Porsche 944 N/A to Turbo Build

After completing the bike, I wanted to take on the challenge of a four-wheeled vehicle. I knew I wanted something rear wheel drive. One that would be a worthy companion on the race track, yet enjoyable for a weekend cruise. There are lots of options out there, but I wanted something unique.

As the title suggests..I went with a Porsche 944. After lots of research it seemed like the 944 would make a great entry level track vehicle. It had nearly perfect front to rear weight distribution. Rear wheel drive and front engine.

I found a great deal on a 1983 944. I went to check it out and the car fired right up! It did however need a new clutch installed. Fortunately the sale included a clutch. Here’s when I brought it home:

A little rough around the edges..but no rust or serious dings on the body. Porsche did a good job with galvanizing and coating the underbody.

It took me about a week to finish the clutch job. I was so happy to have the car moving under it’s own power. Took it for a test spin..and it was burning some serious coolant. It was believed to be the head gasket. I already had the turbo engine and transaxle so I figured it was time to start the tear down process. Here’s a couple pics with the car out of the garage:

Had a busy Saturday:

Project disassemble continues.. I had very few rough patches. Surprisingly few bolts sheared or stripped out. The biggest pain was removing all the sound deadening material from the floor boards and interior. I found the best method was a multi tool followed by a wire wheel to remove all the adhesive.

Since the car is mostly geared towards the track I installed a roll bar. The exterior and interior will be painted (black and gunmetal) with only the essentials returning to the vehicle. That means no AC, heater, radio, etc. I also picked up a DevilBiss HVLP sprayer to do the job right.

Since I want it to be basic and light weight, I’m making a fiberglass “half-dash”. It will hold the necessary gauges. It needs lots of work yet..

Another large challenge has been the intercooler. In the stock turbo vehicles they mounted it under the removable header panel. The early models were spot welded on with a lot of excess material under it. A spot weld remover came in handy here. Despite what people might say..it is possible to make an NA into a turbo! It might not be the easiest job though. I’m happy with the installed location and it seems very close to the stock turbo (which will make routing the intercooler hard pipes possible). You’ll also notice the header panel has a vent for the intercooler.

Now the fun of rebuilding the 2.5L turbo engine begins. It was going really well until I got the head off and noticed the cylinder walls on 3 of 4 cylinders were pretty well scored. Luckily the guy I purchased the engine from has another block for me. Here’s some pics..one filthy engine!

New wheels and tires! Well, new to me. They’re 16′s off a 993. They came with the spacer I needed to run on my late offset suspension. Quite a bit more meat to help transfer that forced induction power.

Engine parts came in!! This is the majority of them.

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I’ve been busy prepping for paint while I wait on my engine block. Anyone who has removed the hood foam knows how much of a pain this is! After the wire wheel and orbital sander it still took a lot of scrubbing with cleaner and a scotch brite pad to remove all the adhesive.

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After some welding and a small amount of body fill, what used to be an antenna hole is ready for primer!

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The dash is coming along. After several more layers of fiberglass it’s very ridged. Some sanding done, and lots to go yet. My plan is to cut out some of the inside where the larger gauges will go and put a flat sheet of fiberglass to give it a cleaner look.

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Made my first attempt at painting and I’m happy with the results. Still have to wet sand and polish but it looks good. Here are a few pictures, it’s hard to see but the last one shows how reflective the paint is.

Here’s one section of the sunroof wet sanded and polished. Can’t wax of course, as the paint has to cure, but it looks pretty good if I may say so!

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Picked up my new calipers this weekend. OEM 4 piston Porsche calipers. Pretty heavy duty! My plan is to do red so it was a perfect set for me.

Made some more progress on painting this weekend. Completed engine bay, header panel, front bumper, rear bumper, and front facia. More than half of the car is done!

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Some before and after pictures from interior and exterior painting.

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Suspension just came in. After lots of research I went with a kit from ground-control.com

They offer a full coilover kit with rebound adjustable Koni’s. It also included a camber plate. I’m running 350lbs springs in the front and 550 lbs rear. No torsion bars. Should be a good compromise for street and track.

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As much as I love working on the car I can’t wait to get the bike out again :)

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The engine rebuild is coming along nicely. All new bearings and seals.

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Upgraded to a Garrett T3/TO4E. It’s a .63 AR and a 50 trim compressor wheel. Stage 3 turbine wheel. If I’m running E85 I’ll probably shoot for around 18psi. We’ll see what the knock counter says..

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Some fabrication to get the turbo to fit. I had to grind on the mount and the crossover pipe needed a new flange. It went from a 2.25″ diameter pipe to a T3 flange (rectangular). I found the right transition transition pipe online.

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After lots of painting it’s starting to look like a car!

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Engine and transaxle were next. Pulling the engine up from the ground worked really well.

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On to suspension, brakes and steering. New front and rear wheel bearings. Also, 100mm studs so I can run spacers.

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A few more engine pictures. Custom 3″ downpipe. I used 2 90 degree bend sections and some straight tubing. Then I used a v-band to mate with the rest of the 3″ exhaust. It’s wrapped with titanium heat wrap and held in place with stainless steel ties. Things have been going pretty smooth. Can’t wait to fire it up. Fingers crossed for no major issues..

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Looking better after lots of cleaning, polishing and painting.

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So close to a running car..

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Some progress pics. Car is sitting low. We’ll see if the tires rub on the fenders. Most of the wiring is complete. Dash is still in rough shape but starting to come together.

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Seats and harnesses installed. Had to roll it outside for some pictures. Paint can certainly use some cleanup but it’s looking good for the most part.

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Still need to work on a few loose ends, but it’s running and driving pretty well. Turbo is hitting peak boost pressure just after 3,000 RPM. I’m still breaking in the engine so it’s running relatively low boost.

Driving pt 1

Driving pt 2

Here’s the car at the end of the season:

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Over winter the interior has been going through a major overhaul. First project was the dash.

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Next was the headlights. The popup headlights are neat but these weigh less and are more reliable. Heating .25″ plexiglass over the original headlight cover at around 250F gave me a perfect shape match.

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I needed new tires and the most reasonable options were on 17″ wheels. I went with Hankook RS-3′s. Now that I had tires it was time to set the ride height and corner balance. Step 1 is leveling out the base wood sections. I was able to use 2-400 lb scales. It weighed in at 2300 lbs with no driver and 1/4 tank of gas. 51/49 fr/rr percentage. I used somewhat of a complex set of strings to align the car. We’ll see how well it works out.

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2 thoughts on “Porsche 944 N/A to Turbo Build

  1. did that car have a big porsche crest on the rear when you bought it? if so that may have belonged to a friend of mine Dale Timmester. He sold his 83 and ive seen it around a bunch until lately.

  2. Hi – I owned and loved that car for 10 years! (I’m not sure how many owners there were between you and I, I sold it in early 2010.) I’m very happy to see the work you’re doing to it. I was afraid it would be rotting in a junk yard by now. Please keep the progress updates coming. Thanks!

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