The Porsche 944 is an excellent example of the kind of car that’s worth pretty decent money when in great condition … and worth scrap value beyond a fairly strict threshold of perceived thrashedness. I see plenty of 944s at the fixed price, high-inventory turnover, self-service yards (not to mention many more blowing up in 24 Hours of LeMons races), but I don’t feel inspired to document these cars in their final parking spaces most of the time.
This beat-to-crap early 944 in a San Jose yard, however, caught my attention for some reason.
The lure of the cheap “exotic” car can be irresistible for some gearheads. Just open up eBay Motors sometime and type “ project” into the search bar. Instantly, dozens of cars, old and new, are there to haunt your bargain-hunting dreams. In a quick glance, I spotted a Viper, a Z32 300ZX, and even a Local Motors Rally Fighter that can all be picked up for a fraction of the cost of a clean one.
The problem with any project, of course, is the time and money required to complete is typically underestimated, often by some unforeseen order of magnitude. Many of these “projects” will likely be listed on eBay in twenty years as “barn finds”, in basically the same state — save for entropy — as today.
Take today’s feature car, the 1987 Porsche 924S.
So. They finally did it, didn’t they?
Porsche followed the lead of Ferrari (with either the California T or 208GTS, depending on your awareness of history) and Ford (with the Fiesta EcoBoost, of course) by making the entry-level 911 a small-displacement turbo. It had to happen, because in its successful quest to become primarily a manufacturer of unibody “trucks” Porsche became too large to reasonably plead an indulgence, er, exemption from Europe’s state religion of carbon-emissions laws. By the way, the next time you’re reading about the sale of indulgences and all of the other ridiculous behavior practiced by Christian Europe six hundred years ago and you’re feeling very smug about living in era where reason holds sway over craven superstition, take a nice long look at this and tell me how much difference you truly see between now and the era of Leo X.
Will Porsche’s switch to smaller, force-fed engines counterbalance even an hour of one region of China’s use of coal for power? It’s best not to think too much about that. Could Porsche accomplish a similar amount of carbon-production reduction by changing the engines in the Macan and Cayenne, perhaps giving them all ludicrous-pressure four bangers like the one in the AMG CLA 45 and therefore leaving the naturally-aspirated sports cars alone? We really don’t want to think about that. It would be like a husband wondering why his wife comes to bed in curlers but insists on a manicure before his brother stops by for dinner. Could it be that he’s no longer the most important member of the family?
This is not a train that we, the occasional Porsche buyers of America, can stop. And it especially is not a train that you, the person from the Internet who has never bought a Porsche but plans on picking up a Carrera G50 some time in the next ten years if the prices come back down, can stop. All we can do is look back at a few great Porsche Turbos and Monday-morning quarterback Porsche’s new product line.
Let’s do that, shall we?
If you haven’t noticed — and judging by the lack of comments, I’m guessing you haven’t — things have been picking up a bit over at the long-dormant TTAC Forum. I’ve been posting a near-daily “Find of the Day” in the Classic and Collector Car forum. I’m trying to highlight the interesting, cool, and weird stuff I find as I tread the crapwagon-infested waters of eBay, craigslist, classified sites, and other forums.
There is plenty to look at. Just this week: A rusty Bronco; an oddly-shortened Chevelle; a ’90s-vintage Alfa Romeo Spider; a Porsche 944S; and a Buick Reatta ragtop.
Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash. As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…
…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip. And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you. The Poorvette is proof positive.
TTAC Commentator PartsUnknown writes:
Long story short, a family friend has an ’86 944 non-turbo sitting in her driveway in suburban Massachusetts. It belongs to her son who lives in Manhattan. Although he loves the car, it simply does not fit his current lifestyle. He wants to sell it, but is not actively pursuing it. His mother is constantly suggesting that I buy it (she knows my predilection for cars). Here’s the deal: it’s been sitting for a few years, driven sparingly. It appears to be in good cosmetic condition and it apparently runs. I know these cars are expensive to maintain.
I’m a busy man, with a wife and two young kids, a demanding career and a Saab 9-5 that I like to tinker with to satisfy my inner mechanic. I value time with my family above all, and while focusing on saving for retirement and college tuition, probably couldn’t afford to dump massive amounts of money into this car. The only reason I’m even considering it is that this guy’s mother has hinted that he just wants to get rid of it, and she said laughing, “he’d probably take $1,000 for it”. Question is, should I even entertain the idea? What, at minimum, would it cost to get this thing roadworthy as a weekend ride considering its relative lack of use (keeping in mind I’m a middling DIYer)? I’m leaning no, but $1,000 for a decent 944 seems like a no-brainer. Almost. I previously owned a 1986 911 Carrera Coupe, which was a fantastic car, but I sold it for precisely the reasons stated above – to prioritize time with my family over spending a Saturday replacing blower motors and ball joints.
Talk me off the ledge.
Sajeev, I need your help to resolve my dilemma. Picked up a certified 07 Rabbit less than a year ago and am not satisfied with its fuel economy and frankly just bored with it. I’m averaging about 9L/100Km and I know will only get worse come winter. I use this car solely to commute to work and occasionally put a large hockey bag in the hatch.