In 1988, a 944 NA made 160 HP. A 944S made 190 HP. A 944 Turbo made 217 HP. A 1988 911 Carrera made 217 HP. But by 2022 standards, these cars were all pretty weak. Example? A 2022 Kia Sportage with the 2.0L turbo makes 240 HP and 260 ft/lbs of torque. In a compact SUV. It’s no surprise that 944 people are looking for more horsepower.
The bad news is that getting more horses out of the 944 engine comes at a cost – a cost to reliability, longevity, and money. Back in the day, the performance of the 944 and its variants was quite reasonable. But we want more today.
There are currently three popular decision points when it comes to the 944/924S power situation:
- DRC: This is the “Don’t Really Care” option when it comes to our cars. Our 924S Daily Driver falls into this category. By today’s numbers it isn’t quick. But we Don’t Really Care about Sparky’s performance figures. He’s fun, comfortable, reliable and fun. Yea, fun is mentioned twice. I like fun.
- Turbo/Supercharge/Nitro: Big turbochargers or big superchargers fix everything. Nitro will push thousands of horses into an engine for short bursts. At the Amelia Island Cars and Coffee in 2020 we saw a Lemons race car 944 with a huge turbocharger sticking out of the hood – the turbo was from a Dodge Cummins Diesel pickup. On a high-compression NA engine, big turbos can mean big problems unless other big things are added. Adding forced induction to your 944 means a lot of other considerations.
- SWAP. Whether it’s a V8 or other turbo small-displacement engine, swaps are becoming more and more popular. And it is true that you can put any engine in any car with the proper application of technology, engineering and cubic dollars. But putting a different more powerful engine in a 944 or 924S is attractive since getting 2022 horsepower and torque out of a 944 engine is in itself expensive, but also tends to reduce the reliability of the overall car. There are also driveline, brake and suspension issues to consider.
- ELECTRIFICATION. While I normally would not consider turning a Porsche of any type into an electric car, I put this here because it’s now a “thing” and can be considered as a power-up alternative. With Tesla sedans beating Hellcats at the drag strip…
For our purposed here, let’s consider engine swap and electrification only. It’s not that we don’t care or that we don’t want forced induction, but the majority of focus is on engine swaps to either a more powerful gasoline engine or an electric motor.
The most popular engine swap is to a Chevy LSx engine. It’s potential for modification to high HP numbers, it’s lightness as an all-aluminum engine, it’s production numbers and therefore availability, and the fact that it actually fits in the engine bay make the LSx a great candidate to swap into the 944 chassis. There are two primary companies making “kits” for LSx swaps – Renegade Hybrids and Texas Performance Concepts. Both have great parts and component selection as well as great support for your project, and we will not rate one as better than the other. It is all up to personal preference.
Which LSx is best? Again, personal preference, and you can throw “budget” into that, too. A salvage yard LSx with a hundred thousand miles can be had for cheap money, and you can then rebuild it or even use it “as is.” The L33 Silverado engine is also a choice as it is basically an LS1 with a different cam and intake. The LS6 is a 400 hp engine that can provide stock horsepower, and the LS7 is a big block in a small block package. Get the books and make a decision based on your needs.
The transaxle is also up for consideration. When Monster Miata first put a Ford Mustang 5.0 into a stock Miata, the first thing that happened was that rear gear was basically spun out of existence. Theory and legend says that any Porsche transmission/transaxle was designed to handle twice the stock horsepower, so a stock NA 944 transaxle should be able too handle 300 hp. That will not be enough. However, a turbo transaxle should be able to handle 450-500 hp, so that is why it is the choice for these swaps. If you find one with limited slip and an external oil cooler, all the better…at more money, of course.
Cost is also a big consideration. If you want a new LSx crate engine, plan on opening $10,000 at a minimum. A rebuilt turbo transaxle with all the goodies is another $3,000, and the “kit” parts will probably run another $6,000. With all the rest of the stuff, including brake upgrades, suspension changes, and other stuff will add anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. So plan on a budget of $11,000 to $13,000 plus the engine. It can get expensive quickly.
Is this going to be a home DIY swap or something that you have your local mechanic do for you? Figure $100 an hour for labor, with a minimum of 50 hours, probably more. If you are a DIY person, remember that tools and equipment that you need may impact the budget. But any excuse to buy new tools, right?
The Audi/VW 1.8 turbo swap is also gaining popularity. Motor Werks Racing in the Atlanta area is doing some great things with these engines in 944’s. They have started producing parts and kits for the DIY mechanic, but we have also found out that they charge between $20-25,000 if you bring them your 944 for conversion. Contact them for more info, but know this – the engine combination makes twice and more power than the stock 944 NA or turbo, and weighs half as much.
As far as electrification goes, there is a company in Romania that will sell you a complete EV Conversion kit for your 944 for 16,790 euros, or US$19,000. That will give you 300 HP. There is little additional details available on the website. They do say, however, that “If you can manage to change your own oil and wiper blades, then, with little help from our side you can do a diy conversion!” We are curious about things like range, etc. The kit includes a “small” Tesla drive unit and a 16kWh Chevy Bolt battery pack, so we are guessing that range in the 200-250 mile range is possible.
There is a lot here that has been left out because this is a huge project to plan and complete. However, we would be amiss if we did not point on one thing – on a very unscientific opinion, the market for swapped 944’s seems to be weak, with cars not providing the return on investment. So if this is something that you would like to do as an investment – swap-and-flip – then you may want to think this through.
There is plenty of research available online for planning and executing your swap. Take the time, evaluate skills, available facilities and budget before you jump in. And best of luck in your project!