If you were a teen with raging hormones in the 1980s, then surely you remember Sixteen Candles – Long Duk Dong, Samantha’s undies, and most importantly Jake’s 1983 Porsche 944 (and his dad’s Rolls Corniche). That year the Porsche 944 was introduced in the US as a replacement for the lackluster 924, sporting fat fender flares and a 2.5 liter watercooled inline-4 designed by Porsche (basically half of a 928 motor) in place of the 924’s 2.0 liter Audi-sourced motor. Add to it the rear-mounted transaxle, and the result was a very well-balanced car – Car and Driver calling it the “best handling production car in the world” for example – and one that was powerful enough to be handfuls of fun on all types of roads. Road tests of the day placed 944 performance in the mid-8 seconds 0-60mph and nearing 140mph on the top end.
These days many 944s, especially early ones, have fallen into states of disrepair due to basic ambivalent neglect on the part of their owners. This example
for $2500 on craigslist in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia may have some needs here and there, but appears mechanically solid and even has functioning AC. If top-down driving isn’t necessarily your bag there are very few, if any, cheaper ways to get behind the wheel of a Porsche – but it is a Porsche through and through.
Contemporary competition for the 944 in 1983 would have included the Alfa Romeo GTV-6, Mazda RX-7, and Datsun/Nissan 280ZX. Of the group, the Alfa was its only real competition, but never achieved the market success that the Porsche did – selling approximately 22,500 to the 944’s 113,000. The 280ZX was too soft by then, and the RX-7 had been on the market for some time, and was already creeping-up on a redesign which would interestingly bear many of the Porsche’s design cues and would also offer 2+2 seating as was available in the Porsche, Alfa, and Datsun.
Coming back to the 944 at hand, what does one get for $2500 in a Porsche 944? The seller of this car reports that the paint and interior need some attention. What we can see in the pictures are straight body panels and uniform paint. What we do not see that is seemingly all to commonplace on 944s is creased and crumpled bodywork, mismatched paint, ugly aftermarket wheels, and other general signs of abuse. It is unfortunate that we don’t see inside the car, but I’d be willing to bet there may be some dash cracking and tears in the leather. On the plus side, with so many of these built and even more of them stripped-out for track duty, interior bits are relatively easy to source. Companies like World Upholstery and GAHH also carry full lines of 944 upholstery, so the motivated owner should have no trouble sprucing-up the inside.
The “telephone dial”(what’s that?) alloys are original to later 944s, and I personally prefer them to the Fuchs 911-style wheels which would have been OE here, being a little more modern in design. But where this car shines – and there are others out there just like it – is in the fact that it has had one caring owner for the past 20 years, and he has the records to back-up his claims of the work done including clutch, timing belt, and AC. The car is wearing some miles, but it appears that key areas have been addressed, as evidenced recently by passing the stringent Virginia state safety inspection in addition to a full engine overhaul at 120K. With any old car you take your chances, but someone in the market for a fun, reasonably reliable sports car or track car wearing the Porsche crest on the hood would be hard-pressed to beat a solid 944.