As I sit here at my laptop, the ClassicCars.com Marketplace website lists 38 Porsche 944 cars for sale. Asking prices range from a high of $46,900 to a low of $7,995.
Perhaps more significant than either those extremes is the fact that 25 of those 38 cars are priced at $25,000 or less, and 3 more are in the $25,000 to $25,995 bracket.
The point is that there are plenty of them in the marketplace, and at relatively affordable prices for a ready-to-drive classic German sports car from a famous and historic brand.
Which brings us to this: Not only will the Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week, scheduled for September 30-October 3, again include a 30 Under 30 category for younger car owners, there will be a second 30 Under 30 class just for the Porsche 944.
The 30 Under class was created at the suggestion of part-time Newport resident and full-time car guy Jay Leno. who was honorary chairman of the inaugural Newport concours and festival in 2019. The class is open to car owners ages 30 or younger who spend less than $30,000 on a vehicle and its restoration or modification.
“We knew we were going to have two classes because the demand was so high (after the inaugural event),” Audrain’s chief executive officer Donald Osborne explained. “We figured it would be chronological, or (divided by) domestic and foreign.”
But as the entries arrived, “There’s a 944,” he recalled. “There’s another. There’s another.” And suddenly there was a full class of the entry-level Porsches produced from 1982 through 1991.
“The entrants picked the 944,” Osborne observed.
“The 944 is interesting in that it shows to me what the true crossover is in collecting. People like myself remember the 944 when it was new and remember the car fondly. And there are young people who are looking for an engaging and interesting driving experience and are looking for a way to get into an iconic marque like Porsche.
“The 944 appeals to the 60-year-old and to the 20-year-old, and for the same reasons, the driving experience.”
The 944 is equipped with a liquid-cooled and front-mounted 4-cylinder engine like its predecessor, the 924. But unlike the 924 and its 110-horsepower VW/Audi engine, the 944’s 4-cylinder was produced by Porsche and provided considerably more power — 143 horsepower — and included dual balance shafts to reduce vibration.
Later, the engine would go from 2.5 to 2.7 liters and for a couple of model years, turbocharging would boost the horsepower rating to as much as 247. Porsche produced more than 163,000 of the cars.
Many of the younger owners of the 944, Osborne noted, are recommissioning their cars, which is not an easy task, especially not with a clutch that has to be balanced with the flywheel and a transaxle that incorporates the transmission, differential and axle in a single unit at the rear of the car, which is great for weight distribution and vehicle dynamics, but complicated when it comes to maintenance and repair.
“It’s a car with a transaxle, for Pete’s sake, a car with a steep learning curve, and expensive to take to a mechanic for repair.” Osborne said, adding that if you can do the work yourself, there are rewards for having a true sports car that can be both a daily driver and a track-day vehicle, as well as qualifying this year for a major concours d’elegance.
Osborne said that just as the 30 Under 30 class has grown, so has the Audrain concours. From 98 cars on the show field in 2019, nearly 180 will be featured this year, and look for at least three 30 Under 30 classes in 2022, he said.