1 day ago in Articles
Christina Lam went from the sidelines to full-on track enthusiast in 8 simple steps.
So, I'm looking into picking up a used Spec racer and Spec 944 is now at the top of my list. It's front engine, rwd, inexpensive, fairly reliable, and the community seems to be a great group of folks with no shortage of friendly racing opportunities.
I have yet to drive on though, and am wondering about driving impressions. I'm used to a Miata, and it seems like the heavier car with longer wheelbase, strut fronts, and a twist beam rear wouldn't be as responsive or tossable. But, I would still imagine that Porsche aught to know a few things about chassis setup and suspension design.
I'm going to see if I can talk someone into letting me test drive their car on the track, but in the meantime wanted to see what information folks here can offer.
I have one, and I like it a lot. I've never driven a Miata, so I can't really compare them. They do feel heavier than an E30, and feel a little big on an autocross course, but handle like they're on rails for larger/faster curves. I've never had mine on an actual course, but it's an on-ramp/off-ramp monster!
I drove a 944 when I had a Miata. It was built to Euro Cup specs and I absolutely loved it. Didn't feel big, handled exquisitely, very predictable.
I've also never driven a Miata but have driven a few 944s and I generally like them. I was also going to mention they feel kinda heavy at low speeds, but was also going to use the phrase "on rails" regarding how it feels once its moving.
I've had a bunch of Miatas and just drove a 944 S2 yesterday. They do seem to manage the trick of shrinking around you when you're on the move and they do handle well, but with more lean than a Miata at least if they're standard ride height/shocks.
Hmm... "Feels slow and heavy when you're just driving around at low speed, but comes alive when you start to push it hard on an open track..." Yup, sounds like a Porsche. Only without a fat ass.
This will be a track-mostly car (I plan to keep it street legal). It's going to be a used Spec car. I'm planning to use it to get a bit more HPDE experience, get a competition license, and hopefully move into Spec racing. It will definitely have upgraded springs and shocks. The spring rates people say they run on them sound really low to me though.
I'm the oddball that doesn't get why people like these. I drove a 944S and was very underwhelmed by it. It wasn't particularly powerful, didn't feel as sporty as I'd hoped a Porsche would, and the parts cost too much. I wouldn't trade my E30 for one. But, lots of people disagree with me on this car. I do really like Miatas, FWIW.
Two other big factors:
I like the local Porsche community. The guys on the 944 boards seem really friendly. The biggest thing they have to say about their racing is how good of friends they all are and how much they try to help each other out.
My girlfriend likes Porsches and likes the 944. She's a huge fan of small Hondas, but older Porsches also make her happy. She was supportive and cool with the idea of me getting a Spec Miata or E30. She was excited about the idea of me getting a 944 Spec, that she would have the opportunity to drive.
I drove a 944 turbo from salt lake to santa cruz and the thing ate miles like mad at what felt like an easy gallop. It was an good handling car on the twisties but the turbo lag, somewhat flexible chassis, and size made it an entirely different beast than the wonderfully precise and coordinated maitas I have driven. The 944T was far from tossable, It was more like wrestlable. One could go very fast no doubt, but it could definitely bite. I have not driven a NA 944. You seem to have a pretty realistic view on the differences already. I personally fit a hell of allot better in a 944 (6'4") and I love the lines. yada yada ..
I've never driven an turbo 944, but the N/A ones I have driven, always seemed really slow to me, as in a well driven stock miata would hang with one without trouble. They have great balance, but I'd give the nod to the Miata again, and the Miata is definatly the more smiles per ride then the 944. Also these cars are cheap to buy, but the parts cost will cripple you. as will labor. I've done clutch jobs on both a miata and a 944 and it is a real pain on the 944. The Miata clutch job took 4 hours start to finish, the 944....a bit longer about 16 hours (which is book for the job too by the way) both having use of a lift too.
The engine is interference as well, and if you break the timing belt, it gets stupid expensive in a hurry. If you can get a 944 already prepped for Spec that might be ok, but it could get expensive doing it up yourself. I've just never been overly impressed with the 944 overall, and I really like Porsches too. For what you pay in parts, I'd rather buy them for a 911 which is a much easier car to work on as well.
944's arent all that hard to work on , once you get into them, but they are not for everyone. if one has to rely on paid mechanics for maintenance, you might as well just dig a hole and start throwing money into it instead. However, there are plenty of great resources to learn their ins and outs, and that changes the whole perspective and potential. to anyone who complains to me that 944's dont have what it takes, i always say the same thing... either you haven't driven one, or haven't driven one hard enough.
I do like the looks of the 944. I like the fact that it's a bit more substantial than a Miata.
I also like the fact that it's a coupe. That means the trunk can be loaded with gear. Also that I could secure a cool-shirt tank behind me, and have room for a passenger next to me.
My guess is that, in terms of dynamics and track manners, it falls somewhere between the Miata and E30, being a bit closer to the E30, and no one complains about the track manners of that car. Seems like which of the three cars will be faster depends on the track. GRM got the better times out of the 944 in their article about <$15k race-cars.
I drove a 944 from Vegas back to Florida a few years ago. Shaun is right, it totally ate up the miles.
They're definitely a friendly group of guys. They come out to the NASA races, and we mix it up with them in GTS ($50 a weekend for a "supersize" to GTS for an extra race and qual each day). At THill they were a coupla seconds slower than spec e30. I'd throw in some data, but mylaps appears to be down. Absolute lap times don't really matter, since it's a spec class, it's all relative to your peers.
If you're into the 944's, I say go for it :)
Salanis wrote: I do like the looks of the 944. I like the fact that it's a bit more substantial than a Miata. I also like the fact that it's a coupe. That means the trunk can be loaded with gear. Also that I could secure a cool-shirt tank behind me, and have room for a passenger next to me.
I assume you've had a look at one? The trunk on these is surprisingly shallow. The one I looked at with intent over the weekend would have made a nice DD with occasional HDPE use, but not if you can't get four sticky tyres in the back safely.
Apart from the S2, they do tend to feel a little slow and both the S and the turbo need a lot of revs before the power kicks in.
That said, in a Spec series that won't matter that much...
I had a 951 for a while. It had a boost controller and aftermarket exhaust, but the shocks were pretty worn. For me, it was a fun car, was fast as hell when the boost came in and I still think they are one of the best looking cars of the last 30 years or so. Minuses for mine were the loud exhaust and dead suspension. I was always "gonna" put shocks on it, but they were pricey and I ended up just selling it. My issues wouldn't apply to 944s in general, of course. Overall, I liked it, it was fun and drew some looks, but I don't see myself doing it again soon. I think I'm done with complicated German cars for a while after my BMW goes away.
i loved my '86 NA in town and on the highway. i will get another.
the 944 turbos do have some lag, but with an electronic boost controller and a properly working wastegate I was hitting full boost around 2800 rpm. That's really not all that bad, it'd then hold peak boost almost to redline...
my 924s is a great handling car. The brakes are also phenomenal. I use Cool Carbon Pads. I only have two sets left and I Will probably go to portifields. There were very few street cars that I found that could out brake me meaning I cold drive in much deeper in the corner. The things a properly set up 944 can do will absolutely astound you. The problem is that driven slow they are boring.
However they do have oiling issues. Long sweeping lefts can kill a motor (bearings) An accusump is the answer to this. And what
Handling is also a place where they shine but they will let you know when they are unhappy. The only way I can explain the difference is with everything being equal between a miata and a my 924s the miata complains less when you take it of line to pass. Where as the 924s will complain. My driving partner of years ago described it as a "bitchy car" In that it was always complaining to him. I told him that it was just the car giving him feedback.
Clarkson seemed to like the one he got in the latest Top Gear. From watching him flog it I didn't see anything jump out as being bad in the handling department.
I won two championships in Spec Miata and have driven several Spec 944s.
Spec 944s are cool cars. Good seating position, good steering, great brakes, good visibility. Handling is very good. Not a lot of power, and if you don't have the short 5th gear you end up buzzing the pi$$ out of it in 4th. Spec weight is higher than a Miata but there's quite a bit more torque, so the 944 will usually pull a couple of car lengths on a Miata coming out of a second gear corner. Larger people fit in the 944 more easily.
We have a very competitive Spec 944 series here in Phoenix, and the cars continue to get faster as they optimize tuning. The cars are very stout. They definitely have an oiling issue but I can't say for sure what the solution is. They are very forgiving cars to drive, a perfect "school car."
I chose Spec Miata mostly for the oiling issue. But the Spec 944s are great cars. And you're racing a Porsche, that's a little bit cool in itself!
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