Origins

[banner image]

The predecessor of the 944, the 924, was originally a Volkswagen based project. As such, it was never held to the standards that are expected of the Porsche brand; although the vehicle drove and handled well, the VW-based engine was a weak alternative to an all Porsche power plant. Although Porsche addressed poor horsepower figures with a turbocharged version of the 924, it was obvious that an all-Porsche replacement was needed; however, Porsche recognized the potential of the VW-based platform, and as such, the development of the 944 was based on the 924s platform.

Immediately Porsche recognized that the 924s Volkswagen engine was ill-suited for the car. Under the new headman Peter Schutz, Porsche had been developing a new engine for the 924 Turbo, however due to the particularly small size of the 924’s engine bay, Porsche was forced to develop a 4-cylinder design. Thus the poorly designed VW engine was replaced with an all new all-alloy 2.5 liter inline 4-cylinder engine (based on the 928’s 5.0 liter V8, the 2.5 liter was effectively half of the 928’s engine). Although many 4-cylinder engines of the vintage succumbed to rough-running characteristics (as was the case with the 924), the use of Mitsubishi Motors patented balance shafts assured smooth running characterizes.

Although many of the body panels were new, the 944 took its design cues from the 924 Turbo and the 924 Carrera GT, the latter of which was designed as a homologation special which Schutz was particularly attracted to. However, although the 944 used many all-Porsche components (Schutz hoped to avoid the disfavor the 924 had attracted due to its VW/Audi parentage), the 944 still used many Volkswagen components, such as similar suspension and brake system design, and even interior styling.

However, significant modifications to the brake and suspension systems of the car insured that any comparison to its predecessor was only marginal. Moreover, in the second half of 1985, Porsche introduced more significant changes to the 944. The 1985.5 model year introduced an updated interior, an embedded radio antenna, and signature “phone dial” wheels (replacing the old “cookie cutter” wheels), as well as upgraded mechanical components like the cast aluminum control arms and semi-trailing arms, and improved mounting of the transaxle.

The performance of the 944 was much improved over the 924. An improved run to 60 mph in the range of 8 to 9 seconds (the latter as claimed by the factory – although it was later revised to a more accurate 8.3 seconds, and cited as 8.4 by other sources) was paired with a top speed of 130 mph. However, the rear mounted transaxle assured the car had nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and as such the car was acclaimed for its superior handling characteristics.

Following the release of the 944, and its 1985.5 update, the 944 S was introduced. Featuring a more powerful 188 bhp DOHC version of the 2.5 liter power plant, the car sprinted to from 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds, and its top speed was increased to 143 mph. Similarly, in combination with the 944 Turbo’s release, the regular 944’s displacement was increased to 2.7 liters.

In 1989, after the 944 Turbo S replaced the standard Turbo, the 944 S2 was introduced, which featured a 211 bhp engine that was bored to 3 liters, and featured 4 valves per cylinder. The S2 shared many improvements with its Turbo counterpart, including a strengthened roll bars, S-4 brakes, and sixteen-inch alloy wheels. The S2 also featured the same exterior improvements as the Turbo, and both models enjoyed a cabriolet version (which had first been explored at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985).

In February of 1991, Porsche released the 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The Cabriolet combined the Turbo S’s performance characteristics with a cabriolet body. Initially, a rune of 500 cars was intended, but like the 1988 Turbo S, Porsche couldn’t resist building an ultimate 625 examples, 100 of which were right-hand drive models to be distributed to all right-hand drive markets.

[Note]Note to readers: this article is a stub. I hope to expand this article to be a more comprehensive overview of the development of the 944, the subsequent models and upgrades therewith, and the origins of the 944 Turbo, and to better link subsequent articles within the resource to this article. If you have any relevant information you would like to share with me, so that I might improve the accuracy and depth of this article, please contact me.