First Impressions

Testing two Turbo-Look heros of the 1980s.

August 6, 2010

Also from Issue 186

  • First Drive in 2010 GT2 RS
  • Rare one-off 1953 Phoenix-Porsche
  • Driving a 1974 RSR in the last Historics
  • How the 911 won Le Mans in 2010
  • Real 1973 RS 2.7, Hot-rodded
  • Sebring Winner Kees Nierop
  • 911 Turbo Buyers Guide
  • Early 911: Affordable Fun
  • 2011 Panamera V6 Driven
  • The Cashmere Cliff Part 3 (911 SC)
  • Porsche's Latest Parts Emporium
  • Porsche Batteries and Electrical Systems
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911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 1
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 2
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 3
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 4
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 5
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 6
911 3.2 vs. 944 S2 7

It’s been said that appearances are everything. Thankfully, most people would disagree — but they’d probably agree that looks are exceedingly important when it comes to cars. Por­­sche’s marketing department certainly would, seeing as it regularly commissions normally-aspirated models that aesthetically mimic turbo versions.

Today, several specialty 911s come with the Turbo’s wider hips and you can’t buy an all-wheel-drive 911 without them. Offi­cially, the tradition can trace its roots to Option M491 for 1984 Carreras, which added the 911 Turbo’s flares, front spoiler, rear wing, wider wheels, fatter tires, up­graded suspension, and bigger brakes.

By the end of the 1980s, another normally-aspirated Porsche was aping a top-line Turbo. It was the 1989–91 944 S2 — a 16-valve, 3.0-liter evolution of the 944S. The S2 got the 1986–89 Turbo’s smoother front bumper, slick side rocker trim, smart aerodynamic rear undertray, and some of the underpinnings Por­sche came up with to keep the 944 Turbo grounded.

So when reader Larry O’Rourke offered us a drive in his pristine 944 S2, it seemed a good idea to line up an example of the “other” Turbo-Look. Initially, our plan was to have his 1989 944 S2 face a 1989 Carrera with the preferred G50 transaxle and ten more horses than 1984–86 Carreras. When that plan fell apart at the last minute, Ed Ricci came to the rescue with his 1984 911 Carrera, finished in a classic 911 combination: Grand Prix White on Black. Other than a 915 gearbox and a little less power, little separates it from the M491 offered in 1989, the final model year for the Carrera 3.2 and the first for the 944 S2.

Ricci has had his Carrera for 18 years. His search for the perfect candidate took a year and a half. He had always coveted the lines of the fat-fendered 930/911 Turbo, but then his mechanic suggested he “could have the 930 look without the 930 expense” — with an M491. At the time, the car had to fulfill a role as a daily driver in Cali­fornia traffic, so reliability was a greater consideration than outright performance. He bought the M491 from Kinesis founder Peter Stacy after seeing it at 1991’s Porsche Parade in Colo­rado. Ricci had to bug Stacy for a year to convince him to sell the car.

It wasn’t Ricci’s first Porsche. Like so many, he suffers from the highly contagious but still widely misunderstood “multiple Porsche syndrome.” His case began with an affinity for 356s, which blossomed into 911 fever. Currently, the white M491 shares garage space with a ’63 356 Super 90, a ’69 911T, and a 2004 996 Turbo.

Parked next to the Carrera at the top of Southern California’s appropriately named, incredibly sinuous Stunt Road is O’Rourke’s pristine 944 S2. Like Ricci, he has owned his share of Porsches, from impact-bum­per Carreras to current 997s. He’s an avid Ferrari enthusiast, too, and has an award-winning 328 GTB in the garage. He only recently acquired the S2 after a long search for the best one he could find.

“I looked for three and a half years to find one this clean and I specifically wanted a Guards Red-over-Black example because it best shows the lines of the car,” explains O’Rourke. While looking for the right S2, he learned what many 944 buyers have: 944s are rarely as well cared for as other Porsche models. “Sadly, there are so many 944s out there in poor condition. Finding an S2 in this condition was an even greater task because there are fewer of them.”

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