Here’s How You Tell a 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo From an ’87
The Porsche 944 has been coming up in value along with almost every other '80s enthusiast car, but as far as I'm concerned these cars are still under-appreciated.
The Porsche 944 has been coming up in value along with almost every other ’80s enthusiast car, but as far as I’m concerned these cars are still under-appreciated. Turbos especially are excellent vehicles that can make a lot of power with modifications. But for this short little video clip, my editor told me to skip the basics and find something bizarre and nerdy to call out. So here we are. Check it out!
Of course, we shot at this at Radwood Norcal, the ultimate gathering for cars of the 1980 to 1999 vintage. People sometimes refer to these cars as “transaxle” cars because of their method of placing the gearbox at the back of the car, rather than bolting it directly to the engine. That being said, Radwood was a transaxle heaven. I have seen a few 944 Turbos at shows in my time, but I can’t recall ever seeing the extremely rare 944 S2.
Before I get into that, a quick summary of the Porsche 944. Porsche produced these front-engined water-cooled oddities from 1982-1991, born as an update to the Porsche 924 which was originally designed for Volkswagen. When VW refused the 924, Porsche built it themselves, and in classic Porsche fashion iterated towards the 1982 944. Midway through 1985, Porsche facelifted the 944 with a new interior and introduced the 944 Turbo, today’s subject. In 1987, the 944 S with a 2.5-liter twin-cam engine was introduced, then the 944 S2 in 1989.
OK, OK, this post is supposed to be about the extremely cool 944 Turbo, but let me sidebar into the 944 S2 that I didn’t mention in the video. In fact, there was an unbelievably clean 1989 Alpine White S2 that I wanted to do this video on, but the owner left before I got a chance to shoot it. The 944 S2 is the ultimate 944, and the last one they ever made lasting until 1991. Instead of the 2.5-liter M44 turbo engine, Porsche put the twin cam 944 S head onto a 3.0-liter block, making it one of the largest production four-cylinder engines ever.
While it didn’t have the ultimate power potential of the turbo engine, it wasn’t far behind in stock form and had the added benefit of throttle response. The engine is still oversquare even at that massive displacement and is apparently revvy and powerful, but I have never driven one. A similar version of that engine made it into the Porsche 968, the last of the four-cylinder transaxle cars, with even more power. In fact, the Porsche 968 is the result of fanatical engineering and optimization by Porsche, starting development as something like a 944 S3, but being so substantially changed that they gave it a new name.
Anyways, back to the video. We’re experimenting with YouTube, so you can expect some variety on our brand new channel there in the near future — likes and subscriptions are immensely appreciated! In this clip, I say many interesting things about 944 Turbos (951s for Ultimate Nerds) and before you yell at me, I have realized that the common name of the wheels is simply “phone-dials.” Calling them “weird alien head wheels” is way better though. Enjoy!