You might first want to read about the predecessor: Porsche 924
Premiere: 1981 September 16, IAA Frankfurt Motor Show press day
|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|
|3-speed automatic optionally available for base version 944|
|Wider axles/wheels with added offset, optional ABS|
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.
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).
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.
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.
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Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com