DealorNoDealFilter: 1985 Porsche 944 for $6.5k?
September 16, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Without knowing any drivetrain/mechanical details other than what you could see from the exterior (details within) and that it last passed inspection in April 2006, would you buy a bright red 1985 Porsche 944 for $6500?

I am debating about buying this sucker, just for the resale value, possibly even parting it out. Even if I could make back exactly $6500 through various means, I'd consider it worth the hassle even for bragging rights of having owned a Porsche at one time and the pictures to prove it.

I don't know anything about the drivetrain or mechanical aspects, but as I said it passed inspection this past April. The body is in excellent condition with 2 or 3 tiny hail dings on the hood, a 1/4" poked-in hole on the barely noticeable running-board thing along the passenger side, decent enough interior with no dash cracks that I can tell, nice window seals, original wheels and nice tires, nothing particularly unusual when checking out underneath.

Based solely on the above information, and that the owner (private seller) is moving soon and doesn't want to tow it, would you plop down $6500 for it outright (I've got the cash)? I don't even know how to drive a standard, but my brother will teach me, and my father has agreed to test drive it for me. Barring that future information, what do you say? What would be the max you'd put down for it, with the purposes of getting your money back by turning around to sell it again for profit?
posted by vanoakenfold to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Is there some reason you can't get it inspected at your own expense before buying it?
posted by procrastination at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2006

Yes, and I almost did a couple of years ago (for $7K in the Boston area). I did a little research back then, and that was a good price for a running 944 in good condition. Buy it, and don't sell it--you could have some fun with it as a "weekend car" or similar!

But I also agree with procrastination--you should be able to get a mechanic to take a quick look at it before the sale. That's a reasonable request, and will just give you a better understanding of what you're about to own.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: Well, I think that 1985 is the year that Porsche changed the 944 mid-year. I don't have data, but either way, it's not good. If it's the early style, good parts are getting hard to come by. If it's the late style, you're buying a 20 year old sportscar in the first year of its make.

The price seems over market; you can get a really well-cared for 944 for that price, and you shouldn't jump into it blindly.

Forget parting it out. It takes a long time, and you're nearly guaranteed to lose money. Parting out a working car (that's not catastrophically broken) rarely makes sense; if it could be done profitably, it would be more common.

The 944 is a perfect car if you turn your own wrenches, and you find a specimen that's been taken care of. The car is ideal for the advanced shadetree mechanic:

1. A clutch job on many 944s will take an entire weekend.
2. The timing belt and rollers are vital because the car has an interference engine. Replacing them is not trivial either. And you'll want to get the water pump while you're in there. And why not replace the seals while you're at it, etc.
3. The Motronic FI is a challenge; you have to remove the intake manifold to clean the ISV. You won't buy a new ISV because replacements are too expensive, and two weeks later you'll do it again, etc. But maybe its a vacuum leak. Gotta keep trying new things.

But for your headaches, you'll be owning a car with an excellent suspension, and a fun motor that is fun to fix. I fucking love those things, and if I had the time to work on it, I'd buy another one.

If you're up to the challenge, pay the money to have a qualified Porsche specialist look the car over and tell you what to expect in expenses over the next two years.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: Back in the late 80s, my friend's family had a couple of Porsches. The 944 was jokingly called their 'poor mans' Porsche. I've never been able to see them as anything other than that since. Which, admittedly, really it isn't a fair assessment; after you've ridden around in a 911, the 944 is bound to feel cheap and sluggish by comparison.

My personal bias' aside, $6.5K seems kinda pricey for a 21 year old car which was not top-end even when it was new. If it were me, I'd pass.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: My personal opinion: Front engine Porsches don't earn the same bragging rights as a rear or mid-engined model. They are really more like Audis. I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. So, you might want to tweak the inputs to your mathematical model accordingly.
posted by Good Brain at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: What are your intentions with their daughter car?

If you just want to part it out, that doesn't sound like it makes a whole lot of sense, particularly since it's highly likely that a good deal of "stuff" inside will already require replacement.

If you want to own and drive it, I can tell you that it will be loads of fun until it's not, and then it will be loads of headaches and expense. That's the eternal problem with Porsches. Kwantsar explained very well why this will be non-trivial, even for the shadetree mechanic, which I am assuming you're not, because a shadetree mechanic would know enough to look at the expensive bits to determine its value, or at the very least, pay someone to do the same.

If you're looking for an investment, keep looking. The 944 isn't nearly as collectable as the 911, and there are far better candidates for "appreciable" cars that are a heck of a lot easier to work on and a shitload easier to find parts for (e.g., 60s-era Mustangs, late 60s-early 70s muscle cars, etc.).

But if you're willing to put another couple of grand in her to get her "up to shape," and you're willing to pay someone to look her over, and the body panels aren't full of bondo, and you just plan on driving it on occasional sunny days, then sure, go for it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:43 PM on September 16, 2006

A quick local (SF Bay Area) craigslist search shows some much better deals:

1987 944 $3500
1987 Turbo $7000

The Turbo has airbags, and (guessing) anti-lock brakes. Safety is important, many older cars just don't measure up. Bragging rights seem nil when discussing a 21 year old car.

The cost of ownership might be less if you bought a used Honda S2000. You can get into one (here, anyway) for close to $15k. Maintainance would be dramatically lower.

posted by vaportrail at 3:57 PM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: I agree with b1trot, nice car, but if you're not a mechanic or enthusiast, there's no reason to buy it.

Also, just for the record, the 914 is what is commonly referred to as the "poor man's Porsche". They used virtually the same "pancake" engine as the VW busses of the same period.
posted by snsranch at 4:43 PM on September 16, 2006

Best answer: Not to pile on, but I love 944s and still wouldn't touch an '85 for over, say, $4500.

As others have noted, 1985 was the year they updated mid-stream. FWIW, the changes were generally good, (more powerful alternator, stronger AC, better seats and dash layout, revised control arms, more oil and fuel capacity, etc.) and it would be worth a small premium over the earlier ones, though probably still not $6.5K.

If the wheels are stock, you can tell if it's an earlier one as it should have the "cookie cutter" wheels - silver rim with a black center section in the shape of a squared-off 5-pointed star. The 85.5s got the "phone dial" wheels, all silver with several oviod holes surrounding the hub, and an inch larger, as I recall (15" to 16").

The 944 was jokingly called their 'poor mans' Porsche. I've never been able to see them as anything other than that since. Which, admittedly, really it isn't a fair assessment; after you've ridden around in a 911, the 944 is bound to feel cheap and sluggish by comparison.

I prefer the 911 myself, though I must point out that in the hands of a talented driver, a 944 will generally outperform a 911 due in large part to its significantly better front/rear weight distribution. My best friends' father was a Sales Manager at a Porsche dealer and a PCA driving instructor who drove a bone stock '87 944S with which he'd run (on track days) circles around 911s and 911 Turbos.
posted by jalexei at 7:11 PM on September 16, 2006

Response by poster: Taking your(plural) remarks to heart, I've decided to pass on it. I was hoping to get it strictly for the resale aspect, as I don't value possessions very much (unless they sell for higher than I bought them, or are valuable in the "function over form" sense) and wouldn't especially appreciate the added attention -- plus I would just be too nervous that I'd wreck something so expensive that I have a general $5k+trade_in cap on any car I plan on actually driving.

Best answers abound :-)
posted by vanoakenfold at 12:26 PM on September 17, 2006

That may be a stretch, but check the Kelly Bluebook etc. first; even a bank can tell you I think.

Related, I got this almost new 924 2 years ago off e-bay for $4300, wiper motor, sunroof plastic gear wheel, and an AC leak are the only problems I've had with it (all happening several months after I bought it), and yes, IT STILL GOES, waking up at 70mph!


oh yeah, I'm in the SC market for pricing, so it may be cheaper here than your location, but she was outside Atlanta.
posted by BillyG at 3:59 PM on September 18, 2006
posted by BillyG at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2006

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