Porsche’s 911 is arguably the most-loved model offered by the storied Stuttgart manufacturer. However, there are enthusiasts who have just as much admiration for the marque's transaxle creations. We catch up with Paul Loeb van Zuilenburg in Bloemfontein who owns a neat 1989 944 S2.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
“The car was advertised in the Cape and my son was in the vicinity," begins Paul. "He went to have a closer look at the car and phoned me immediately, strongly indicating that I must buy this model, even if I had to sell another car or two that I had at the time. I phoned a private Porsche dealer in Cape Town and he also indicated that it was a clean car and that it would be a good buy. That is what I did, so I sold a 1984 944 RHD to purchase this one.”
This is the first 944 S2 that Paul has owned, but he has also been the custodian of other 944s and even a 924 Turbo that had previously crossed his path.
“This particular car was specifically built for South Africa. It is a right-hand drive model with kilometres per hour on the dial. It is not some grey import from the UK with miles per hour on the dial. It still has its sticker in the boot indicating its exact specification. It has 214 000 km on the odo.
“I always try to buy a car that is slightly special. There are many 924s and 944s, but there are not many 924 Turbos and there are not many 944 S2s. The transaxle enthusiasts in our group don’t understand why 944s are so affordable. If you look at the performance and roadholding of a 944 S2 and a 911 Carrera from the same year, the 944’s road holding, in my opinion, is better, the engine’s performance is very close, but still the 911 is around three times more valuable! We wonder why that is, is it only because of the shape?
“For us this fact is very attractive on the one side because it allows an enthusiast like myself to be able to own a Porsche.
“I bought my first 912 when I was 26, followed by another 912 as well as a 356. That was over two decades ago. However, as a professional musician I realised these cars were simply too expensive to maintain. For 15 years I didn’t own a Porsche before I started buying some transaxle cars.
“When I bought it, the fact that there was so little repair work needed was a highlight. With all my other cars there was extensive work that had to be done. With this S2 I only painted the additional lower spoiler and I still want to touch up the interior, but other than that the car doesn’t need any work. It starts and the battery is never drained – it is really a dependable car.
Maintenance and buying a 944
“These cars are were very well put together, but you need to keep your hand on them. For the first 20 or so years the maintenance required was minor, but now, after 30 years you can expect perishables needing replacement, so you just need to keep an eye out for that. Very important is to keep an eye on the camblet change and to know when the car’s last cambelt service was done.
“That is why I carefully went through the car’s folder when I bought it to analyse what had been done and how long ago. When I bought this car the last cambelt service had been done 3 000 km ago, but that date was 12 years ago! The result was that I didn’t even drive the car, I had it put on a flat-bed truck and in this case it is best if it goes directly to the mechanic for a full service. Before anything is done, that cambelt service is very important together with the cam followers that need replacement.
“Small services I tend to do myself. It is easy to reach the plugs and filters. Buying parts can sometimes be an issue. We import selected parts from overseas if the local available parts are too expensive. There are plenty of suppliers in the UK and the USA.
“Also look out for rust, because if there is any rust, there is a good chance the car was in an accident or received panel beating at some stage in its life. There is really no other reason you should find rust.
Fun and practical
“I honestly enjoy the roadholding of these cars. They are very well-balanced owing to the engine being mounted at the front and the transmission on the rear axle. Secondly, the engine has copious amounts of torque. It is only a four-cylinder engine, but it is 3.0-litres in size. Finally, this is a really practical car. I can go and do grocery shopping while I’m also able to load my cello in it!
“I wouldn’t mind owning an early air-cooled 911 again one day, they have a different feeling to them than these transaxle cars. But, if I can only own one Porsche, I’ll take a transaxle model, simply because they are fun and practical at the same time.”
*Check back soon when we take a very special 944 for a drive on one of the best roads in the Western Cape.