Bargain Porsche Project: 1983 Porsche 944

So I’ve always been a practical pig sedan-and-wagon kind of guy, but lately, as I start to feel my youth slipping away, I’ve been getting weird sports car urges, and most of these have centered around the Porsche 944. While Porsche values are generally pretty nuts right now, you see, the 944 (and its slightly less hippy predecessor, the 924) has remained a great bargain. No, it’s not the fastest, prettiest, or most desirable—or the easiest to work on—but it’s fun and charming and perfectly ’80s, and it’s not so stupid expensive that you’re afraid to drive it. Unfortunately, the word is getting out and prices are starting to creep up a little on the so-called “transaxle Porsches” (which also includes the 928), but sleepers are still out there. As a prime example, this ’83 944 is listed on eBay in Wylie, Texas for just $2,800, and that includes a complete parts car as well. As always, there’s a catch—it’s not running—but let’s check it out and see what $2,800 worth of Porsche looks like these days.

Looks pretty clean from here! The (five-digit) odometer of this car shows just 42,230 miles, and if the upholstery is original, I believe it.  This 944 was apparently recently acquired from the estate sale of a long-time owner who had parked it for several years due to unspecified mechanical issues; there’s plenty of work to be done on the dirty bits and the exterior, but fortunately not here.

The seller of this two-for-one 944 package appears to specialize in Jeeps, so I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s not too much info about what’s wrong with this car in the ad. It mentions that the engine turns over but won’t start, but that’s about it. I’m also noticing that the shock towers look like they need some attention, but shouldn’t be too bad—yet.

Here’s the parts car, which, as the ad points out, wears original “Telephone Dial” wheels, so between these and the Fuchs alloys on the other car, a new owner will have a choice of sweet, period-correct wheels if nothing else. Both cars are emphatically referred to as “Euro models;” those are definitely 5-mph bumpers and side marker lights, though, so while that Mercedes might be Euro-spec, I’m pretty sure these Porsches aren’t.

I wish we knew more about this car’s mechanical maladies so that we could assess how difficult a project it would be to get it back on the road. Still, a sub-three-grand Porsche is probably a risk worth taking at this point if, like this car, it’s not a rusty heap—and all the better that there’s a parts car to sweeten the deal. If this was closer to me, I might be in a lot of trouble; as it is, I’m still keeping my eye out for 944 bargains!

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Comments

  1. Dave Wright

    While we were in Europe last year, I noticed the 924/944 cars are becoming very popular. They were frequently parked in the most conspicuous spots in front of restaurants and hotels. I think they will be on the way up in price.

    6+

  2. Dave Wright

    We all know about the weaknesses in these cars….like plastic shift linkage components…….but Porsche (like Mercedes) is very good at making upgraded parts to fix the original shortcomings…..off course, the aftermarket manufacturers are too……I think you could make these very reliable and an enjoyable car in today’s world with little trouble. Like an old Beechcraft Vtail that had trouble with weakness in the rear fuselage area when first built…….any of them still around today have already had that addressed.

    3+

  3. dirtyharry

    My father, the car dealer suggested never buying a non-running car. It can’t be evaluated very well. What is it worth, if every single major component is dead? I think that is especially true when it comes to cars that have expensive parts. At the moment, I see two parts cars. Having owned similar cars, I can attest there is no such thing as a cheap Porsche.

    4+

    • Dave Wright

      I buy non running cars every week…….I actually prefer them because it limits my competition. After buying thousands over the 50 years I have been doing it……how would all the major components be worn out at the same time? It isn’t logical. There is normally one issue that made it inoperable. If the machine is disassembled, that tells you the problem in most cases. If it is unmolested, frequently it is just not running because it has been parked a long time. If the car isn’t running, you should get a huge discount……..that is where the best deals and profit are made. Like real estate…….buy the worst house in the best neighborhood……. simple concept that can make a fortune. The government sells vehicles and equipment every day not running, most commonly…..it is because has a dead battery. I bought my old 93 Chev 3500 diesel from the state of Washington 25 years ago. It was listed as a non runner. With a 6.5 diesel and 56,000 miles. Nothing was disturbed on the truck. We bought it sight unseen, went to pick it up a couple of weeks later. Put a new set of diehard batteries in it………wouldn’t start. I was having my girlfriend turn it over while I was watching the engine compartment….could smell diesel. As it turned out someone that knew the truck had loosened the fuel line hold down nuts on the injectors. Obviously to make it a non runner so they could buy it cheep. I had to buy a crows foot socket, but the truck still runs perfectly after an additional 250,000 miles. I love those deals……

      14+

  4. Frank

    Bring a fuel pump relay and drive away

    2+

  5. Rich Nepon

    If you really want one to drive, I have an 87 944 that was wrecked when young. It was made into a cabriolet, the chassis/body strengthened by 1″ channel. All gaps are good. I put 35,000 daily drivermiles on. I put in New steering axle, new water pump and timing, new tires, a/c redone, new seatbottoms, new top. Windows work. Always maintained by porsche professionals. Automatic. Great in town. Drove Pennsylvania to Florida a few years ago. Not rusty. I just had a brain bleed and no longer drive.

    6+

    • Mike Monti

      That is one sweet and totally unique set of wheels!

      0

  6. Eddie

    Non Running Cars Are Some Of The Best Finds !!!

    5+

  7. Chris

    I’d be careful here. The timing belts break frequently in these cars. If you can be sure its not broken, its a good buy.

    0

  8. AMCFAN

    I was about to chime in on that. Interfering valve engine.= trouble. These are cheap for a reason. Not any back yard mechanic can change one. Need factory tools then money.

    Although one of my favorite 80’s cars I prefer the 924S of 86/87 vintage and not confused with the 70’s pos. If one car did get it all it was the 924S/944 series for balance, handling, power with fuel economy all thrown in one package. Very smooth runner and a pleasure to drive. It was very good car for the times. Fun for me anyway. Ahhh! Being young having one there wasn’t nothing better to own except a 911.

    Porsche…..There is NO substitute

    1+

  9. Chris

    My buddy had one, went 20 k miles on a timing belt and it broke. It sat in the back of my garage for about 2 years, and another friend bought it for $1000 and fixed it in my garage. It was incredibly difficult, but he was a smart dude. Got it going and drove it from Chicago to California the next week. He did not have the Porsche tools so I used dial indicators to set the cam phase, it was hard, and we maybe just got it close, but it did run pretty well.

    1+

  10. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Best to replace the timing belt before trying to start it. Otherwise, if it cranks or does start but the belt is either already broken or worn out and skips a tooth or breaks you will be replacing a lot more than the belt in an interference engine.

    I have replaced the timing belt in a bunch of different makes and have never needed special tools or dials. I guess that’s Porsche….and perhaps Porsche’s way of getting you to come back to them when you need a new belt.

    I prefer cars with timing chains. I have never had one break.

    1+

    • Chris

      I’ve seen special tools needed in a few cars, audis and volvos. For some reason they don’t key the cam sprocket to the cam shaft. On my A8 you could literally install the cam in any position without the tool. Seems like bad design.

      0

    • Dave Wright

      I don’t like soft belts either………but every time I mention them in the context of a Fiat 124, I get shouted down. These were Audi engines built during the time of the German Auto Confederation when most of the German car makers were collaborating, and was designed to be an inexpensive car. I love my Alfas, 911’s and Mercedes all with chain driven OHC’s and never had any trouble with the Chrysler 2.2/2.5 engines with fiber belts but they are a non-interference engine. The only thing good to be said about belts, is they are cheep and quiet. Chains can get really noisy as the tensioners or guides wear and can be really expensive to replace. We had our share of struggles with the fiber gears in Volvos too.

      0

      • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

        Yes I am familiar with the fiber gear problem with the camshaft drive in old Volvos. I had one that sounded just like a rod knock until it was fixed.

        As for some other makes, I have found that the timing chains in straight-6 BMWs and Datsun 240Zs last a good long time. Mind you, I have never taken one much past about 200K miles though. I understand that the chain guides in some BMW V8 engines can need replacing during the life of the vehicle, at great expen$e. Maybe that’s why I have never owned a BMW with a V8.

        0

  11. Bobby

    I have owned a couple 944 one first gen and one second gen. Great cars as hard to work on as any German car I think. But as far taking an old Porsche and possibly even making it a track car u won’t find a better option. The second gens are far better though imo

    0

  12. Rick Harrison

    Backyard and non running are my favorite. As it has been said, a non running means big discounts. Also, an aggravated parent/ grandparent who wants their driveway/garage back helps. Of course don’t mess with what you don’t know.
    Happy owner of a 1986 BMW 325es with 316k (recently rear ended ) and a 1988 BMW with 275k.

    2+

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