A past-tense Porsche project

We’ll say it up front: In the nutty, drooling frenzy that envelops the world of Porsche heritage and collecting, the 944 has long been kind of on the fringes. The manufacturer would likely disagree, and rightly so, but too many people out there have never really embraced the 944 because A) it’s not a 911, B) the engine is up front, C) it’s water cooled, and D) it shares its platform with the preceding 924, which was a joint development between Volkswagen and Porsche, just like the car that preceded the 924, the mid-engine Porsche 914. So to make it plain, in the eyes of some self-styled arbiters of worthiness, it’s not a “real” Porsche. You tend to see the same thing at auctions. When 944s show up, even of the turbocharged variety, they’re viewed more as used cars than true collectibles. To which we say, hooey. First, the 944 was Porsche’s biggest-selling sports car before the Boxster was introduced. And anybody who ever experienced the nearly perfect front-to-rear balance of a 944, with its rear-mounted transaxle, on the road was uniformly smitten by the adventure. That’s true both here and in Germany. Read on.

The staff at Porsche Klassik, a German magazine dedicated to the history of the hallowed marque from Stuttgart, decided to undertake the restoration of one of these cars. It selected a home-market 1991 944 S2, representing the final year of 944 production, a car that was equipped with not just factory air conditioning but also an all-fabric interior, as opposed to the commonly ordered leather seating, which is a rare find today. Another reason this car was picked was that 944s from 1991 were produced with airbags, a desired extra for whistling down choked autobahns. Body technicians in Germany massaged away the dents and dings and refinished the S2 in its original Cobalt Blue Metallic. OEM parts were almost exclusively used in the restoration, including a replacement leather shift knob, a single component that set the magazine back a cool 243 euros. It proves what most of us already know: The Porsche ownership experience is always scintillating, but never cheap.

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