IN A PORSCHE TO THE ALTAR

Experiences of a 944 driver

When the Stuttgart-based automaker Porsche launched its Transaxle line in 1976, it marked the advent of a completely new sports car concept. A frontmounted engine powers the transmission at the rear axle via a rigid rod drive shaft. This packaging enables everyday neutral handling characteristics. The concept still has many loyal fans, among them Matthias Dux from Düsseldorf.

It was the world’s top-selling sports car and it was only due to the oil crisis that it bore the name Porsche. The 924 was initially developed on behalf of Volkswagen, which called a halt to preparations for production owing to the steep rise in oil prices. Taken over by Porsche and in production until 1995, the Transaxle concept proved to be a major success, with nearly 400,000 sold worldwide. A major share in the Transaxle vehicle success story belongs to the later 944 series, 163,000 of which were sold following its market launch in September 1981. After a six-month search, this was the model settled on by Matthias Dux in 2003, today a test engineer at Pierburg. Built in 1990, his 944 S2 sported a three-liter 211 HP engine. He bought it from a Duisburg detective when he was 23, having just completed aircraft mechanic training. The detective, who sometimes used the Indian Red 944 during undercover operations, had since moved up to the larger 928. An antenna combiner for connecting a radio-telephone was the sole reminder of the vehicle’s unusual past; otherwise the car hadn’t been tinkered with at all.

Speedometer displays 200,000 kilometers

Since the detective was a trustworthy character and had taken meticulous care of the car, and the vehicle’s history (it was built in Neckarsulm) seemed to add up, it didn’t worry him that it had already clocked on 200,000 kilometers. Looking back, Dux, who had just started studying Aviation and Aerospace Engineering, recalls how “Even then, it was clear to me that this was a very robust engine concept, and that the mileage didn’t really matter.” And the past 13 years prove that he was right. “I’ve never had serious problems with the engine. It’s basically a very solid design.”

MADE BY KOLBENSCHMIDT: ALUMINUM ENGINE BLOCK WITH ALUSIL BUSHES AND FORGED PISTONS

However, one time-consuming episode still sticks in his mind. At one point the Transaxle rod had to be fitted with new bearings. For a moonlight mechanic like Dux, who performs virtually all of the maintenance and repair work on the vehicle by himself, even this was no big deal. “When it comes to working on the engine, it’s easier to get at than in the 911, but every bit of space is exploited.” According to Dux, it’s a lot like working on an aircraft engine, where he often had to remove components in order to get at others. Now 36, Dux is still amazed at the love of detail shown by Porsche engineers. From the protective cover that pops out when the tank cap is opened— reminiscent of checking the oil level—to the phased activation of the windscreen wipers to avoid scratches.

Suitable for everyday life and precious

Famously reliable, the 944 always got him safely to class in Aachen, from A to B on vacation, and even to the altar on his wedding day in 2015. Though he used to drive the Porsche to work every day, he’s more cautious today. “I now treat it more carefully, because I’ve noticed that driving short distances isn’t good for it.” On top of this, his sports car has doubled in value in the meantime. Even when he was a student, he was able to afford the cost of maintaining his 944. Working during the holidays helped, as did his job as a scientific assistant at the university.

THREE-LITER CUBIC CAPACITY, 16 V, TWO OVERHEAD CAMSHAFTS

Moreover, it actually proved possible to recode the car to meet the tougher EURO II emission standard, because it already exceeded the current emission requirements when it was first registered. That helped to save taxes. In addition, for a car of its kind, its fuel consumption was quite moderate, between nine and 11 liters—for Dux, further proof of the validity of the advanced engine concept.

Sheer driving pleasure

What the test engineer loves best about his classic car is the sheer, original, unadulterated joy of motoring and the feeling of freedom that comes from not being bossed around by sensors and assistance systems that intervene or set off alarms. “This is driving, pure and simple. The way the engine performs, everything. It’s true that the 944 is completely electronically controlled, but it’s not as tame as cars are today.” Thirteen years and 85,000 kilometers later, what originally was supposed to be a practical and relaxing counterpoint to his theoretical studies is still going strong, with the prospect of many a joint tour to come. 

(Kopie 19)