DWA Porsche 944 Project Car
I recently picked up this early 1985 Porsche 944 as a fun, cheap weekend car that I can tinker with and have fun driving through the Santa Cruz Mountains in. This car is the perfect "slow car fast". It is a real momentum car and it's extremely satisfying when you get it right on a twisty road. This is my third Porsche 944 (4th if you count our 24 Hours of Lemons race car), and my 6th Porsche...not counting the 5 or so parts cars that I have had. My last Porsche was a 1980 928 with a 5-spd manual transmission, and I loved that car! The 928 was a very different kind of Porsche, as it was more of a grand touring/muscle car than a sports car. I also have access to a 2002 996 Targa as my work shop car which I drive on a regular basis, and it's a fun, quick car, but… the 996 doesn't speak to me like the old stuff does, and doesn’t have the solid vault like feel that older Porsches have. It has a little too much grip, it's a little too fast and too smooth to be fun without going double or triple the speed limit.
The most entertaining car that I have ever owned is a tie between my 1974 Porsche 914 and my 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit with a GTI engine and upgraded suspension. For me there is a sweet spot between when cars were somewhat reliable, fuel injected, had 4 wheel disk brakes, before traction control or driver aids, and before automatics were acceptable in a sports car.
When the Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS came out, I had a chance to drive one in the mountains and it reminded me what I like in sports cars and I fully understood why the car was getting as much hype as it did. My first thought was that the FRS was like a modern Porsche 944. They are both around 2800 pounds, rear wheel drive, and 4 cylinders that need to be worked hard to get the most out of them, but they are also very rewarding to putt along the coast at a leisurely pace.
That drive in the FRS really got me thinking and I now have a “Guards Red” Porsche 944 sitting in my driveway. The 944 has been the perfect fun car over the last couple months. I have been driving it to work one day a week and driving it any chance I get on the weekends. I have also had a lot of fun fixing little things and replacing worn out parts. There is something very rewarding about working on a car, although I really hate doing “real” work on cars. To me “real” work is changing out clutches, head gaskets, alternators, etc. I hate getting dirty, but I like doing little stuff and making improvements in looks or performance.
Since acquiring the 944, I’ve done the following:
-Cleaned off the rock guards on the fenders with a heat gun and ‘Goo Gone’ (they were yellowed and cracked)
-Replaced the rear hatch seal and pins
-Replaced the rear rubber spoiler with a used one I had lying around (the old one had a large split)
-Color sanded and polished some of the paint
-Pulled the engine mounts out to discover that they were brand new
-Changed the transaxle fluid
-Installed new spark plugs
-Re-connected a charcoal canister vent tube
-Replaced the shift knob and boot with a new factory style knob/boot with a new shift pattern
-Replaced the Shift rod with one that I had lying around (the old one had been cut lower and modified to fit a Momo shift knob)
-Replaced the factory 370mm three spoke steering wheel with a 350mm Momo Prototipo (looks good and gives more room between your legs and the wheel)
-Installed a new Alpine stereo (it had a Subaru tape deck)
For me the 944 is a great looking car that is quintessentially of the 1980’s without having any of the hokey things like digital speedometers or retractable seatbelts. It has cool stuff like pop-up headlights, flared fenders, and a 5-spd manual transmission and 50/50 weight distribution. For my money, the 944 is better looking than an E30 M3, has box flares, a big 4 cylinder engine and costs about 1/8 the price. It’s also fun to see people react to the 944 as if it’s something special. A lot of it has to do with the fact that most of the 944’s on the roads today are junk. They have been very cheap, but they aren’t cheap to repair. People buy them very cheap and can’t afford to fix them when things happen, so when something like a clutch or head gasket goes out, they scrap them. I remember about 5 years ago, you could buy BMW E30 M3’s all day long for $12,000 and at that price it was a risky buy. You were buying a car with that had an engine that was $12,000 so if anything went wrong you would be in the red. Now that E30 M3’s are worth $25,000 - $40,000 it doesn’t seem like as big of a deal and the cars are now an investment. There are 944’s being destroyed every day and seeing a nice 944 is a very rare thing these days, and the good ones are starting to go up in value. I doubt that 944’s will ever be worth a fortune, but now might be the time to buy if you have ever wanted one. It is one of the cheapest ways to get into the Porsche world and they are fantastic cars. I remember reading in Excellence Magazine, 10-15 years ago that Porsche 911s would never be worth much because they built so many. Fast forward to now when the cheapest 911 you can find is about $20,000 and well sorted long nose 911s are trading for well over $100,000.
In the near future we plan on doing a bunch of work on the 944 to make it handle better, look better and fix anything that need fixing.
Here is a link to you YouTube video introducing the 944 as a DWA Project car:
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