By on March 27, 2011

Full fathom five my 944 lies;
Of its wheels are spider nests made;
Those glass E-codes that were its eyes;
Nothing of it that doth fade.

Hard to believe it was more than four years ago that I rolled my 944 into a friend’s barn with the intent of perhaps uncovering it in a decade or so. Times change, plans change, people piss off their soon-to-be-ex-wives and lose the barn storage they had given to their friends. It would come out today or be sold at auction, but how do you tow a Porsche across a farmer’s field too wet for a tow truck?

I packed the little Audi away with care. It was on a tarp to keep the dew from perennially soaking the underbody. Another tarp went on top of the full car cover and was zip-tied together.

Annoyingly, at some point in the past, someone had decided to check it out. Maybe to see if it was worth stealing. I like to think that they broke into the barn, saw the real Fuchs wheels half-exposed, and figured they were just a hotwire away from owning a ’77 Turbo Carrera, when… BAM! IT’S A 944! SUCK ON THAT, LOW-AMBITION THIEVES!

The headlamps were up and the clutch pedal was sunk into the floor. There’s a lesson here. In 2006, this car ran like a top. I’d just put $2600 into a clutch job from Steinel’s in Cleveland and I had another $2000 worth of new parts on it. My wife frequently counted up the total spent on the car aloud in front of friends. “He paid $5500 for it because it was ‘perfect’. Then he spent another $5000 on it. Apparently it’s now worth $4500.” Yes, I heard a lot about that.

To quiet her complaints, and show her the mighty power of this particular, no-sunroof, free-spinning-engine example, I took her and the car to 944Fest at Nelson Ledges, where I proceeded to stuff it up the ass of every “instructor-driven” 944 Turbo on the track. I was so pleased with myself I lost concentration, forgot this particular 944 had no ABS, and spun it off the end of the back straight. It clip-clopped all the way home. Kind of like riding a tractor across a broken field. One hundred and sixty-three miles on flat-spotted tires. Halfway home, the A/C cut out. “Do you think you’ll want to replace these tires?” she asked. “And maybe fix this air conditioning? Because another alternative we have, right now, and this alternative would be cheaper, you know, that alternative would be to abandon this piece of garbage by the side of the road.” I bought new tires for the super-cheap price of $750 total and spent a month entering the bedroom at night after I was absolutely certain she was asleep.

Then a friend of mine, whom some long-time TTAC readers may remember as “Rodney the Ford Salesman”, asked to borrow the 944 to attend his grandfather’s funeral. Well, that’s not strictly true. He asked to borrow my brand-new, $81,350 Volkswagen Phaeton. I countered with the 944. He suggested borrowing my other Phaeton, which had only rung the register for $68,900. I countered with a bus ticket. He took the 944. Along the way, he killed the clutch slave cylinder, broke the headlamp motors, and somehow put three dings in the doors.

“How many of your grandparents,” I inquired as I pushed the 944 onto a trailer for its trip to the barn, “are still alive? I just want to know, so that I can make sure I arrange appropriate transportation.”

That was then, this is now. The tow-truck operator arrived and explained some things to me.

#1. His tow truck weighs 16,000 pounds.

#2. A long trip over a soft, plowed field would be necessary to retrieve the car.

#3. The above two points are non-compatible.

In the end, we did the only sensible thing. I hooked a chain up to my Town Car and dragged the 944 out of the barn, through the bushes which had somehow grown up around the barn in the past four years, and across the field. I was very pleased with myself. I took a moment to snag a picture.

Right when I snapped the photo, the Town Car got stuck in the mud.

Luckily, we were close enough to the edge of the field that we could disconnect the chain, let the Townie rock its way out, and use the winch to bring the 944 onto the flatbed. $150 later, it was sitting in my driveway, giving me quite the forlorn look with it’s popped-up headlamps.

Vodka McBigbra arrived a few hours later. “I thought, when you said you weren’t buying any more guitars, that, you know, that also kind of meant you weren’t BUYING MORE PORSCHES either.”

“No, dear, I already owned this car.”

“Are there any more secret cars out there? No, don’t tell me. It looks cute. And since you already own it, I guess that means you don’t have to spend any money.” Vodka and my ex-wife don’t speak. Sometimes, this presents problems. Other times, it is a situation which brings me considerable satisfaction.

The 944 has relatively few needs, if you use the Dai-Ichi power plant as a standard of comparison. A new slave cylinder. Probably a drain of the gas tank, flush of the brakes, new timing belt (not trivial in a 944), a new water pump, a solid detail job, whatever else has gone wrong. I won’t worry about the air conditioning, the interior fan, or any cosmetics. This is two thousand dollars, tops. Maybe twenty-five hundred. Alternately, I could take delivery of a 2011 Porsche GT3. The first month’s payment would also be about two thousand dollars, but the GT3 wouldn’t give me the thrill that comes from not knowing if one will actually arrive at one’s destination on any given day.

To be fair, the 944 is really a better way to get around than a 911 GT3. To begin with, it’s possible to use full throttle pretty much all the time, everywhere. This includes all the times in Ohio when it rains. The 944 is honest. It weighs 2600 pounds. You can see out of it. Nearly twenty years after the last of its kind left a showroom, it has shed all the nasty little social stigmata of Porsche ownership. There are no blinking lights on the dashboard informing you that the car is wiping your ass and saving you from putting it backwards into that Jersey barrier. It’s just you and the car. Good times.

I sat out on my step tonight and looked at the 944. Dirty, battered, in need of some serious and expensive help. Still, I can’t wait to drive it. I don’t know why I waited this long.

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33 Comments on “My 944 Is… Wait For It… Outstanding In Its Field...”

  • avatar

    I heard a rumor that a n/a 8v 944 has a throttle pedal but it is a lie.  It is simply just a foot operated on/off switch.  Knock, knock…it’s 944-Spec looking for another new driver in the newly minted 944-Spec group in the G/L region and Nat’ls is at Mid-Ohio.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      This is a no-rust, no-sunroof car with an unblemished record of no crash damage, no body repair, and so on.
      It would be a crime to make it into a 944 Spec.
      But… I’d sell it to someone who would! ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I’d say go to 2 wheels, anything with 4 wheels just feels slow after that.  If I had $30k for a fast car I’d spend it on a bike and a beater pickup truck with a hitch for a bike trailer..

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Dr. Ken, I’ve already got the truck, now I just need something worthy with two wheels and an engine.  (I own a 150cc scooter but I own one of those for the same reason a guy might keep a well running Geo Metro around.) 

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      ive owned six motorcycles  not likely to get any more… at my age, i want steel between me and the racetrack fencing

    • 0 avatar

      Dr. Ken – “I’d say go to 2 wheels, anything with 4 wheels just feels slow after that”

      I have some friends with Supras and one with an HPF built M3 that would take up that offer.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll pass it on that there’s a sunroof delete car flowing around the Ohio region.

  • avatar

    You are a sick man Baruth

  • avatar

    You’re the guy that bought both of the Phaetons that VW sold in the USA? 944 ownership just about redeems you.

  • avatar
    Spencer Williams

    Two Phaetons? Go on…

  • avatar

    TWO Phaetons, a 944, and a Town Car as a tow vehicle? Impressive collection, I like.
    I will standby for 944 updates. This’ll be fun…

  • avatar

    … But doth not suffer gear-change
     W’out a slave seal rich and strange.

  • avatar

    As the former owner of a 944S that was also “perfect” but had just crested 6 figures on the odometer, this is painfully familiar. Timing belt failure is twice as much fun on a 16v engine!
    To this day, when my wife and I see a 944 (which is admittedly getting more rare), we remark to each other, “hey, it’s a 944…. and it’s not on a flatbed!”

  • avatar

    I used a Fiat Siena to tow my Impulse when it didn’t run. I think I fried the clutch, because 3 months later, and after 200K kms we had to change it.

  • avatar

    OK, how did I become the lucky one? I’ve had my 924S for almost two years now, did the initial timing belt change (no service records) just to be on the safe side. Since then I had to have some corrosion taken off the wiper switch and recently replaced a fuel pump that start leaking. And otherwise, it’s been just fine. And I love the car. Sufficient power to handle my driving needs, sufficient handling to remind me why life is worth living.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a big soft spot for 944s and 968s.  Please, please put this one back on the road!  It will make the world a better place.

  • avatar

    Dude, how many cars  do you have?

    PS.  I’d LOVE a Phaeton

  • avatar

    Anything under a dusty tarp in an old barn is fair game to look at in Ohio.  I believe those rules apply for Michigan and Indiana too.
    My Town Car has been stuck in a cornfield for about 2 weeks now from trying to pull a broken ATV.  It sunk to the frame, so I didn’t even bother to rock it and don’t want to leave ruts pulling it out.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Dude, if you don’t want to leave ruts, that’s gonna be a hard one.  (Says the old Ohio farm boy who watched his dad almost burry his 1967 Mustang trying to get it out of storage in the shed one spring.)  Have you considered a crane? 

  • avatar

    You need to trade that money pit for a Honda S2000.  It’d be more reliable and just as fun to drive.

  • avatar
    The Doctor

    Jack, why did you use your Town Car? The Phaeton’s actually pretty capable in the mud, as I can attest to:

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Both my Phaetons are long gone… so long ago that the replacement for my black Phaeton, the infamous 1973 Lime Green Audi S5, is also gone.
      My current humble car lineup, and I do mean humble since this is the cheapest group of cars I’ve had in a decade:
      1984 Porsche 944
      1995 Porsche 993
      2004 Porsche Boxster S Anniversary
      2009 Lincoln Town Car
      I could talk about the good old days, when my driveway had two Phaetons, a CL55, the above three Porsches, and an Audi S5 in it. Or I can smile at the fact that I’ve purchased over fifty guitars since October. :)

    • 0 avatar

      While it must be very cool to have several excellent guitars at home, I would certainly keep on of the Phaetons. And the CL. I mean, at least one interesting/nice/cool/powerful car.

  • avatar

    Let me join the chorus of former 944 owners who loved the car’s handling, dynamic and head-turning abilities, but gave up when faced with frequent and costly repairs.
    It was 20-something years ago, so I can’t remember if the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the $375 labor charge to replace a $4.50 coolant hose, or a $1,075 labor charge to replace a $10 rubber fuel line at the top of the tank. The latter required removal of the transaxle AND dropping the fuel tank. It was as if the car were designed to never be repaired; access to minor wear items often required removal of major components.
    Amazingly, once I unloaded the beast I discovered that I could actually afford to go to graduate school.

    • 0 avatar

      I spent 4 hours yesterday replacing a $3 coolant hose on my Civic.  It was such a pain to remove as it is connected to the back of the engine, just under the intake manifold.  I was afraid that I would have to remove the intake manifold to get at the hose, but I managed to find a pair of needle-nose pliers that could reach the clamp.
      My next car will be electric.  No oil, no coolant, no gasoline.  If only I had a place to plug it in.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in the middle of replacing the alternator on my Civic (it is dying a slow death and won’t charge unless I’m at 2,500 or higher rpms) and had to remove the intake manifold as I also had to clean out and replace the gasket on the idle air control valve.  Just much easier to remove the intake.  All in all it took 2 hours total and 4 cuss words.  On a 944 the alternator would be much easier to do especially if you do not have power steering.  Then again doing a clutch on a 944 versus a Civic will make you sell the 944 and say never, never again.

    • 0 avatar

      No it was not that the car was designed as if it would never need repair…it was designed so that it would need repairs and when it did, they would generate goodly numbers of labor hours for dealerships.

      Rumor has it that the German engineer(s) who conjured up the old VW Type 4’s later concocted the 944’s.

      And they must have trained some Japanese engineers who came up with Subaru TurboXT’s that required that the intake manifold be removed to replace a small rubber coolant hose sitting right above the block, slowly cooking until it began leaking, baffling mechanics.

      Then the hose would give way in the middle of a cold night, on the way to an important meeting at 11am the next day.

      A pox upon all cars with poorly engineered maintenance requirements, and a double pox on the engineers who concocted them, quadruple if it was by design.

  • avatar

    944s are fantastic cars. They’ve aged very well, in general.
    My friend’s crazy ex girlfriend wanted me to tell her what was wrong with a 944 her ex from a previous relationship had given to her. The car had a lot of issues. Overheats when you don’t keep the revs up, grinds into 1st while at a stop, funny noises from the timing belt area, dead shocks, etc. It’d have made a perfect spec944 or LeMons car. She offered to sell it to me for $1200, which seemed steep considering she got it for free. At least I got to live out the fantasy of driving one!

  • avatar

    You are my idol.  Subcomment, did your wife pick out her internet nickname?  Or was it assigned to her?

  • avatar

    I currently drive an 85 944 and I love it. I can totally identify with you Jack, as many ’44 owners can. I’m almost into the car for double what i have paid for it and it’s only been 6 months and 4,000 miles. But for a Porsche-phile like me, it was either buy a 944 NOW or wait 5 years to buy a decent 911, I opted for the now. Good luck, here’s mine!

  • avatar

    If front engined Porsches with expensive repairs costs are your thing, Bring A Trailer highlighted a nice looking 928 for $5K.
    Here’s the Craigslist ad:

  • avatar

    The opening photo is so incredibly….*Ohio*. I place Jack’s friend’s place at somewhere between Columbus and Dayton.

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