded the 944 from the 2.5 liter engine to a 2.7 liter engine, bore 104mm, stroke 78.9mm, with a rated 175 hp (130 kW) (versus 163 hp (122 kW) for the 1988 2.5 liter engine) and a significant increase in torque. In addition to the increase in displacement, the new motor featured a closed deck block design and a different cylinder head which incorporated larger valves.

944 Turbo (951)

For the 1986 model year Porsche introduced the 944 Turbo, known internally as the 951 (952 for right-hand drive models). This had a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard car's engine that produced 220 hp (164 kW) (217 hp (162 kW) in the US) at 6000 rpm. The turbo was the world's first car using a ceramic portliner to retain exhaust gas temperature. The Turbo also featured several other changes, such as improved aerodynamics, a strengthened gearbox with a different final drive ratio, standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission, standard 16 inch wheels (optional forged fuchs wheels), and a slightly stiffer suspension to handle the extra weight. Major engine component revisions, more than thirty in all, were made to the 951 to compensate for increased internal loads and heat.

1987 Porsche 944 Turbo (US Model)

 

Few changes occurred for the 1987 model year. They included the deletion of the transmission oil cooler, a change in suspension control arms in order to reduce the car's scrub radius, and for the first time ever offered in a production car, standard dual airbags. The engine remained the same M44/51 powerplant as in the 1986 model. In 1988, Porsche introduced the Turbo S option package. The 944 Turbo S had a more powerful engine (designation number M44/52) with 247 hp (184 kW) and 350 N·m (260 lb·ft) torque (standard 944 Turbo 217 hp (162 kW) and 243 lb·ft (329 N·m)). This higher output was achieved by using a larger turbine housing, slightly different camshaft, and revised engine mapping which allowed for slightly more boost at high rpms as compared to the standard Turbo. In June 1988, Car and Driver tested the 944 Turbo S and achieved a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds and a quarter mile time of 13.9 seconds at 101 mph (163 km/h). Top speed was factory rated at 162 mph (261 km/h).

The 944 Turbo S's suspension was the then state-of-the-art "M030" option consisting of Koni adjustable shocks front and rear, with ride height adjusting threaded collars on the front struts, progressive rate springs, larger rear torsion bars, harder durometer suspension bushings throughout, larger 26.8 mm (1.1 in) anti-roll bars at the front, and chassis stiffening brackets in the front frame rails. The air conditioning dryer lines are routed differently to clear the front frame brace on the drivers side. The 944 Turbo S wheels, known as the Club Sport design, were 16" forged and flat-dished, similar to the Design 90 wheel. Wheel widths were 7 inches (178 mm) in the front, and 9 inches (229 mm) in the rear; sizes of the Z-rated tires were 225/50 in the front and 245/45 in the rear. The front and rear fender edges were rolled to accommodate the larger wheels. The manual transmission (case code designation: AOR) of the 944 Turbo S brought back the external cooler, and also featured a limited slip differential with a 40% lockup setting. The Turbo S front brakes were borrowed from the Porsche 928 S4, with larger 4 piston fixed calipers and discs; rear brakes remained the same as a standard Turbo. ABS also came standard.

The 944 Turbo S interior featured full power seats for both driver and passenger, where the majority of the factory-built Turbo S models sported a "Burgundy plaid" (Silver Rose edition) but other interior/exterior colors were available. A 10 speaker sound system and equalizer + amp was a common option.

In 1989 the 'S' designation was dropped from the 944 Turbo S, and all 944 Turbos featured the 'S' package as standard.

944 S

In 1987, the 944 S was introduced. The 944S featured a normally aspirated, dual overhead cam 16 valve 192 PS (141 kW; 189 hp) version of the 2.5 litre engine. This marked the first use of four valve per cylinder heads in the 944 series. Performance was quoted as 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.8 seconds and 230 km/h (140 mph) top speed.

Dual air bags were optional on the 944S, as was ABS.

944 S2

In 1989 944S2 was introduced, and powered by a 211 PS (155 kW; 208 hp) 3.0 L engine, bore 104mm, stroke 88mm, the largest production 4 cylinder engine of its time. The 944S2 had the same rounded nose and a rear valance found on the Turbo model. This was the first example of the use of an integrated front bumper, where the fender & hood profiles would merge smoothly with the bumper...a design feature that has only now seen widespread adoption on nearly all cars. The S2 was also available as a cabriolet, a first for the 944 line. Performance was quoted as 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds (0–100 km/h 6.4 s), with a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) (manual transmission). The 944S2 also received a revised transmission and gearing to better suit the 3.0 liter powerplant.

944 Turbo Cabriolet

In February 1991 Porsche released the 944 Turbo Cabriolet, which combined the Turbo S's 250 hp (186 kW) engine with the cabriolet body. Porsche initially announced that 500 would be made; ultimately 625 were built, 100 of which were right-hand drive for the United Kingdom, Japanese, Australian and South African market. None were imported to the US.

End of the line

In early 1990, Porsche engineers began working on what they had intended to be the third evolution of the 944, the S3. As they progressed with the development process, they realized that so many parts were being changed that they had produced an almost entirely new vehicle. Porsche consequently shifted development from the 944 S3 to the car that would replace the 944 entirely, the 968. The 944's final year of production was 1991; in 1992 the 968 debuted. The 968 was sold alongside the 928 through 1995, when both models were discontinued.

Collector significance

Although by Porsche standards many were built, by 2010 the number of surviving 944s (in any condition) is falling to around 40% due to the high maintenance costs of the now old and higher mileage cars scaring off potential buyers. The post-1985 cars (referred to as the 85 and 1/2's), Turbos and S variants are considered more desirable than the earlier cars; having improved interiors, suspensions, and engines.

Although the Porsche 944 has become a rare sight on the street, it has proven to be successful and increasingly popular in amateur road course racing. The 944-Spec class caters to the 1983 to 1988 8-valve 944, and the 944 Cup series has classes for all 924/944/968 and 944 Turbo models. Competitive racing events are held by the National Auto Sport Association and other organizations, as well as compatible rules that allow the same cars to race with the Sports Car Club of America, Porsche Club of America, and Porsche Owner's Club.

Awards

The 944 was on Car and Driver's Ten Best list from 1983 through 1985, and the Turbo made the list for 1986.

In 1984, Car and Driver named the 944 the Best Handling Production Car in America.

 

Production

In total 163,192 cars in the 944 family were produced between 1982 and 1991. This high number has made it the most successful car line in Porsche's history, besting the 924 family production run by 13,000 cars.

 

944

A total of 113,070 944s were made between 1982 and 1989, with 56,921 being exported to the United States.

Model Year Production Rest of World US Notes
1982 3921 3921    
1983 14633 9127 5506  
1984 26539 9921 16618  
1985 23720 17553 6167  
1986 17010 6109 10901  
1987 10689 2343 8346  
1988 5965 2226 3731 8 to Aus.
1989 10593 4941 5652  
Totals 113070 56141 56921  

 

944 Turbo (951)

A total of 25,245 944 Turbos were made, with 13,982 being exported to the United States.

Model Year Production Rest of World US Notes
1985 178 178    
1986 10937 3424 7513  
1987 4955 1546 + 88 CUP 3210 + 11 CUP  
1988 4097 * 1875 + 94 CUP 1874 + 99 CUP in addition, 126 SP Can., 30 CUP Aus.
1989 4103 1333 1385 1385 Can
1990 1251 1107 144  
1991 938 † 938    
Totals 25245 9331 13982 30 Aus, 1511 Can

* - Includes 1635 Turbo S
† - Includes 251 Turbo Cabriolet. A different source, Jerry Sloniger's article in the October 1991 issue of Excellence, indicates that the factory built 525, of which 255 were exported to markets outside Germany.

"CUP" designates a cup car special addition race car.

 

944S2

A total of around 14,071 944S2s were made between 1989–1991, with 3,650 being exported to the United States. 12,831 944S models were produced from 1987 to 1988, with 8,703 being exported to the United States.

Model Year Production Rest of World US Notes
1989 7632 4941 2691 51 Aus
1990 3321 2872 449 71 Aus
1991 3118 2608 510 6 Aus
Totals     3650  

 

944S2 Cabriolet

Model Year Production Rest of World US Notes
1989 ? ? 16  
1990 3938 2114 1824  
1991 1702 1140 562  
Totals     2402  

 

944 Special Editions

Model Year Type Production Notes
1981 944 GTP/R Le Mans 1  
1986–1989 944 Turbo Cup 150 or more

 

References

  1. Car and Driver, Dec. 1985 issue, http://www.europeancarweb.com/projectcars/0310ec_1986_porsche_944_turbo_specifcations/index.html
  • Wood, J (1997). Porsche: The Legend. Parragon. ISBN 0-7525-2072-5.
  • Stuever, Hank. "Real Men Cant Hold a Match to Jake Ryan of 'Sixteen Candles.' Washington Post, February 14, 2004
  • Car and Driver, Dec. 1985 Issue

 

Further reading

  • Morgan, P (1998). Original Porsche 924/944/968: The Guide to All Models 1975-95 Including Turbos and Limited Edition. Motorbooks International Inc. ISBN 1-901432-05-X

 

External links

 

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