Porsche’s red-headed stepchild, restored

The Pick of the Day is a 944 coupe that is affordable and made to order if you don’t want to invest the sweat equity

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1988 Porsche 944

Front-engine water pumpers for a very long time have been the red-headed stepchildren at Porsche. Coming of age at high school and college in the 80s, I saw the release of the “Shark” 928.  Then there were the several incarnations of the 924, 944 and 968.

Porsche may have alienated a few of the 911-or-nothing purists, but the racy, aerodynamic looks of this new crop made Porsche attractive to a whole new group of fans.

The Pick of the Day is a 1988 Porsche 944 advertised on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Miami, Florida. The seller said the car had a painstaking 17-month restoration with “no short cuts taken.”

The color combination is the first attribute that caught my eye: Maraschino Red Metallic over a two-tone burgundy and tan interior. Really pretty. Very non-traditional to the Teutonic flat colors of the previous generation of 911s.

The ‘80s were a fantastic time to grow up, with some exception for the cars produced in that era. The worldwide auto industry was making an adjustment to more government-mandated safety, economy and a growing list of EPA regulations. There are just several cars that stood out to me during this period.

Fortunately, my sports marketing executive father was moonlighting doing a nationally syndicated automotive column. Needless to say, we always had the newest manufacturer press cars (sometimes three at a time) in the driveway, of which I had immense exposure. 

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I liked the 944 since its introduction. It was sleek. Its predecessor, the 924, was a bona-fide race car. The 944’s aluminum normally aspirated 2.5-liter M44/40 Inline-4 made 147 hp in a sub-3,000-pound car. It is said that Porsche had to de-tune the turbo versions of the midline 944 because it was quicker than the flagship 930.

Porsche 944s made great race cars – mainly because the balance is a superb 50/50. This is due to the engine in front and the transaxle over the rear wheels connected by a torque tube. I did some vintage racing with a race-prepped 1992 Porsche 968, which was the successor to the 944, and can attest to the stability and ease of this car at speed.

“Mechanically, the car is solid, it is a 5-speed manual transmission with around 96,000 original miles showing on the odometer but only 70 miles since the restoration,” according to the seller. “It has new shocks, AC compressor, fuel lines, ball joints, engine mounts and more.” The seller, however, does not mention an engine overhaul.

The story behind the pretty interior is explained by the seller.

“The fabrication team outdid themselves with its custom designed genuine leather interior which features 2-toned burgundy and tan leather seats with intricate tan stitching, new leather door panels, new dashboard with tan stitching, it has new insulation and carpet, 944 custom embroidered floor mats and looks amazing.”

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Lastly, the car is shod with beautiful 80s styled BBS chrome and gold wheels — the seller also includes the original “phone dial” wheels.

The asking price for this Stuttgart Starlet is $15,000. As a collector car, the 944s have not risen significantly – yet. They still can be had in a myriad of conditions for a lot less money. But if you are not ready to put the sweat equity into the car this one is turnkey.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

Tom Stahler is the Managing Editor of the ClassicCars.com Journal. Tom has a lifelong love of cars and motor racing – beginning with the 1968 USRRC race at Road America, in a stroller, at eight months of age. His words, photos and broadcasts can can be found on a myriad of media. He has won the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and a Gold Medal in the International Automotive Media Awards.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I own a number of Porsches which includes a 1989 944 S2. The 944 is often the car I prefer to take on a Sunday drive. Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the Santa Fe 500, a drive from Santa Fe to Colorado. I picked the 944 for the drive. It was the perfect car for the winding mountain roads. Whomever buys this car will certainly enjoy his/her time behind the wheel. Nice car.

    • Hey Steve: Thanks for your comment and your passion. The 968 race car, as I mentioned, was an easy car to drive fast… Don’t get me wrong, I love 911s in all their incarnations, despite trying to get used to the look of the latest one. But for a person who just loves to drive, you gotta love the front engine water-pumpers.

  2. The 924 a bonafide race car? Maybe with a lot of prep, but not out of the box, it wasn’t. This 944 looks pretty nice. Closing in on 100k miles, I’d hope for a rebuilt motor.

    • Tom, I’d suspect at $15k, the engine is carrying it’s displayed mileage. Porsches are wonderful in many ways, but maintenance and proper rebuild expenses are, in a word, gobsmacking. I think a proper, factory approved overhaul of the engine and transaxle would easily top the asking price.
      With the interior work, body kit, and luscious paint, where’s the $$$ for the drivetrain?

    • Hello Mr. Quiggle: Are you familiar with Roland Kausmal? Look him up and read about the racing and rally car developments he did with the 924 at the factory. You may find yourself surprised.

  3. my 944: timing belt broke
    mirror just plain fell off
    headlight washers leaked
    shift linkage came apart
    steering wheel cover stitching came loose etc…
    this was a brand new one as well , i did buy another 944 and a new 2014 BOXSTER S.

  4. My 944 was determined to be built from pre-stressed pig iron from a small iron works in post unification East Germany. I purchased it brand new with four (4) miles showing on the odometer. I’ve never spent so much money on failure of a completed machine in my life. Engine leaks, clutch/transmission problems, electrical problems from malfunctioning alternators, air conditioning problems, sun roof leaked from new, power steering unit needed replacement at under 3000 miles, electric window motor failures, fuses blown due to electrical problems that were unable to be corrected at $95.00 an hour labor at the Porsche dealer, general problem running and “stumbling” occasionally after warmed up that can’t be trouble shot as to “why”. Windshield wipers would (rarely…but they would) occasionally turn on by themselves………I was going to purchase a 911……not so sure the curse has worn off of me after all of these years and I end up with Hitlers Revenge again.

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