I am on a never-ending quest to make my 1988 Porsche 944 an ideal daily driver. The car itself has all of the ingredients I want to fulfill this function – good visibility, great handling and brakes, comfortable and with good modern audio technology thanks to the new receiver and iPhone mount. The struggle to achieve daily-driver perfection stems primarily from the age of the car. The odometer on the car reads over 150,000 miles and it’s quite an effort to try to keep up with the needs of the Porsche. Every time I finish one project, three more pop up. This will be a review of the progress I’ve made on the 944.
Porsche sent the 944 away from the factory with sealed beam headlights that the US DOT thought were adequate for night driving. The DOT, as government institutions so commonly are, was wrong. If I were a betting man (I’m not, other than a Power Ball ticket while driving through Oregon), I would bet that my iPhone’s flash put out more lumens than the 944’s factory headlights. I live out near the country, where a deer, bear, elk or drunk Elks Lodge member is liable to dash across the road from behind a dark tree at any moment. For safety’s sake, powerful headlights are a must.
only944.com came to the rescue when they introduced their LED headlight conversion. The factory headlights are replaced with LED bulbs and lenses. Installation is practically as simple as replacing the headlight. The cost of the kit is only $72.00 and the improvement is substantial. The new lights emit clear, high-quality well-aimed light at the road. Properly aimed, they don’t blind oncoming drivers. The high beams are as equally impressive, and do blind oncoming drivers, but TURN YOUR BRIGHTS OFF AROUND OTHER DRIVERS! Technically, they are not DOT approved and are intended for racing or off-road only, but barring a DOT inspection road block, I don’t expect any trouble with these.
The next task was to address something that had been nagging me since acquiring the car – the shifter. The boot was torn at the top, just under the shit-pattern cap. It was an eyesore that I had to interact with every time I drove the car. For Christmas, I put a 944 inner and outer leather shift boot on my list. Only944.com had these items in stock and when Christmas rolled around, I found myself the proud owner of new shift boots. Since I was going to have to remove the shifter, I ordered a new and improved shifter from only944.com.
The new inner shift boot’s leather was a big improvement over the factory’s rubber boot. It was easier to install and will be less prone to tearing. Installation of the outer leather boot was a bit trickier. It involved cutting the leather ath the top, super-gluing it to the top of the shift knob, inside of where the cap attaches and then pressing the shift pattern cap over the leather. It didn’t turn out perfect, but it’s a big improvement over the torn boot. The new shifter feels more precise than the old worn unit and was worth its $67.00 cost. It has roller bearing washers that make for smooth shifts.
Some of the plastic interior trim pieces on the 944 have become discolored over the years and no matter how much I scrub them, they do not come clean. I decided to freshen them up by painting them. I looked up the interior color code in the spare wheel well and saw that it was “LQ”, which Porsche calls “Light Grey”. The Germans must be more colorblind than me, because I can tell you with 98% certainty that my car’s interior is not light grey. It’s a light beige. Research in the forums revealed that SEM makes a paint for plastic and vinyl that is almost an exact match for interior color code LQ. The color is called “Sandstone” and SEM’s item number is 15143.
I removed the interior door handles and seat trim, cleaned them thoroughly with alcohol (denatured, not the good vodka) and put them in my powder coating oven (which is actually a toaster oven) at a low temperature to ensure good adhesion. When the parts were done cooking, I sprayed them, using light, even coats. Four coats later with about five minutes between each, and the parts looked fresh and new again. I put them back in the toaster oven at low temperature (I’m talking 175° F) and allowed them to cure for about ten minutes. After cooling, I installed them back in the car and admired the work. The trim pieces have held up quite well, even after cleaning. I was a bit concerned that without a primer the paint might flake off, especially from the interior door handles, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Note: this paragraph will contain no bra jokes. The 944’s nose was covered by a bra when I bought the car. I hate car bras. Bras belong on women, not cars. Dirt and water get under them, they scratch the paint, the paint under the bra ends up looking different than the rest of the paint because it hasn’t been exposed to light and atmosphere and they are just plain ugly. The first thing I did to the Porsche was remove the bra. It was then that I discovered that the nose panel was not nautic blue metallic, like the rest of the car, but a poorly-painted black. As bad as it looked, it was still better than the vinyl bra. After years of ownership, I finally bought paint (in a spray can) that would match the factory color. I sprayed out a sample on a card and my wife confirmed (that color blind thing, again) that the paint matched. I intend to strip the nose panel and spray it the color that Porsche intended. Spectral Paints makes a primer, base coat (color code LY5Z for nautic blue) and clear coat for $60 that will transform the 944’s ugly nose into that of a Hollywood starlet.
On the mechanical side of things, I decided to have my fuel injectors flow tested and cleaned. The 2.5 liter 4-cylinder’s idle was a bit rough and then egine’s RPM would dip below idle when one let off the throttle. Off to the forums I went to seek someone who could do this work. The answer I received was to send my injectors to Witch Hunter Performance. For a cost of only $23 US per, I could have squeaky-clean factory injectors. An internet search later and I discovered that Witch Hunter Performance is located in my town. The mailing address they provided to send one’s used injectors is the mail center off of Main Street. After relieving the 944 of fuel pressure, I removed the injectors, boxed them up and my wife volunteered to take them down to the mail center (I suspect because she feared the stinky box of injectors would be sitting on our entryway table for days before I got around to delivering them).
In preparation for this project, I bought a set of new fuel injectors that were made in the country that people in China criticize for poor workmanship. I did not want the car to be sidelined while waiting for the factory injectors to be cleaned. The temporary injectors made the car buck like a bronco with a barbed wire flank strap. They were terrible and no one should buy such injectors. A proper 944 fuel injector should cost $100 each at the minimum. I waited a few weeks for my fuel injectors to be completed and then received a call from Witch Hunter Performance. He said he lived close to my house and asked if I’d like him to just drop off my Porsche injectors. One Saturday afternoon he pulled into my driveway and gave me my box of injectors. He explained that he was a retired engineer and worked out of a shop at his house. One of the conditions his wife gave him for setting up his service was that no customers were to come to the house (I fully support this condition).
Removal and installation of fuel injectors in the 944 is quite easy. Clark’s Garage, an invaluable too for 944 owners, details the process here. There is no difficult part of this process and several of our more dexterous dogs could complete the task. I did it outside in the driveway in under an hour. The test drive revealed a much “snappier” engine, with better throttle response, smoother acceleration and much better idle. I would highly recommend this service to anyone wishing to renew one’s fuel injectors. Witch Hunter even sends a chart showing before and after flow test numbers for each injector.
With those projects complete, I see my list is down to seventeen tasks left to perform. There’s an exhaust leak, the A/C needs to be recharged, I have a new starter to install, the rear wiper works only intermittently, I have a new amp and speakers, etc. etc. In the meantime, I will enjoy driving it as-is and will appreciate each improvement as they are completed. This car will not wear me down (this is my evening meditation chant).