It’s goodbye to Bennett’s 944 Lux. After five years and a good deal of work, this already ‘good’ 944 became an ‘even better’ 944. The new owner will benefit and so will Bennett’s 996 from a cash injection
The latest from the 911&PW fleet including a fond farewell to the Editor’s 944 Lux and a new exhaust for Tipler’s 996 C2
Wonders will never cease. I've actually managed to sell my 944 and – without wishing to sound too smug, or even grubby, I've actually managed to make a little bit of money, too! Not that it was ever my motivation, but having missed out on the classic 911 boom, it's nice to have lucked in on the not quite so frenzied classic 944 boom. I'll probably regret it, but I've got a needy 996 and I can't squeeze three cars into one double garage (in my spare time I drive a dog-eared MX-5), so the 944 had to go and having been on the receiving end of much work in recent years, I was confident in its saleable value.
Before I start on the sales patter a quick recap is probably in order. Leafing through the documentation, I was quite surprised to discover that I had bought the 944 back in 2012. Of course I clearly remember buying it, but it really didn't seem that long ago. Time flies and all that. Regular readers will know that I'm a sucker for a 944 and for various reasons I go a bundle on the plain and simple 944 Lux. This particular car had my name all over it. I had spied it at dealer, Paul Stephens classic Porsche emporium. Over a period of a couple of weeks I had cause to pop in two or three times and it wore me down to the point that I realised I had to have it.
There was a 944 hole in my life. I had recently sold a very early 1983 Lux and together with another car sale, I had scraped up enough money to scratch a persistent itch in the shape of Mk5 Golf GTI. Why? I don't really know, perhaps it was the fond memories of a series of Mk2 Golf GTIS and the promise that the Mk5 was a return to form. We didn't hit it off and so I was weak in the face of what was an extremely tidy 944.
It was a 1987 car on a D plate, with just 81,000 miles on the clock and original right down to the dealer plates, Panasonic radio cassette and working digital clock. The real clincher, though, was the colour: Diamond Blue Metallic. Having had the usual range of 1980s black, red and white 944s (I did once have a gold one, too) this contemporary colour could have come straight from the current Porsche (or Audi or VW) palette and gave this 944 a very contemporary look. It's a rarely specced colour, too. In fact metallic paints were rarely specced on 944s in the ’80s because the cars was expensive enough as it was and the aforementioned reds, blacks and whites were popular enough.
Paul had taken the 944 in as a part-ex on a 996 Cabrio. He was going to market it at £4000, but being the decent chap that he is, he let me have it for what he effectively paid for it, which was £3250, albeit without any warranties etc. Suited me and, besides, I've had enough 944s to know a good one when it's staring me in the face.
And a good one it really was. No rot whatsoever in the sills or underneath and with the regular Waxoyling invoices to prove it. The paintwork was excellent, save for a few stone chips on the front apron and bonnet, which I had sorted. The interior was in fine shape, but I didn't much like the standard putty coloured seats, so I swapped them for black leather, which worked fine with the black/cream dashboard, console and door cards. I left the standard Panasonic cassette radio as a sign of respect and simpler times. Remarkably this 944 was the only one that I've ever had that didn't at some point have a massive ’80s style car phone fitted, as evidenced by the lack of tell tale screw holes in the side of the centre console.
It wasn't quite perfect, of course. Again serial 944 ownership has left me with a keen sense of what's what mechanically and 80,000-miles is usually about it for the clutch and dampers, plus engine mounts, and so it proved. I had all three replaced by Augment Automotive and pushed the boat out with the engine mounts and dampers. Most folk go for pattern mounts, but unlike the O/E mounts, these are not hydraulic fluid filled and so are prone to picking up the bad vibes of the big 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine. The O/E mounts are expensive, but worth it to keep things smooth. For dampers I went for Koni adjustables, and while the clutch was out I had Augment Automotive replace the torque tube bearings, which were just starting to chatter. Oh, and while they were at it, new front and rear discs and pads, too.
But that was just the start of things. Augment Automotive are better known for their 944 tuning mods in the shape of bespoke fuel injection and ignition tuning. My 944 soon had distributorless electronic ignition, airflow meter delete and state of the art ECI internals, plus modern ASNU fuel injectors. The result was a smooth and torquey 185bhp, helped along by Augment's own cam profile.
There were a few problems. A couple of years into ownership, the 944 started to run a bit hot, particularly under load. The guys at Augment took the head off and discovered that the head gasket was on its way out. No great surprise after 25-years or so. What was rather more serious was the discovery of a broken piston ring and scored bore, which rendered the Nikasil coated liner on that cylinder effectively scrap. Sure we could have just replaced the head gasket and thrown it back together and, who knows, it may well have been fine, but a good 944 deserves better, so I swallowed hard and went for the full engine rebuild.
Augment decided to use my engine as a test rig to develop a steel liner kit for the block, which took some time (18-months actually, but they're busy folk and I was in no rush), but it was worth the time and effort and they soaked up the costs. Other than that, the engine was rebuilt with new bearings, seals, valve guides etc and given a lick of paint to look properly spiffing. Once back in the car, with its new clutch, dampers, engine mounts, brakes and even new tyres, it really was like a new 944, which is when I realised it was time to sell, which sounds mad given all the time and effort, but things had moved on for me. In the time that the 944 had been away, I had bought my 996 and that was and is my main focus.
In the time that I had owned the 944, prices had started to firm up quite nicely, pulled along by the excitement surrounding aircooled 911s. Turbos have been going for strong money for a while, but the humble Lux is actually a rarer beast now, with so many having been scrapped. Dealers are asking anything over £10,000 for comparable cars and so I decided to pitch mine at £8000 and take £7500. And that's exactly what happened. I put it on Pistonheads.com and within five minutes I had a serious enquiry and by the weekend it had gone to Mike and Lorna who made the trip from Bristol to East Anglia to view and buy. They reckoned that they had been looking for the best part of a year and mine was the best they had seen, which is gratifying.
Interestingly, Mike mentioned that many of the 944s that he had researched had fallen foul of MOT advisories that are easily researched on the MOT database, but were not mentioned by vendors in their adverts, so beware, it is becoming harder to conceal information. I have to say, that I was unaware of this service, but then fortunately the advisories on my 944 were of the minor variety.
So there goes pretty much 16-years of continuous 944 ownership, all of them of the Lux variety save for one 944S (don't bother). It's good to see that they're finally having their day, because a good 944 really is a very good Porsche. I'm sure that I will have another at some point, but for now the 996 has to take priority. PW
Bennett’s 944 alongside Bennett senior’s Cayman R
The best 944 Bennett has ever had? Undoubtedly, and he’s had a few. New owner will benefit from a fully sorted car
CONTACT Augment Automotive Below left: New steel liners being fitted to the 944’s block. Below: Augment Automotive’s much modified ECU