The Porsche 924 was introduced to the public in November of 1975 in a press launch at the harbor at La Grande Motte, Camargue in the south of France. That is the same time that Ms. 924S944.com and I got married. FORTY-SIX years ago. To get some perspective on that, if I had bought a forty-six-year-old car when we got married, it would have been a 1929 Ford Model A. (Probably a roadster with a rumble seat.)
The newest Porsche 944 today would be a 1991 S2, and it would be THIRTY-ONE years old today. Would you treasure having a 1991 Chrysler LeBaron today?
Let’s face it – our cars are old. But due to Porsche design and development folks, the design is timeless and the engineering is pretty solid.
But age takes its toll on us, and on our cars. Things do wear out, parts need replacement due to age or lack of use, and there is the occasional issue that just happens. Repairs and maintenance are two big factors for any automobile, but we live in a world of 100,000 mile warranties and prepaid routine service. We must realize that the 944 and its friends are not “gas and go” automobiles with a long warranty. Going to the repair shop without a warranty can be a sobering experience with a 944 or a Hyundai Sonata. Shop labor can go north of a hundred an hour pretty fast, so paying labor for repairs often matches the list price for parts. Need a starter? The starter is $208, labor is $210, plus shop fees, disposal fees and taxes. Pretty close to $500. And the $150 tow to the shop to get it fixed.
We sneak around on the internet forums a bit, and we are continually surprised by the posts from 944 owners who put up a photo of some part of the engine and ask, “What is this?” or complain about a pricey repair. One today caught our eyes asked about the shop replacing the clutch slave only to then find out that the clutch master was also in need of replacement. The complaint – it cost another $650 to replace the master cylinder! Replies went from kind to cruel, but hidden in this little bit was the fact that the shop charged $1300 to replace the master and slave cylinders. List price on an aftermarket Master Cylinder is $234 with the Slave Cylinder at $182. These are aftermarket prices. Surprisingly, Genuine Porsche Parts prices for these two are not much more. So that means that $800 to $900 was labor. That’s a lot, but not an indictment on repair shops. As some responder noted, “should have bought the parts and changed them yourself – save a bucket of money for a couple hours work.”
So where is all this going? Our cars are old; they need maintenance and repair; going to a shop all the time will cost a fortune; SO WHAT TO DO?
To own one of our old cars, we need to know how to do most of the basic work and own a few tools and basic equipment. Jack and jack stands. Metric wrenches and sockets. A good LED flashlight. Couple of screwdrivers. A hammer. And a manual as well as a tablet or computer for YouTube instructional videos.
These are not cars that were built in 2018 with a warranty. We continually recommend to perspective buyers that if you want a 944 – or any 30+-year-old car – you have to be able to work on it yourself. Basic automotive knowledge that goes beyond the locations of the gas cap and the ignition key is imperative. A toolbox containing more than a hammer, a broken screwdriver and a pair of HUGE vice grips is needed. The box of tools that your grandfather, the carpenter, left you will not work.
This is NOT to say that you cannot get a few tools, look at some videos and gain the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to own, drive and enjoy a 944 – you can, and many of us have. However, owning a 944 or one of its friends and expecting to have the local shop do any and all of the work on it is just not smart. Even if the money isn’t an issue, the aggravation of getting the car to the shop, scheduling the time, waiting for the repair to be completed, then picking it up may not be worth the effort.
Learn to work on your car. The instant gratification of determining the issue, making the fix and seeing it work properly is great therapy.
As a great man once said, “I DON’T NEED THERAPY. I OWN A 944.”