This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now

Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche

The Porsche 944, like every other mildly cool car from the ’80s and ’90s, is starting to be appreciated anew now that it’s old enough to stoke nostalgia. The Porsche factory went ahead and restored this 1991 944 S2, essentially the ultimate production 944, to new-spec and looks sweet.

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Personally, I’m still on the fence about the look of these cars. I love pretty much anything with pop-up headlights but the 944’s rear quarter still looks a little wacky to me. I don’t like the way the rear hatch window and side passenger-area window curve up a little.

Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche
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That said, the Cobalt Blue Metallic car the Porsche factory’s gone through here is pretty stunning and it is cool to see a serious collector-level restoration being applied to it. There were three of these (base 944s, not S2s) among my group of friends when I was in high school... nobody with serious Porsche money paid any attention to transaxle Porsches in 2005 and they were bought for pocket lint in poor condition. I distinctly remember one of them catching fire in an AutoZone parking lot.

Porsche’s press release celebrating the completion of this project has some info on why the S2 variant is extra special:

“Among the various 944 models, the 944 S2 is a kind of inside tip and is worth a try for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is quite rare; between 1988 and 1991, fewer than 9,400 Coupés and 7,000 Cabriolets were built – spread over all continents. The late models with front airbags are particularly rare. Secondly, the 944 S2 is an absolute technical highlight because its 211 metric horsepower 3.0-litre engine made history as the four-cylinder engine for passenger cars with the largest displacement. [About 206 lb-ft] of torque are available here at 4,100 RPM. The 3.0-liter four-valve naturally aspirated engine also offers better driveaway performance than the 2.5-liter twin-valve turbo engine, because the turbocharged engine needs a certain engine speed to overcome the turbo lag.”

Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche

Apparently the ’91 S2 is the one to get if you’re looking for a 944 worthy of a complete retool:

“We intentionally looked for a 944 S2 from 1991, the last year of manufacture. It had to have airbags, because safety is also important in classic cars, and there are also almost never any cracks in the plastic with airbag fittings. The 944 S2 shares the airbag steering wheel (standard from February 1991) with the 964, 928 S4 (optional), 928 GTS and 968 (CS also optional). It may not concern purists, but the heavier airbag steering wheel gives the 944 S2 a different and more solid steering feeling than the thin four-spoke steering wheels that originated from the 924 and 911 G model era. An air conditioning system and the Targa roof were also essential.”

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If you want to dig in even more:

“Other special features were the original height-adjustable suspension (M 030, like on the 944 Turbo) and an also original sound system – the Blaupunkt radio “Symphony” together with an additional amplifier with integrated Blaupunkt equalizer plus sound package, as well as the fully functional Bosch car telephone connected to this. The latter was located in the luggage compartment with the operating unit in the cockpit. Here is a useful tip – take slightly longer when searching for a car to find a vehicle like this with special equipment. Various recent invoices showed us that the previous owner had kept the technical systems in reasonable shape (including replacement of the toothed belt).”

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It’s unclear what exactly Porsche is planning to do with this car, but the company has an incredible museum in Stugartt that it’d look great in. And if there’s no room there, I’m sure the team that brought the car back to its original glory could sell it easily enough.

Here’s a mini slideshow of the seat restoration, which looks a lot like my method, which is “put a seat cover from eBay on it.”

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I’d love to see other automakers restore found machines from their past like this, and hope this 944 S2 is as nice to drive as it is to look at. Take a peek inside, too... Car! Phone!

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Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche
Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche
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Illustration for article titled This Is Probably The Nicest Porsche 944 Now
Photo: Porsche

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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DISCUSSION

camelman
Water-cooled Porsches are the best

That restoration is beautiful, and I 100% agree that the S2 is the 944 model to own! The only way I’d improve it is with an engine transplant to make more power. I’d be okay with an LS swap since the usable and tractable power would jump without the inconvenience of turbo lag. The car handles incredibly well too! It just pulls so smoothly and nicely out of turns, accelerates well on the highway, and eats up miles. I’m not a big fan of the short first gear though, even though it is needed for low-speed acceleration. It just sounds manic when I’m pulling away from a stop. BTW, I’m keeping mine stock. I’d only to an LS swap on one that’s not in as good of shape as mine.

A couple points about these cars:

1) my 1990 has dual airbags, so I’m confused by the statement about only the 1991 model having dual airbags

2) The M456 suspension on the earlier cars has rebuildable Konis! The M456 is the predecessor to the M030. I can’t find a good photo of the M456, but I believe it was adjustable too. If my 1983 wasn’t a couple miles away right now I’d snap a pic of its suspension to share.

3) I have the lower model stereo in mine, which still works, but sounds weak and annoying. Part of that is due to the road noise from the rear hatch.

4) The rear hatch window pulls out of the frame because the gas lift struts are oriented in a way that separates the window/frame assembly. The general consensus in the community is that there isn’t a good repair solution for this yet, so I’d love to hear what Porsche did to restore the rear hatch glass. Interior noise increases as the window pulls out, and squeaks between the body and window frame are annoying.

5) That cam cover was originally white, and slowly morphed to baby poop. It is made of magnesium (I think), and it erodes so that pinholes appear over time. I had mine stripped and painted black to match black intake runners. I wish Porsche had done that from the factory since the bare metal intake runners don’t look good. Pic below of updated black intake and cam cover from when i was rebuilding the head.

6) The heads and blocks on these are alusil, and are incredibly long-lasting, but the heads will corrode if you don’t treat the coolant well with regular changes, and NOT using tap water. My head was so corroded it blew the head gasket in multiple locations. I had the corrosion pockets welded and ground flat along with a rebuild. Expensive, but I did most of the work myself to keep costs down.

I pasted a pic of my 1983 and my 1990 S2 below. The S2 was stolen on Tuesday, but recovered yesterday. Woohoo! It sustained some minor damage from the thief, and the reality is the insurance company will probably claim it is totaled because dash parts are no longer available, and the other items are going to add up quickly. I’m planning to buy it back if they let me.

I bought the S2 for $6K three years ago and put a lot of work into it. I got the 1983 for $860 two years ago and drove it home (it’s a track car now). I also bought a 1982 928S for $3800 three years ago with low miles and in remarkably good shape. Those prices don’t seem doable any longer. However, if you spot a semi-abandoned car (like the 928S and S2 were), then I bet you could still get a good deal on it. They aren’t hard to work on despite what you’ve heard, but you will need some prior automotive experience to work on these. You could also pony up and get a well taken care of example that should just be a daily driver. All of mine are daily driver level now.