| Hello. What do I look for when I'm about to buy a 944?
Buying a 944: a highly desirable out-of-production car...
If you have $5 - $15K to spend on a real fun machine, I have some standard "let's go looking" advice. Lower cost cars are older, high-milers, and/or "mechanic specials." Higher cost cars are often later years (say, '88 onward) and are low milage cars, or a 944S, S2 or turbo model.
Shop the paper, the internet, of find somebody with a Porsche Club of America membership and get their used listings. Examine maintenence records carefully. See when the timing belt was last replaced, and find out if the owner ever had to replace a water pump. If the records are not available, incomplete, or suspect, take the car to somebody that knows 944's and have it checked. In fact, do this anyway. The cost of this can help you save on possible big repair bills later.
I would visually look at the coolant overflow tank for swelling and white cracks -- crazing -- that might indicate the motor had been overheated once. Bad. Also look for oil leaks under the car, and around the oil cooler assy (to left of motor as viewed from front; behind oil filter.) The cooler can blow out seals, which will allow water and coolant to mix. Very bad. If this happens, the oil on the dipstick will be a chocolate color, much like a milkshake. Look for body damage that might indicate the car was crunched once. If something is bent, like a tie rod, you'll never get a good alignment and things will vibrate and be weird and you will not get 100% of the 944's legendary handling. Plus you'll burn thru tires more quickly. A tip: look at the plastic wheel well shrouds inside the front fenders. If it's cracked (or gone!) the front end took a hit someplace along the line.
For any vehicle over 150K miles, expect to replace front engine seals, front wheel bearings, rear carrier bearings, all rotors & pads, shocks/struts, and maybe CV joints, if these items have not been serviced already. Also a very, very good idea is to replace the motor mounts with the latest, 944 turbo mounts. This, and more, is what I did to an '84 944 with a blown motor and 150K miles on it.
On a turbo car, after 150K miles, it might also need a turbo rebuild to make it fresh again.
Once you have the car, the cost of maintenance can vary. On a previously owned, well-maintained car, you need only do tuneups and change the timing belt every 30K miles, and pay attention to the usual stuff like brakes and fluids and tires. Replacement parts are the most expensive if you buy them from a Porsche dealer, so don't do that unless you absolutely cannot find a part any other way.
The above is pretty much a getting-started procedure. Lots of legwork in checking cars out up front will pay off in the longer run.
Check out the 944 FAQ document. It has lots of great info on model years, changes, and other stuff.
| What type and size of tires are recommended on the 944?
My 944 tire experience
My personal best experience with tires on a 944 has been with Bridgestone RE-71's. They handled well and wore like iron. One set had almost 30K miles on 'em before I replaced them. Of course, they were looking a bit smooth when I did so. Overall, I put three sets of RE-71's onto the old black 944 during its lifetime. Also ran a set of Michelin XGTV4's on it, and I liked them but they seemed to wear away sort of quickly for their VR rating. I also thought they did not handle as well as the Bridgestones.
Right now (1996-97) I am running Firestone's Firehawk series on my silver
944, which is my daily go-everywhere car. These tires are the RE-71 compound, but with the
Firestone name and tread pattern. I like them; but handling goes beyond tires; my ride
heights are off (the rear seems a bit high) so there is a feeling of impending
end-swapping in very hard cornering. My mechanic thinks the ride heights changed a bit
when the shocks were replaced by the previous owner. Something to think about when getting
a used car.
| What's this I've heard about performance chips? Do they really
I have an AutoThority chip in my car. I decided upon AutoThority after my mechanic, Barry, a longtime Porsche and race car guy, suggested I call Weinmeister's (where barry used to work) in New Mexico for a recommendation. Weinmeister is a Porsche, Mercedes Ferrari and Lambogini-exclusive shop. Karl Weinmeister is hooked in pretty tight to Porsche North America. In fact, he was one of the FIRST 5 or so people in the US to get their hands on a 944 at a track when the factory brought them to this country...but I digress. So it was Karl that said get the AutoThority chip. He told me that "It's THE chip for Porsches. If you have a BMW, go and buy a Dinan chip for it."
My chip, (technically it's an EPROM) is the basic one they offered for an 85.5 back when I bought it in late '93 ($235, shop cost, which was my cost 'cuz I did some computer work for this particular garage.) AutoThority will quote custom chips is you tell them you have a performance cam os such and such deration, headers, modified fuel injection, on and on...
But I now drive an '84. I looked at the electrical harness and mounting points. While 85.5 and later cars has the computer located under a wood board under the passenger's feet, previous years had it mounted under the steering column. I found that the 85.5 computer (w.chip) is physically and electrically compatible with the '84 I have now, so that's where I have it. I double-checked by swapping both computers in and out, but was hard pressed to see much difference in quick swaps right after the car's motor had been rebuilt.
The chip supposedly does nothing at low RPM. It commands progressively more spark advance at higher RPMs (I think it starts to kick in about 4000). Also, it bumps the maximum rev's up slightly (I think to about 7000 -- redline is 6450). Does it really do all that much? I am not 100% convinced. One of these days, I want to dyno test the car with the OEM vs. AutoThority chip.
| Hmm, should I change my water pump? I hear they leak all the time?
So you're again due for the 30K mile timing belt ritual. Change the water pump at the same time? If you're hitting the 90K mile mark, I say HELL YES. Since you are disassembled right down to the water pump, and if it's still original, do it. Of course, all it takes -- all it ever takes -- is money. The new vs. rebuilt question you must answer for yourself. Personally, I have always gone new on water pumps.
My old black 944 (rest in pieces) saw three water pumps in its 139K mile lifetime. First one siezed up in 1987 around 50K miles and the car overheated. I immediately pulled over and it was towed to the dealer (stupid me for choosing the dealer but "oh well".) They put a new water pump one on, and just before I arrived to claim my car, they started it up and the pump blew out a seal. Coolant everywhere, and I find a dejected looking technician and rather ambivalent looking service advisor. Nice job, Cavanaugh Motors of Manchester, NH. So they put another pump on, at their cost of course. That one siezed at about 125K miles in 1993. On went the third pump, and we did a ton of other work to the car at the same time. Too bad I had to drive that car over a cliff one night but again, "oh well!"
Now, I am not a mechanic, but the procedure is fairly simple. Take the pump off, and bolt a new one on. Easy, except that installing a new thermostat is very difficult. I would not even think of leaving the old thermostat in. The retaining ring is rather hidden and awkward to get to. I've observed the procedure, and listened to the cursing. My mechanic uses Snap-On retaining ring pliers.
One word about water pumps: you might get a turbo water pump, which is the latest and most updated. It will have a hole for the turbo intercooler. The new pump I installed in the black, late 85 944 at 125K miles came with a nice plastic fitting that seals this hole for non-turbo cars. The new water pump I put into my 1984 944 did not come with such, so I fabricated a cover plate and siliconed it in place while my mechanic was doing the timing and balance shaft belts. Of course, make sure bolt torque specs are followed, blah blah blah. And if you have the Holy Grail Porsche Belt Tool (we do!) you might want to recheck tension at the recommended 1500 miles. There are different values for a new vs. a run-in belt.
| How do I remove my seats on my 924 to have them reupholstered?
You cant really recover the rear seats of any 924/944/968 easily because the covering material has the foam cushion molded, glued to it. You can remove the seat bottom by first removing the hinged seatback, then carefully peeling up the glued down edges of the seat (atleast thats what I remember).
I would think that it would be easier to find a good used rear seat that has been carefully removed, then to try to recover yours.
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