Everything you ever wanted to know about the Porsche 944
The classic two-seater that still turns heads today
Porsche 944 S2 in blue by the docks
With its pop-up headlights, exciting curves and hatchback design, the 944 made headlines in the 1980s and is now a highly attractive entry into classic Porsche ownership
What is a transaxle Porsche?First launched in 1982, and based on a successful Le Mans prototype, the Porsche 944 was the third Porsche model to feature a front-mounted engine and rear-axle transmission (which became known as a transaxle set-up). Following a production run of ten years, it has become a much-loved classic with a legion of dedicated fans, attracted by its striking contours and affordable racing heritage.
Porsche CEO Peter W. Schutz with a Porsche 944 in Zuffenhausen, 1982
Peter W. Schutz, then President and CEO of Porsche AG, with a Porsche 944 in its launch year of 1982
Who designed the Porsche 944?In September 1981, the Porsche 944 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Its design was overseen by head designer Anatole Lapine, with the exterior design influenced by a wide-bodied 924 Carrera GT prototype from 1979. Not all the prototype’s design features made it to the 924 Carrera, but they were all included on the 944, most notably its striking contours, widened rear wings and an aggressive nose.Where was the Porsche 944 built?The 944 was built at Audi’s former NSU factory in Neckarsulm, 50km north of Stuttgart, until 1991. It was fitted with Porsche engines transported from the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen.
Porsche 944 in Guards Red
The trademark long nose of the 944 contained its four-cylinder engine – a new departure for Porsche
What engines does the Porsche 944 have?When the Porsche 928 was launched in 1978, it was powered by a new aluminium 4.5-litre V8 engine – the first time a Porsche had been fitted with a V8. When the 944 replaced the 924, Porsche essentially decided to slice the 928’s V8 in half to create a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder inline unit that replaced the Audi engine fitted in the 924.This engine was given the ultimate test – the 24 Hours of Le Mans race – to prove itself. Although the car was billed as a Porsche 924 GTP at the 1981 race, it was really the new 944 – the car later became known as the 944 GTR Le Mans – and was driven by legends Jürgen Barth and Walter Röhrl. This camouflaged 944 completed the 24 hours with just 21 fuel pit stops and without any technical issues, finishing seventh overall. It’s fair to say that the four-cylinder worked beautifully.
Porsche 944 about to turn on to a street as another one passes
The pop-up headlights of the Porsche 944 quickly became one of its trademark features among fans
What are the innovations on the Porsche 944?The 944 was in production in the 1980s and early 1990s, which was a time when a number of new driver safety features began to be introduced into cars. For example, ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) was available on all 944 models as an optional extra. Another momentous change was the inclusion of airbags. In fact, in 1987 the US version of the 944 Turbo became one of the first cars in the world fitted with both driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment.It’s not unknown for a technical development at Porsche being named after an employee, such as the Fuchs rim. The 944, like the 924, also has a feature – the storage compartments in the boot – named after a certain Herr Bohlmann. Sadly, this employee’s first name was never recorded, but his storage innovation lives on.
Side profile of Porsche 944 cabriolet in white
The 944 cabriolet was first introduced in 1989
How fast is the Porsche 944 Turbo?The 944 Turbo entered production in 1985, making a significant difference to the standard performance of the 944. The new turbocharged engine generated 220PS, resulting in the 0-100km/h time being reduced to 5.9 seconds, a three-second improvement. The 944 Turbo S saw engine power upgraded to 250PS, shaving another 0.4 seconds off of the 0-100km/h time to 5.9 seconds. The official top speed was 261km/h, making the Porsche 944 Turbo S the world’s fastest four-cylinder production car at that time.
Porsche 944 in metallic grey
The 944 offered Porsche sportscar power but combined that with plenty of practicality, like its hatchback configuration
How far can you drive in a Porsche 944?In 1987, Austrian long-distance driver Gerhard Plattner set out to take a standard Porsche 944 S on a trip that mirrored the distance from the Earth to the moon – 384,405km – and to drive it within a year. The endurance test started at Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida, USA and, after driving across Europe and Asia, finished 258 days later.Was the Porsche 944 used for motorsport?Porsche launched a race series for the 944 Turbo in 1986, with championship series in five countries – France, Germany, South Africa, Canada and the USA. The Turbo Cup cars developed for the series, of which there were 192 in total, had substantial upgrades over road-going production cars, with weight savings of 272kg and performance improvements. Turbo Cup cars had a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of nearly 274km/h. The race series survived until 1990, when it was replaced by the Porsche Carrera Cup, based on the 911 (type 964).
Early version of Porsche 944 in a studio
The Porsche 944 was in production for 10 years, from 1982 to 1991
How many 944 sportscars did Porsche make?By the time the 944 was retired in 1991, Porsche had produced 163,302 cars, making it the most successful sports car in the company’s history until the introduction of the Porsche Boxster and Cayman and the 911 Carrera (type 997). After its first year of sales, the 944 accounted for more than 51 per cent of total Porsche production.How much is a Porsche 944?The 944 is now very much an affordable classic Porsche and, if well-maintained, can be used as a daily driver. However, in line with the revival of all things ’80s, Porsche fans are increasingly re-evaluating the appeal of the 944 upwards, leading to values rising steadily over the past decade.If you’re looking to pick up a 944 of your own, make sure you buy one with a solid service history (the earliest examples of the model are now 40 years old, after all). On the plus side, there are thousands of genuine Classic Porsche parts available, while scheduled servicing is relatively affordable.
Porsche 944 parked with railing and trees behind
The 944 is now an affordable classic Porsche that’s being discovered by a new generation of fans
What is it like to own a Porsche 944?“I have a 1988 944 Turbo S in Guards Red. To me, the Turbo is the best-looking variant. I love the additional lip at the rear and the front bumper. It has a timeless shape, a true classic look that screams late ’80s but carries itself well among modern cars. The driving position is also super-low and you feel really connected to the car. The boot is a huge plus point for me, we have been away for the weekend with my partner, two kids, two little dogs and all our luggage in the boot!”
Ben Coombe @bens944turbo
“I used to walk past a 924 Turbo, then a 944 on my way to work and always loved them. Then, in 2006, I started looking to buy one. What I like about them is that they’re so practical with the hatchback. They’re simple enough to work on yourself and they’re usable all year round – my wife uses hers as a daily driver. You always get waves and nods from fellow drivers, but I was driving my Cabriolet one evening last summer and was stopped at a pedestrian crossing. A guy crossed the road in front of me, looked, gave me a thumbs up, then turned to face the car and bowed.”
Mike Pollock, 944 registry lead, Porsche Club GB
“The Porsche 944 is one of those cars that is criminally overlooked when it comes to classic Porsche sportscars. It’s no wonder that the popularity and interest in these ’80s icons have been gradually increasing over the past few years, giving them the attention and respect they deserve. The 944 isn’t about outright speed, it’s about the whole package. These cars are wonderful and, as a young owner of two of them, it’s incredibly warming to see new Porsche enthusiasts finding a way into the marque at an affordable price point, while still being able to experience a classic Porsche.”
Liam Freeman @liamdfreeman
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