1988 Porsche 944 Turbo - Toybox

By: John Bowe & Alex Affat , Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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It's a third of the price of its 911 stablemate and, arguably, it's a better drive!

 

1988 Porsche 944 Turbo

It’s no secret that rear-engined 911s of all eras have enjoyed stratospheric price rises over the last decade, and while there’s been a noticeable trickle-down effect on all models bearing the Stuttgart shield, their once lesser-loved range of front-engined ‘entry models’ represents great value and a markedly underrated driving experience.

The 944 is one to watch in particular. All things ’80s are back in fashion, and these wedged wonders have enjoyed increased interest for their distinct styling which has aged tremendously in my opinion.

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The later 928 may have fixed many of its packaging and ergonomic quirks, but with its divisive frog-eye styling, hasn’t yet quite taken off in the collector market. It will.

Ahead of the 944’s debut, Porsche sought to prove its new model by entering the 1981 Le Mans 24 Hour, just weeks before the road-going 944 went on sale. Walter Rohrl and Jurgen Barth peddled the 944 LM to seventh outright, with the front-engined turbocharged Porsche running the entire 24 hours near flawlessly, spending less time in the pits than any other competitor.

| Buyer's Guide: Porsche 924/928/944/968 (1978-1995)

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Of course the formula for the democratised Porsche began with the 924 of 1974. Updates such as a five-speed gearbox and turbocharged variants did little to quell the critics who sledged the front-engined model for not being a "proper Porsche", going so far as to say it should have been released with Audi badges on it instead.

This contrasts with Porsche HQ’s sentiment, which toyed with the idea of discontinuing the 911 in favour of their burgeoning range of front-engined models, could you imagine!?

| Read next: Porsche 944 - budget classic

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Despite initial outmoded stigmas, the 944 was a developmental leap forward from the initial 924. I’ve always believed that Porsche’s front-engined offerings were cracking handlers and massively underrated.

The silky smooth four-cylinder could easily be mistaken for a six or an eight, and boasted an aluminium head and block, with a forged steel crankshaft and lightweight cast aluminium pistons providing a welcome lift of peak power to 120kW in naturally-aspirated guise.

| Read next: Porsche 968SC review

porsche-944-rear-wing.jpgTurbo badge the clue to performance

The 944’s transaxle design was carried over from the 924, but the track increased by 76mm whilst the wheelbase grew slightly thanks to chunkier semi-trailing arms. Weight balance was a near-perfect 50/50 and disc brakes were found on all four corners.

The 944 Turbo arrived in Australian showrooms in 1986, carrying a hefty pricetag of $115,000 – double the standard 944. The 944 Turbo absorbed the top-spec Turbo S specification for the model year of 1989, gaining all the same goodies such as the 16" Fuch wheels, uprated clutch and LSD as well as the 928 S4’s four-piston Brembo front brakes.

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This one’s for sale at Melbourne’s Healey Factory who were nice enough to toss me the keys for an afternoon.

It’s an Australian delivered example in its original black-over-black combo; and factory optioned with electric sunroof, electric front seats and air-conditioning.

It’s had some aftermarket touches including a short-shift gear lever, Lindsey Racing boost enhancer and Max Performance ECU; supported by Koni Adjustable shocks at all four corners.

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It may not be in 100 per cent factory condition, or in tiptop concours condition – but it’s been well looked after and provides a useable weekend classic. The black 944 Turbo is thoroughly modern to drive, with an infectious power delivery once it comes on boost around 3500rpm. It’s very reminiscent of an early 911 turbo with lots of grunt once it gets on boost, and marches all the way up to 6000 very, very quickly!

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I could drive up and down the same road all day in this thing; it’s truly a contagious experience. And for a third of the price of an equivalent late-80s 964 911, I reckon it sounds like pretty darn good value!

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1988 Porsche 944 Turbo specs

ENGINE: 2479cc turbocharged Inline four-cylinder
POWER: 184kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @ 4000rpm
GEARBOX: Five-speed H-pattern manual
BRAKES: 304mm disc, four-piston (f), 299mm disc (r)
SUSPENSION: Independent, MacPherson strut, anti-roll (f), Independent, semi trailing arm, torsion bar, anti-roll (r)
WEIGHT: 1225kg

 

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