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The Worst Porsche 944 Turbo Saved – Long Overdue Update

Porsche 944 Turbo before and after restoration

I had always been a fan of the Porsche 944 turbo, but when I came across one that had been severely neglected and was in desperate need of long overdue TLC (it was also being advertised for only $5000 CAD) I knew I had to take on the challenge. This particular Porsche 944 Turbo had received a couple of less than desirable paint jobs over the years, some very interesting design/color choices and seriously questionable modifications. It was clear that it needed a lot of work, but I was determined to bring it back to its former glory. After being told the only major thing mechanically wrong with the 944 Turbo was a potentially bad fuel pump, I decided to make an offer. I learned a lot of lessons that day. Not only was the fuel pump bad but nearly everything else was as well.

Pictures from the original Kijiji ad I stumbled on in September 2017

Porsche 944 Turbo – A Diamond in the Rough

As I began the restoration process, I quickly realized how underrated the Porsche 944 turbo really is. Despite its reputation for being a less popular model, I found that it had a devoted fan base, excellent aftermarket support and was actually becoming more popular in recent years. In fact, I had heard of several examples that had sold for upwards of $80,000 USD and even one for $135,944 USD on BaT, which only served to fuel my passion for bringing this particular car back to life.

Bring a Trailer auction results of when and how much Porsche 944 Turbos sold for

Jerry Seinfeld, buys a 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo

One of the most exciting developments during the restoration process was when I learned that even Jerry Seinfeld, who is a large Porsche collector, had jumped on the Porsche 944 bandwagon. In early 2019, the comedian and car enthusiast purchased a 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo, further proving that this model was on the rise in popularity.

January 2019 Jerry Seinfeld bought 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo
January 2019 Jerry Seinfeld bought a 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo

Progress on the 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo – No Going Back

A lot of progress has been made on the Porsche 944 Turbo in the five years I’ve owned it. From discovering that the fuel pump was seized to replacing the entire engine due to a bad rebuild, there was hardly anything that I didn’t have to fix or replace. When I first saw the car in person, I noticed bondo cracking in the paint job, poorly built hood vents that caused the hood to collide with components in the engine bay, royal blue powder-coated factory clubsport wheels (why?), a cracked windshield, and rags shoved behind the driver’s side a-pillar where a two-gauge pod that housed a boost gauge and an oil pressure gauge was installed. The rag was there to catch the leaking oil from the poorly installed oil pressure gauge.

Breakdown of the problems I discovered with the Porsche 944 turbo:

  • Fuel Pump Seized
  • Fuel return line pinched shut
  • Clogged Injectors
  • Corroded Bosch fuel pressure regulator and fuel damper
  • Sludge in fuel tank
  • Fuel tank threaded insert broke out of plastic fuel tank
  • Corroded fuel sending unit (saved)
  • Fix bypassed fuel pump wire
  • Broken connector under fuse panel preventing fuel pump relay to get signal from computer
  • Naturally Aspirated 944 DME, removed and replaced with a Turbo DME
  • Low compression in engine – cylinder walls scored from bad rebuild
  • Many relays in wrong positions in fuse panel
  • Battery cables burnt and shorting due to poor placement
  • Starter blown from shorted battery cables
  • Oil leaking behind driver side A-pillar due to poorly installed oil pressure gauge
  • Broken windshield
  • Lot’s of bad body work and cracked bondo
  • Damaged weather seals
  • All front body panels damaged/needing replaced
  • Numerous hoses needed replaced
  • Most hardware needed refinished
  • Stripped stud on wheel hub
  • Numerous, broken, missing, or poorly painted interior pieces.
  • Half removed headliner
  • Horn didn’t work
  • Headlight motor didn’t work
  • Shoddy wiring and connections
  • Several joints and poorly run power steering hose from reservoir
  • + lots more

Summarized list of what’s been fixed or replaced followed up with pictures and videos.

  • Entire fuel system replaced short of replacing the fuel tank itself – Replace Entire 944 Fuel System
  • Troubleshot several electrical problems which included:
    • Fuse panel connector broken under fuse panel causing fuel pump failure and DME Relays to blow (cause of most of my no-start problems)
    • Backtracked POs wiring attempt to bypass dme relay forcing pump to run
    • Horn not working, no continuity through intermediate shaft and plate behind steering wheel
    • Replaced Reference sensors as both were damaged
    • Isolated current draw on window, trunk, sunroof circuits and anti-lock braking system
    • Removed POs custom relay from passenger door to force mirrors to work which shorted out several wires
    • Removed several feet of 12 AWG industrial stranded wire from under hood, dash, up A-pillar and drivers door and replaced with appropriate gauge wiring
    • Ran new 12AWG wire from battery to new 044 Fuel pump relay controlled by existing wiring
    • Replaced shorted out starter and alternator cables due to PO running them over the turbo downpipe with 4AWG
    • Replaced main grounds with 1AWG
    • Toned out stock stereo wiring to re-use
  • Control arms rebuilt – Rennbay Kit
  • New to me engine from John Graves to replace ’89 block with low compression
  • Replaced pressure plate (already had a spec stage 2 clutch installed)
  • Rebuilt clutch fork with new pin and Oilite bushings by Markus Blaszak
  • Replaced numerous cracked hoses including J-boot
  • Refinished most hardware under the hood in Yellow Chromate – Superior Metal finishing LTD, London, ON
  • Replaced coolant expansion tank
  • Replaced windshield washer bottle
  • Removed excessive amounts of blue paint from various components under the hood
  • Replaced intermediate shaft with custom Borgeson U-joints and aluminum splined shaft
  • Replaced Lindsey Racing dual port wastegate with Tial F38mm wastegate with 944 Turbo Adaptors from Frank Zappa
  • Installed AEM wideband
  • Removed leaking oil pressure gauge
  • Replaced windshield
  • Replaced passenger side mirror
  • New side mirror glass x 2
  • New trunk, sunroof and door weather seals
  • Replaced headlight buckets
  • New blacked out Porsche crest for header panel
  • New Fog lights
  • Replaced front bumper, both front fenders, hood, nose panel (between headlights), headlight covers
  • Full Paintjob including all jambs and engine bay – Fine Touch Collision, London, Ontario

Some good components that came with the Porsche 944 Turbo that needed little to no attention (the list is wildly short):

  • Lindsey Racing engine sensor harness
  • Lindsey Racing fuel injector harness
  • Lindsey Racing manual boost controller
  • Lindsey Racing silicone vacuum hoses
  • Lindsey Racing LRMAX performance chips (likely will be replaced on dyno)
  • Lindsey Racing 4″ exhaust
  • Hardly used Eagle F1 Tires (date stamped in 2008 though)

Still to do to the Porsche 944 Turbo

  • Tune on dyno at Mantis Autosport – Jon Dunski & Dirk Dünschede
  • Swap out blue clubsports wheels for satin black ROH ZR6 5-spoke wheels
  • Install stereo, speakers and sub
  • Swap out PO’s silver painted interior pieces with factory dark grey
  • Re-install all black interior
  • Install black headliner and other interior leather/vinyl trim pieces
  • Tint windows slightly
  • Replace amber bumper and rear quarter panel lenses with clear then smoke lightly
  • Smoke fogs and taillights
  • Install satin black splitter
  • Install Momo Prototipo wheel with leather Porsche embossed horn button
  • Replace 4″ exhaust tip with something more suitable and likely ceramic coat satin black

Some Before and Afters

As I progress through the final stages of the Porsche 944 turbo restoration, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride knowing that I had saved one of these underrated yet highly coveted cars. There’s lots more to come, stay tuned and follow on YouTube.

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Nice article!!!

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