The Project Car Diary pt.3: Dammit, Colton

As if I didn’t have enough of a quandary over what project car I look at, or if I even do look at one beyond the Genesis Coupe, Colton has to suggest another one.

The eighties legend, the Porsche 944.

Stop laughing. It is kind of a legend. It’s no 911, for sure, but it really kind of is. It’s got it’s own quiet place in media history too – it was a go to in all kinds of BratPack-adjacent movies – Think “Weird Science”(1), Sixteen Candles(2), and Risky Business(3) to name a few – and absolutely was the “poorman’s Porsche”.


Sixteen Candles – Porsche 944 autotragic

Sure, it was well-hated for being a front-engine-rear-drive Porsche, when everyone knows that Porsche’s are rear engine. But it shared that with the 928, among others, as well. But, there’s realistically MORE FE-RWD Porsche’s than there are rear-engine ones, these days, especially.

Also, I think pretty much anything I say about the 944 from here on out applies to the FE-RWD 968, as well. Well, except for cost. The 968, the “replacement poor man’s Porsche” is… apparently collectable/expensive. Like, “none under $25k CDN in Canada right now” collectable/expensive. I was going to say the 928 is cheaper and it is, but isn’t. Weirdly, 928 prices range from $6500CDN to $220,000CDN. No, that’s not an extra zero. Nearly a quarter million dollars for a 928.

So, the 944.

It hits my first criteria for a project car – they’re available in good shape for under six or seven grand. I’ve seen them as low as a thousand bucks, with a non-running drive train (that’s what Colton sent me, and fortunately, it’s sold. It’s almost Christmas, so I don’t have a thousand bucks to just throw at a project right now… that will change by spring).

As we know, I don’t care about a non-runner. It’d be nice to have a car that’s within spitting distance of the Genesis Coupe in terms of speed (the Genesis is rated, in 2010, at about 6.9seconds t0 60mph/100km/h. The 944 was around 8 seconds… short of the S2 which was quiiiiiiiiick.) but, if I can get in it and drive it, safely, even on the track, for seven grand? That’s a good starting point while I save for mods.

It’s a good looking car – I wouldn’t mide doing a wide-body on it, but I wouldn’t do the rocket-bunny-style riveted on half-a-kiddie-pool. I’d look more for something to mimic the 924 GTP LeMans body-kit. Now that’s 80’s obnoxiousness. Nah, Realistically, I’d probably get some bodywork done to widen the arches an inch or two, so it looks different, takes bigger rubber, and makes you look at it and you know something’s different, but you can’t quite put your finger on what.


924 GTP LeMans

OEM wheels aren’t terrible, but I’d want larger. Those OEM’s are 16×7 +23mm or 15×7 +25mm (with 205/55 or 215/60 tires, respectively) That gives me some room to play. Some Five-Star wheels would look fantastic. If I left the body alone, I’m pretty sure I could get up to about a 16×8.5 +15mm, 255/45R16 rubber in there (it looks right on “will they fit dot com”). That 255/45 is a perfect diameter replacement, too. Might need a hub conversion – the PCD is 5×130 – I dunno how many wheels are made for that (that aren’t 19-24″ diameter for SUV’s).

porsche944wheelupgrade//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Supsension is easy. First, it’s a Porsche. It ain’t terrible to begin with. Second, there’s a reasonable aftermarket for ‘em, too, so I can pretty easily go Bilsteins and lowering springs and be thrilled with it. As always, I’m not gonna be a frame-scrapper.

Which leads me to drivetrain. Given that it was an N/A(4), supercharged, or turbocharged, depending on the year or model, I could happily go any which way. There’s V8 swaps out there, and V6’s. My biggest concern is weight, and interest (as always). So, yes, LS-FTW is always an option:

But, if you’ve listened to the podcast (and if you’re here, I assume you have) you know I don’t love the LS-All-the-things method. It is, without doubt, the best bang-for-the-buck if you want big power. It’s a relatively small package, it’s relatively lightweight, it takes boost if you want to go that route, and there’s kits and advice for it, everywhere. It is 100% the smartest, easiest route. Someone, somewhere, has already put it in anything you can think of, and has documented it, and/or built a kit to help you.

But, it’s SO boring, and obvious.

I would rather go with something modern, but similar – think the Ford Ecoboost 2.3T from the last few years of the Mustang. It’s already well set-up for FE-RWD, it’s also relatively compact, it’s more than enough horsepower (just a stock one at ~300hp is double most 944 factory numbers) and if you want more, it’s easy enough to tune to 400+hp. Given that the 944 is about 700lbs lighter than the 2016 Mustang…. I don’t see power from a turbo-4 being an issue.

There’s also gotta be some wrecked later Porsche’s out there – things like the Boxter – that made more power than the 944, but would keep a Porsche engine in the car. That’s interesting, but as that’s going from a horizontally mounted Rear-engine to a longitudinal front engine, that might take some… effort. Specifically more knowledge and fabrication than I’m capable.

There are kits to put beefed up VW 1.8T’s in the 944. These guys especially build a mean 1.8T for the 944, with flavours ranging from high-200’s to 600+hp race engines.

Hell, you can build the OEM engine to more than capable numbers, and boost is an option.

I always liked the 944, it has great lines, and it’s a good looking car. It’s a hatchback with a back seat (sort of), which is appealing for me for a multitude of reasons, not the last of which is taking everything I need for a week at Tail of the Dragon which is always a consideration in anything I do going forward.

Who knows. It’s just one more idea on the path to the idiocy that is a project/track/street car. I know I’m not the only one out there who’s thinking well beyond their skill level – but I have good, knowledgeable friends, and I don’t mind the car being down while I learn how to do a new thing.

Stay tuned for what’s next! 😀

~Mark.

(1) Nerd Wyatt drives a 928 in Weird Science, created from nothing by Lisa. If you’ve not seen Weird Science, you should see it, it’s a great movie. Also, I always thought it was a 944. But no. It’s not.
(2) Jake Ryan (not Jack Ryan), the love interest to Molly Ringwald’s Samantha, drives a red 944. Ugh. Autotragic.
(3) Risky Business isn’t directly “Brat Pack” but Tom Cruise is young enough to alllllmost qualify. It’s not a 944, either, it’s a 928, but… close enough.
(4) N/A = Naturally Aspirated


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