You might first want to read about the predecessor: Porsche 924


Porsche 944

Premiere: 1981 September 16, IAA Frankfurt Motor Show press day

This photo shows an American version 944 S2 (with side lamps, without side blinkers) © Porsche
MY1982 C MY1983 D MY1984 E MY1985/1 F MY1985/2 F MY1986 G MY1987 H MY1988 J MY1989 K MY1990 L MY1991 M
Street cars 944 2.5 120 kW without catalytic converter, Europe
944 2.5 110 kW USA/Japan (Cat) Cat available also in Europe
944 2.5 118 kW 944 2.7 121 kW
944 S 2.5 140 kW 944 S2 3.0 155 kW
944 Turbo 2.5 162 kW
944 Turbo S 2.5 184 kW 944 Turbo 2.5 184 kW
Racing cars 944 Turbo Cup 2.5 162 kW 944 Turbo Cup 2.5 184 kW
944 Challenge 110 kW
944 GTR by Fabcar 392 kW
MY1982 MY1983 MY1984 MY1985/1 MY1985/2 MY1986 MY1987 MY1988 MY1989 MY1990 MY1991
3-speed automatic optionally available for base version 944
New dashboard
Wider axles/wheels with added offset, optional ABS
S2 Cabriolet
Turbo Cabriolet

While the predecessor, the 924, was initially designed for Volkswagen, it was beautifully done by Porsche and the technical concept of front engine and rear transmission was top notch, it didn't have the Porsche engine. The natural evolution of the 924 would be to equip it with real Porsche engine. The base for the 944 engine design came from the aluminium V8 of the 928. One bank of it was used, so to speak, and with longer stroke a 2.5-litre inline-4 was created. So, the history of the 944 starts with an engine. But not with the series production engine! The history of the 944 starts with a racing engine.

Although the exterior design of the 944 was finalized by the beginning of 1981, the presentation was postponed to September 1981 for the IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung) Frankfurt Motor Show. This meant the first thing '944' to arrive publically, was the 2.5-litre 16-valve turbo engine called '944 Le Mans' that was installed in one of the 924 GTR racing cars for the Le Mans 24 hour race in June 1981. The text on the engine read '944 Le Mans' (it was the name of the engine, not of the car). Walter Röhrl and Jürgen Barth finished with excellent 7th place overall. The 944 LM engine was the first Porsche engine to use fully electronic fuel injection system in racing.

301 kW 2.5-litre inline-4 turbocharged 16 valve '944 Le Mans' engine (Porsche type 949) in the 1981 924 Carrera GTR. Note the shape of the '944' logo - it will look like this also on the rear panels of the series production cars. © Porsche

Although the '944 Le Mans' engine was a powerhouse, experimental highly tuned engines are never installed in series production cars. For the first years of production, turbocharging would not be offered at all for 944. The normally aspirated series production engine developed 120 kW without catalytic converter (which was not compulsory in Europe).

2.5-litre normally aspirated 8 valve series production engine© Porsche
2.5 I4 8V n/a© Porsche

With its 2.5-litres of displacement the engine was quite big for a 4-cylinder and in order to make it run smoothly, balancing shafts were used with a patent from Mitsubishi. The 944 engine happily started from the first turn and ran really smoothly - it was so sophisticated compared to the 924. It was a strong step forward in terms of power, compared to the normally aspirated 924, but not compared to the turbocharged 924 engines (the 924 Carreras were really powerful).

Both the 924 and the 944 were designed under head designer Anatole Lapine. Most of the credits with the original narrow body 924 went to Harm Lagaay who worked for Porsche until 1977 (Lapine left by the end of 1988 and then Lagaay returned as his successor). The 944 got its exterior design mostly from the 1979 widebody 924 Carrera GT prototype, just that new rear fenders were designed. Not all the design features from the 924 GT prototype made to the series production 924 Carreras, but they all made to the 944. The production 924 Carrera versions were even better looking than their prototype was, but the design that the 944 got from the 924 Carrera prototype, is definetely a very good one. Compared to the 924 Carrera, the 944 got real widened rear fenders (924 Carreras had rear wheel arch extensions over the narrow body of the 924). So, the rear end of the 944 was better than of the 924 Carrera, but the front was more agressive on the 924 Carrera. What you pay is what you get - the 944 was much more affordable than the 924 Carrera.

This is where the exterior design of the 944 came from, the 1979 924 Carrera GT prototype © Porsche
One of the 944 prototypes in the design studio. As the 944 had higher air drag than the 924, here an aerodynamic 944 prototype is made without rear spoiler, with flush door handles and flush wheels covers. © Porsche
Note: the wheel covers say '944'. Not visible here, but the 944 used 5-bolt Porsche wheels from day one (with the 924 this feature was reserved only for the top versions). © Porsche
A 944 prototype with side blinkers from 924 Carrera GT (which in turn got them from the 928)© Porsche
1981 prototype - the only visual difference with the production version are the frames of the the bumper lamps© Porsche
1981 endurance test of the 2.5-litre 944 engine inside a 924 Carrera GT body not to reveal the final looks of the 944 yet. It can be told that this car is not the turbocharged 924 Carrera because it doesn't have the intercooler opening in the bonnet . Former Porsche racing driver Rudi Lins on the car, photographed by endurance test driver Gerhard Plattner.© Porsche
Ready for production. Interestingly the '944' logo on the number plate is made using the typeface (font) that was in use for 924 until 1978 model year. Maybe the '944' with this typeface looked like '911' from the distance that they wanted to use it? On the production cars the '944' logo was made using the newer font.© Porsche
Optional front spoiler with fog lamps © Porsche
The rear rubber spoiler came from the 924 Carrera GT © Porsche
© Porsche
The bodies were fully galvanized at the Audi plant in Neckarsulm where the 924 and 944 were made© Porsche

In 1981, 4-wheel drive system for 911 was experimented and in 1982 it found its way to one experimental 944. It was a 944 with rear engine and four wheel drive.

944 with rear engine and 911 experimental 4WD system © James Herne / Stuttcars.com

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Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com



Anniversaries
Mar, 05 – 14th birthday of the Carrera GT (2003)
Mar, 06 – 5th birthday of the Boxster 981 (2012)
Mar, 12 – 48th birthday of the 917 (1969)
Mar, 13 – 56th birthday of Ferdinand Oliver Porsche (1961)
Mar, 16 – 40th birthday of the 928 (1977)