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What's going on with the early Porsche 944 market?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Article by Rob Sass
Photos courtesy Porsche

Not getting too attached to inventory makes perfect sense if you make your living by turning said inventory. But about ten years ago, I remember a dealer friend of mine was having a tough time with this notion while hooning around Traverse City, Michigan in a black ’83 944. Unable to get anywhere near his $7,500 ask for what was a very clean car, he vowed to just have a good time with it. “I guess these will always be $5,000 cars,” I recall him saying.

Above: A European Porsche 944, model year 1982. The 944 made it to North America for 1983 and has larger bumpers (and slightly different styling) than its European counterpart.

Famous last words. Over the course of the last year or so, it seems like the supply of good, cheap base 8-valve 944s has at last visibly dried up. In hindsight, it seems that we may have reached peak cheap 944 about four years ago. 944 owners know what’s going on — people seem to be holding on to all but the best and the worst cars, and the result is an odd, bifurcated market.

Above: European 1982 944.

Much of what you see for sale now are pricey, low-mileage cars with fairly aspirational prices (I’ve watched one car’s advertised price shoot up from $21,000 to $29,000 recently), and high-mileage cars with myriad needs with sellers asking perhaps an equally aspirational $5,000 to $7,000. Not that long ago, the really nice cars struggled to bring $12,000-$15,000, and perfectly acceptable drivers with under 100,000 miles were readily available in the $6,000 to $7,500 range (sometimes with nice options like Fuchs wheels or sport seats). At the moment, solid, driver quality cars in the 75,000- to 100,000-mile range are decidedly thin on the ground.

Blame it on the RADwood effect or perhaps a general nostalgia for all things ’80s if you wish, but I think that oversimplifies things, and doesn’t give the 944 its due as a car that saved Porsche — and a very good sports car in its own right. With aggressive (and quickly imitated) fender blisters that were inspired by the 924 Carrera GT, the car looked good, handled extremely well, and by late-Malaise Era standards, was reasonably quick.

Interestingly, a 986 Boxster, a newer, more powerful, six-cylinder Porsche now seems like a conspicuously better deal, although it lacks the vintage appeal of a 944. Give it another ten years (or less) and this cycle will undoubtedly repeat. We’ll be noting and bemoaning the disappearance of cheap Boxsters.

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