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Porsche 944

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Porsche 944
Porsche
aka Porsche 944 Lux
Porsche 944 S
Porsche 944 S2
Porsche 944 Turbo
Production 1982-1992
163,192 units total
Class Sports Luxury
Body Style Coupe or Cabriolet
Length 4200 mm
Width 1735 mm
Height 1275 mm
Wheelbase 2400 mm
Weight 1180 KG (1982 Launch car)
Transmission 5-Speed Manual
6-Speed Manual
3-speed Automatic
Engine 2.5 litre four cylinder
3.0 litre four cylinder
2.5 litre turbocharged four cylinder
2.7 litre four cylinder
2.5 litre 16-valve four cylinder
Power 163 BHP - 944 Lux
216 BHP - 944 S2
220 BHP - 944 Turbo (pre-1988)
250 BHP - 944 Turbo (1988-1992)
Similar Mazda RX-7
Nissan 280ZX
Toyota Supra
Designer Porsche CoD, Harm Lagaay

The Porsche 944 was Porsche's largest-selling front-engined coupe. The project was greenlighted in 1980, in response to dropping sales of the Porsche 924. The 944 was to feature new styling based upon the Porsche 924 Carrera GT, along with a brand-new Porsche designed and developed 2.5 litre four cylinder engine. The car was the brainchild of the newly appointed Peter Schutz, the CEO of the Porsche company.

Contents

Immediate Success

The launch of the 944 traded heavily upon the new car being a 'brand new Porsche model', in an attempt to bury the image of all front-engined Porsches not being 'real' Porsches - a fate which had befallen the 924. The car was released for sale to European markets in November 1981, with the UK getting their quota in April 1982, and the USA in May 1982. Sales of the 168BHP coupe went through the roof, with a massive 26800 944s being produced by the end of 1982. To put this figure into context, the entire Porsche company made just 28000 cars in 1981.

The 944 was given an entirely new marketing plan - with the emphasis on new Porsche owners, not existing enthusiasts. The new Porsche owners came in the form of the 'yuppie', young, cash-rich city-dwellers attracted by the stunning looks and presence of the model.

The 944 is quite rightly termed as the saviour of Porsche - the massive cash reserves that this model made during the 1980s kept the company afloat (just) during the world recession of the early 1990s.

Improvements over the out-going 924 were plain to see - beginning with the flared front and rear wheel arches. These became the trademark of the 944, and pulled in the buyers due to the butch stance and powerful presence they gave the car. Other differences were small but significant - on US models, the ugly 924 side reflectors were replaced with smooth, bumper-line examples. A rear spoiler, lining the lift-glass, made the rear-end look more functional and sporty. Drag coefficient was reduced to 0.35 over the 924, and the body panels were zinc-coated in all markets to prevent corrosion.

Models

Throughout the life of the 944, many models were produced to slightly change certain aspects of the car - be it performance or looks, or purely to produce more sales. These are highlighted below.

Pre-1985 - The Early Years

The pre-1985 vehicles were the first 944s produced, and as such are the most basic of the entire expansive model range. Externally, the cars were supplied with electric mirrors and the rear spoiler, along with the distinctive 'Cookie Cutter' alloy wheel design, which could be painted with black or white centres, or just left normal silver. Black-centred Fuchs forged alloys, as seen on the 911, were optional.

Two types of front-valance were available - one with a simple twin line grille, or one with driving lamps inset to it. A rear under-valance was optional - this was colour-coordinated to the bodywork, and featured a series of vertical slats, each covered by black-painted mesh. A major improvement over the 924 was the fitment of a flush windscreen.

Interior-wise, very few changes were made over the 924 - the square dashboard was retained, however new fabric colours and leather options were available. Interior noise was greatly reduced over the 924, mainly by adding more sound proofing but also by Porsche choosing to change the engine mounts.

The engine itself, although not quite living up to the rife rumours of a V6, was an inline four-cylinder plant, in essence half of the Porsche 928's V8 powerplant. Particular attention was given to refinement - one of the Porsche 924's great bugbears. A breakthrough came in the form of TOP - Thermally Optimised Porsche. This was a study by the company in 1980 to find the optimum conditions for the compression ratio, air and fuel mixture, cylinder head design and ignition timing, and the 944's 2.5 litre engine was the first Porsche engine to benefit from the research. As mentioned above, the engine mounts were changed in the name of refinement, to a softer fully synthetic material, more suited to the absorption of engine-based vibrations. Overall power output of the engine was 163BHP for the European market car, and 143BHP for the USA market car. A boast for the engine was the then-remarkable 12,000 mile service intervals.

The Porsche 944 Lux
Enlarge
The Porsche 944 Lux

1985-1988

1985 marked the 944's first upgrade. This entailed a complete revamp of the colour charts and interior options, as well as the alloy wheel design - the range-standard 'Telephone Dial' alloy wheel was added to the range. Minor changes to the powerplant involved changes to the material used to manufacture the exhaust valves.

The most significant change arrived in the form of a completely new interior design, dominated by a smooth, sweeping oval dashboard. This severed all ties with the 924, and completed the move upmarket for the 944. The new dash design improved ventilation and front leg room - something that was limited by the now-dated square dash design. The dash provided improved ergonomics for the instruments, with all useful components placed either above the gearstick or on the strip running across the dash, moving the buttons to within an arm's stretch from the driver.

For 1986, the 'Lux' coupe was thrown out of the limelight by the new 944 Turbo - a 'wonderfully refined product' as period press branded it. The Turbo featured a 220BHP 2.5 litre four-cylinder engine, essentially a turbocharged standard unit but with strengthened internals to cope with the onslaught of power. Other major differences over the 944 coupe was the clean, smooth bumpered look at the front end, larger brakes, wider 'Telephone Dial' alloys and a price which was identical to that of a 911 Carrera. Although the car was a super performer (0-62mph in 5.5 secs), the buyers stayed away - mainly due to the the fact that the 'superior' 911 was the same price. Included in that price were masses of standard equipment, Recaro designed sports seats, a new, four spoke 'Lozenge' steering wheel. The model also brought revised doorcards and a distinctive rear underspoiler to the fray.

Later in 1986, the 944 S arrived, updating the 944 range with a 16-valve 2.5 litre engine. It's performance specs placed it right inbetween the 8 valved models, NA and turbo'ed respectively. It provided a smoother delivery of it's power then the Turbo , which could be a handsfull at the moment where boost would kick in.

A 2.7 litre 8 valve engine (a bored-out 2.5) was offered to European markets only, it retained the same horse power as the 2.5, but had slightly increased torque. There were some reports that this 2.7 initially had some reliability issues, and as it was least produced of all naturally aspirated 8 valve engines, the unique engine parts, such as the cyllinderhead are more sought after and as such more expensive.

But the 944 was beginning to face the same fate as its predecessor - Porsche had not advanced to model quick enough to keep up with competition, and the car was very expensive for what it was, Porsche or not. Sales began to fall in 1987, and even with some sparkling limited editions in various markets, along with the new 8v 2.7 engine, the slide proved unstoppable for the 944. A severe change was planned for the 1990s.

1988-1992

The Porsche 944 Turbo
Enlarge
The Porsche 944 Turbo

The covers were lifted off the 944's next-generation model in early 1989, the stunningly contemporary 944 S2. Porsche, as a company, were heading into tough times and were relying on the 944 S2 and the new 911, the 964, to make enough money just to stay afloat. The new car had a development of the 944 S 16-valve engine, bored out from 2.5 litres to 3.0 litres. To cut manufacturing costs, the entire cylinder head was taken directly from the 928's V8, and the 16-valve engine provided enhanced performance with greater fuel economy over the outgoing 2.5/2.7 litre engine. A catalytic converter was fitted as standard on every S2 - regardless of destination market - and the Bosch Motronic ignition system was modified to include twin knock sensors as well as storing information which could be read, via a computer uplink, at services. Peak power was 211BHP. Upgrades to this engine occured in 1990, when the intake manifold was modified, a larger oil cooler was added and an automatic three-sensor knock controller was integrated into the ignition system.

The 944 S2 featured the smooth front bumper and rear underspoiler, previously Turbo-only, as standard, along with a brand new alloy wheel design - the stylish 'Design 90'. Colour charts were boosted by new colour variations, as well as an exciting feature - the 'colour match to sample' option, which would allow a buyer to have the car painted in a colour to match any size of sample. As a result, a large number of gaudy coloured cars left the Neckarslum plant, proving that some people have more money than taste. Very few interior changes were made, apart from a rear luggage blind, and from 1990-onwards, standard lift-out sunroof and split folding rear seat backs.

A headline model of the S2 generation was the Cabriolet, a model 944 buyers had yearned for since the car's inception in 1982. The Cabriolet, engineered by American Sunroof Company, was rumoured to be two years late in arriving on the market due to unprecedented chassis flex problems. The finished article, despite being 70 KG heavier than the coupe, displayed no obvious signs of such problems, and its clean lines found a place in many hearts. The looks came at a price, however, with the boot being rendered almost useless, and rear visibility with an upright roof non-existent.

The 944 S2 brought an enticing option to the price lists, in the shape of the 'ClubSport', built to emulate the successful 'Turbo Cup' 944 Turbo-based racing series. The option deleted all sound-deadening, removed all electric components and included the addition of race-style bucket seats. Very few of these cars were built.

Meanwhile, the 944 Turbo was generating enough sales year-on-year for Porsche to revamp the model in early 1988. The 944 Turbo had been the basis of the highly successful and highly entertaining F1-supporting 'Turbo Cup', very similar to today's 'GT3 Supercup'. A decision was made to uprate the power of the racing cars, and it was decreed that the power upgrade should be passed on to the customers. This culminated in the Porsche 944 Turbo S, known as the Turbo SE in the UK, and called 'Silver Rose' by enthusiasts. The Turbo SE (standing for Special Equipment) was manufactured with an uprated engine (with 250BHP), adjustable Koni suspension, a new 'machined' edge Design 90 alloys, forged from magnesium, front and rear anti-rollbars, 'Big Red' brakes and stiffer suspension bushes. Also, the cars were supplied in an eye-catching 'Silver Rose' metallic paint - in essence a silvery-pink hue - with a matching 'Studio' cloth interior, again in a burgandy pink. All cars featured a stylised 'Turbo' script on the wing, as a throwback to previous hyper-performance Porsches. The Turbo S cost a huge 10% more than a standard Turbo - moving the price to greater than that of a contemporary 911 - but Porsche managed to shift over 1000 of the cars. Customer demands were met midway through 1988, as any colour from the Porsche catalogue, along with any interior option, could be specified instead of the 'Silver Rose' scheme.

The uprated power plant of the Turbo S became standard fare for the Turbo from 1989 to the end of its life. The car itself sprouted a rear bridge spoiler as well as wider Design 90 alloys. Massive discounts were offered upon all 944s from 1989, and the model was dropped altogether in the USA in 1990. The 944 range reached its climax in the summer of 1990, with the introduction of the faintly ludicrous 944 Turbo Cabriolet, using the 250BHP power plant mated to the drop-dead gorgeous Cabriolet bodyshell. The price was extortionate - very few were built in its year-long production run.

The 944 range officially ended production in July 1991, after a massive 176,126 cars rolled off the Neckarslum production lines. A dated range and consequent flagging sales wrote the obituary for the model, but in the UK, brand-new cars still lanuished at dealers well into 1993. A UK-only special edition was made in 1992 - the S2SE, basically an S2 brought up to full specification, for less than the standard car - but only 15 were made, a sobering statistic which demonstrates the fall of such a mighty automobile.

Summary of Models

Standard Cars

  • 1982-1989 - Porsche 944 Lux Coupe
  • 1985-1991 - Porsche 944 Turbo Coupe
  • 1986-1989 - Porsche 944 S Coupe
  • 1989-1992 - Porsche 944 S2 Coupe
  • 1989-1992 - Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet
  • 1991-1992 - Porsche 944 Turbo Cabriolet

Special Editions

  • 1984 - Swiss Special, based upon 2.5 Lux, Black or Silver with Black Pinstripe interior - 100 produced Black/100 produced Silver.
  • 1984 - French Special based upon 2.5 Lux, white with commemorative decals, Black Pinstripe interior - 100 produced.
  • 1987 - Celebration model, Satin Black or Zermatt Silver with Studio cloth interior, Telephone Dial alloys - 423 black/507 silver.
  • 1988 - Turbo S, Silver Rose, Burgandy Studio - no firm figures, estimated production 1200 units.
  • 1992 - S2SE, UK Only, any colour with special decals, lowered suspension etc. - 15 units.


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