Originally published October 24, 2014
Ottawa’s Rob Grguric likes his toys. He’s got a Jeep and a boat, has owned a couple of sport bikes, but he’s also got young kids so when it comes to a sports car, he wants to bring them along.
In the Porsche 944 Turbo he found everything he wanted: appealing design, sufficient power, great handling, affordability, brand heritage and room for the family. Finding the right one proved something of a challenge, however.
First of all, there aren’t many 944 Turbos out there. Built from 1985 to 1991 and released in North America for the 1986 model year, Porsche produced only 25,245 examples, with 13,982 exported to the US. That means we saw maybe around 1,400 in Canada, assuming our typical 10 percent (give or take) allocation (Porsche Canada doesn’t have a record of the exact number, partly because Canadian Porsche sales and marketing was handled out of the US at the time).
In addition, Rob obviously was looking for a good one. “I was focusing on two things,” he explained. “Service history and originality.” He found a candidate in Sudbury, Ontario, for example, “But it had no history at all. The guy said it was properly serviced, but who knows?”
After several months he located his car in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stone Grey Metallic, it came with desirable options including a limited slip differential, sport seats, sport suspension, leather sport steering wheel and shift knob, sunroof and rear windshield wiper. A two-owner car (the second owner had it for 17 years; Rob is the third), everything was documented, plus it arrived with a set of previously installed Fuchs wheels, a popular upgrade that still look good. At the time of this writing, he’s owned the 944 Turbo for two months.
With 119,000 miles on the odometer the car has seen use, but don’t forget it’s 28 years old, which works out to an average of about 4,300 miles (6,880 kilometres) per year. As collector car owners know, regular driving is one of the keys to maintaining a vehicle in good condition, so 119K is actually pretty good given its vintage.
Optimistically, Rob flew to Grand Rapids, took delivery and pointed the car east. Eleven-and-a-half hours later, he pulled into his driveway. No issues; a happy guy!
Introduced in 1982, the “Series 1” Porsche 944 got right what the preceding 924 got wrong. With improved styling, wider wheels and tires and larger fenders, it was a more muscular-looking vehicle, but the real news was the engine, which was basically one-half of the Porsche 928 V8 (the 924 used a Volkswagen/Audi derived engine). All-aluminum with an overhead camshaft and 2.5 litres of displacement, it featured twin counterweighted balance shafts for smooth operation, making 147 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque.
Rob Grguric with 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Porsche then went through its normal sequence of variations, starting with the introduction of the Turbo and including the 944S, 944 Turbo S and 944 S2. “Series 2” vehicles appeared in 1985 with an all-new interior and suspension upgrades among other refinements. In 1987, 944S and Turbo models received four-channel anti-lock brakes as an option and driver and passenger airbags became standard for the Turbo and optional for other models. For trivia buffs, the 1987 944 Turbo was the first car to feature a passenger airbag.
The 944 Turbo supplied significant performance increases compared with the 944. With Bosch Motronics engine management, KKK K26 turbocharger, stronger valves and improved porting, power was increased to 217 hp at 5,800 rpm with torque rated at a lusty 243 lb-ft, which it delivered at a low 3,500 rpm. Top speed, for those with an Autobahn, was about 240 km/h. A sub-six second 0-60 mph time was recorded by some automotive publications.