Porsche 944 Lux

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I’ve never driven a Porsche before. I always thought it would be air-cooled with an engine hanging out the back. Instead, it was water-cooled and Porsche’s second attempt to appease the US market and plonk its engine up the front. At least this car had one designed by Porsche, a 2.5 litre four cylinder jobby that produced 163 bhp (120kW) when new, and not the suped-up Audi contraption that came in the 924.

But let’s go back a few months and explain how this all came about. I’d just sold my Saab 900 Turbo and Kelvin (we’ll call him Kelvin for the purposes of this article, plus it is his name) was a little miffed that he’d buggered around for so long he missed his chance to purchase it. Kelvin has a penchant for beards and older, dare I say it, retro looking cars so when he asked me what I thought about the 944, I gave him my honest opinion. I liked them, always had done, in fact if it was not for my need of a back seat I would have purchased one over the Saab back in the late 90’s.

He then asked what I thought of one particular specimen, a standard Porsche 944 Lux, 8v, iron callipers with alarmingly low mileage. I say alarming as after 30 odd years its kilometre count meant it would surely have been clocked. If not, what a waste, the car had missed its prime and that for me is just sacrilege.

But sacrilege it was, luckily for Kelvin, and he duly handed over a mere $12,500. It should have been $14k but as any good buyer does he noticed that the clutch was riding high so negotiated the price of a new one and brought the sale price down.

As you can see, that is a fairly lean sum for a car in such condition. Not a flake of rust anywhere, thanks largely to the galvanised body, almost perfect wheels and only slightly threadbare front seats, which is totally understandable after three decades. The back seats have probably never been sat in, unless the previous owners had a cat.

IMG_4152But what is it like to drive? First up, the wheel is incredibly low it brushes my thighs, and I fumble around trying to find some way to adjust it. Surely they thought of that, didn’t they? No point asking Kelvin though, he knows next to nothing. The rim is thin and hard, very late 70’s but I quite like it. The seats are comfortable enough and everything is within reach, as you’d expect from Stuttgart. The pedals are nicely spaced and the gear lever is at the perfect rake and distance and my hand settles around it almost telepathically. Then I turn the key. Nothing. I look at Kelvin, he looks at me, much like a cow looking through a hedge.

Then I remember that ‘no starts’ have been a bit of a problem for the 944, something to do with the speed sensors. A bit of lead wiggling at the rear of the engine and I hope this helps. It doesn’t. If this is the issue, then it’s best to get a mechanic to locate the fault or go through each sensor yourself until you find the culprit.

However, it turns out Kelvin had just installed a new immobiliser and, like a pair of divs, we just hadn’t pressed the button. Problem solved, I fire up the engine. It ignites without a shudder and settles into a comfortable burble, very un-air-cool like, but with a timbre deep enough to let you know that this thing, in its prime, was no slouch. The clutch is certainly high but I feel no hint of slip as I pull away up a reasonably steep hill. I decide to head away from town and up on to the North Head. At least by going up the hill, I can get the revs up if not the speedometer.

IMG_4150It turned out to be a mistake of course because every 100-200m is a sleeping policeman and I can sense Kelvin wincing over every one. I manage to whip the thing around a tight roundabout to test the car’s legendary grip levels, but that’s about as close as I can get to hooning. It’s a shame because for a 32 year old vehicle it feels tight, if a little under powered, but this is the base level model remember, with no turbo and only 8 valves per cylinder.

So what should you be doing if you had bought it?

Change the coolant and the oil regularly and check for any grey sludge. If it’s present you could be staring at an engine change because water is getting in there somehow. If you are lucky, it may just be a leaking oil cooler gasket, which is a much cheaper fix as long as you replace the two filters and add 10 litres of new oil.

Because this is the 8 valve engine, it was not fitted with the same chain tensioner unit found between the twin cams of the 16v version. This apparently failed often and would destroy the top end of the 16v engine if not maintained regularly. However, every 100,000 kms the camshaft belts must be changed to avoid a similar fate. Do all this and service it regularly and it’s likely the engine will last many more years to come.

The Lux also scores on its heavier, uglier cast brake callipers. The 16 valvers got alloy ones which looked better and sported the Porsche letters, but they tended to corrode and react with the steel on the back of the brake pads. As you can imagine, having to change the full braking system, discs and all, on any Porsche will not be cheap.IMG_4145

We decided to organise a longer drive in the near future and if Kelvin is brave enough, perhaps a few laps of a track. We discussed ways of protecting the paintwork from dreaded bird shit, and a car cover seemed the easiest option. I hope he enjoys his new, yet old, car and I look forward to listening to his travelling tales. If the reaction we had when we stopped briefly to take some shots is anything to go by, he will certainly attract a crowd.

Suggested service centres on the Northern beaches:

Buchanan Automotive, Balgowlah

www.buchananautomotive.com.au

Buchanan Automotive is a father and son independent Porsche workshop located in Balgowlah on Sydney’s northern beaches. Together they represent over 40 years of Porsche knowledge and experience.

PR Technology, Brookvale

www.prtechnology.com.au

PRTechnology is a Porsche specialist workshop based in Brookvale. Established in 1993 by current partners Paul Jacobsohn & Richard den Brinker, it has grown to be recognised as one of the largest and most respected Porsche workshops in Australia.

Forums:

Porscheforum.com.au

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Affordable Iconic Cars: BMW 635CSi

Moonlighting

As far as I was concerned Bruce Willis could never top being David Addison in Moonlighting. As a 16-year-old, I didn’t know that receding hairlines and patterned jumpers could be so cool. I tried to emulate him, but it became obvious that such a look only suited someone 25 years my senior and what self-respecting teenage girl looks twice at a boy sporting a wooly crew neck sweater?

However, David and his employer Maddie Hayes’ champagne coloured BMW 6 series CSI would have looked good on me. God, I loved that car, even though it was brown, and from then on my love affair with the 6 series began. I lusted after CSI’s, and as a teenager it was the first car I ever mourned when the series ended. I remember feeling guilty even contemplating looking at another car.

A few years later I managed to blag my way into the driver’s seat of an M6 at London’s Motor show, making out that I indeed owned a 6 but a lowly 628. I was in need of something a little more nimble on my imaginary trans European driving routes. I kid myself still that I pulled it off, but really, the spots and poor dress sense must surely have been writ large and the salesman took pity on me.

By: Ramin Ekhtiar
By: Ramin Ekhtiar

The last E24 635’s rolled off the lines in Bavaria in 1989, making these cars at least 24 years old. Obviously my favourite would be the M6. They are definitely the most expensive and all came with a manual transmission, which suits me just fine.

Its power figures seem paltry to cars offered today. The M series produced 286bhp (210kW), smaller still if you find a US version with the catalytic converter that was introduced in 1987. The 635 generated only 215bhp (160kW), which is less than a contemporary hot hatch these days. However, the smooth ride, handling and sheer theatre of driving what must surely be the best looking Bimmer they have ever made makes it very much worth it. They were built to be a Grand Tourer, so munched kilometres for breakfast and spat out its driver after hours at the wheel with imperceptible back and leg ache.

Sadly finding an M6 in Australia is nigh on impossible. Most found their way to the States so perhaps it may be worth looking there. You can find the odd M635CSI however for around $38k, though the two I came across today have around 200,000k on the clock. There are far more CSI’s around and range from $20k down to as little $8k. As ever, it is always better to spend as much as you can afford, as going bargain basement may be a double-edged sword.

But, and you must have known this was coming, they can be expensive to maintain, unless you are handy with a spanner. Prevention is always better than cure, remember, so finding a good local specialist will pay dividends.

By: Nan Palmero
By: Nan Palmero

From what I gather, as long as the oil is changed every 8-10,000 km, you can expect the engine to last.

The automatic transmission is probably the weakest link, and often gives up the ghost around 160,000km. So bear this is mind if the car you are looking at has more than 130k on the clock and build the potential cost for a new tranny into your negotiations.

The drivetrain is strong but the drive shaft u-joints probably need some inspection. Regular maintenance, especially on the M6 is important, paying particular attention to valve and timing components.

Rust can infect the seams along the sides of the engine bay, and check the shock towers for any corrosion.

Make sure all electric gadgetry works, such as the windows, seats, lights on the dashboard etc.

All this being said, I still want one and after writing this I am formulating reasons and ways in my head to raid my overdraft, forget I have too many people in my family and trade my Disco in for something more Teutonic.

 

By: Ramin Ekhtiar
By: Ramin Ekhtiar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audi Quattro: The Original

audi ur quattro

The Ur-Quattro

The Ur-Quattro, or Original Quattro, arrived in 1980 and took rallying to a whole new dimension, dominating the sport for over two years. It was the first rally car to take advantage of new four-wheel drive rules and spawned panic amongst its rivals to catch up. This reached fever pitch with the advent of Class B rallying between 1982 and 1986 when such monsters as the Ford RS200, Metro RS4, Lancia Delta S4 and of course the Sport Quattro S1 arrived.

These cars travelled so fast along winding, slippery, often mountainous roads they appeared to defy laws of gravity and adhesion. To give you an idea of how fast Class B became, Henri Toivonen once famously tested his Delta S4 at the Estoril Grand Prix track with a lap time that would have put him sixth on the F1 grid, in a rally car. Turbo’s could be boosted to 5 bars or more and horsepower easily eclipsed 500 in race form. 1000 was apparently quite possible. Now this amount of power is all well and good in a race involving long straights and steady left handers, say NASCAR for instance, or something similarly boring. But on a forest track covered in mud, ice, snow, water, gravel and more often than not involving hairpin bends over blind crests? I am sure you get my drift, no pun intended, these were accidents waiting to happen.

Sadly all too soon for Toivonen in 1986, who flew off a thin strip of tarmac high up a Corsican hillside at speeds barely imaginable, taking his co-driver with him. Overnight the era of the Rally Supercar ended and these powerful machines became obsolete.

However, one sport’s loss became the consumer’s benefit with the opportunity to emulate our rallying heroes by purchasing one of these cars that were only very slightly modified for road use. Lancia sold its Delta as the Integrale, Ford as the RS200 and

Audi with its Quattro. In its original guise it came with a 2,144 cc, 10 valve turbocharged in-line 5 pot engine, or WR as it became known, and it is this example I am about to jump into.

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In fact I am about to drive a car whose original owner was none other than

a former Australian Formula 1 driver, and winner of the Le Mans 24 hours, Vern Schuppan.

Sitting low in a its dated but hugely comfortable leather chair, you notice the wheel is set slightly left of centre but the pedals are perfectly positioned directly in front of you and spaced ideally for heel and toeing. No doubt Vern would have been a dab hand at left foot braking, but with Ian from Shannons sitting beside me there was no chance of that today.

The dash ahead of me is pure Audi of old, no different to an 80CD I owned many years ago or a mate’s 90 Quattro. Turning the key and hearing that 5 pot rumble immediately took me back to my teen years and my yearning to own one of these iconic cars. Depressing the clutch I half expect a work out for my thigh, but not so. It’s as light as any modern day car and snicking it into first heralded the typical mechanical clunky feel that all Audi’s had at the time. Not particularly smooth nor solid, but its an Audi, they don’t go wrong.

Pulling away, the sound emanating from those twin pipes still shames any contemporary V8 and considering the car is now 33 years old you’d expect the odd rattle and perhaps some loss in power. Blipping the throttle it doesn’t sound much has past it by, but the lag is more pronounceable than I thought. I have to remind myself this is normal of all early turbos, even of supercars.

Unfortunately the back roads around Artarmon are busy with trucks and traffic lights, but with a hill and some space in front of me, I floor it as much as I dare, half expecting Ian to tut in disapproval. It doesn’t come, and the question concerning its power is answered with a strong surge in second up to 60. Third is some distance away, surprisingly, but fourth is a quick pull back and we’re travelling smoothly, bathed in its inline din.

Sounds good, I shout to Ian. He agrees and I think both of us wish for a local track to delve down and put it through its paces.

 

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Sadly the test drive is all too short but it is obvious this car has been well looked after. It rides the atrocious concrete slabs, synonymous of this area, with barely a shudder of disapproval and shakes off the inconvenience of mini roundabouts with the nonchalence of a gorilla swatting a bug. The last one I come to I drop down to second and gave it some welly, with window down and a wall across from me, that noise, the drama, just makes me want to drive this thing further and faster. Shame its not in red though.

The car is being auctioned at Shannons of Artarmon on May 6. Visit http://www.shannons.com.au/auctions for more information.

 

RESEARCH

Check out the Research category for more information about typical costs, repairs and what to look out for, click here:

http://wp.me/P3rCxt-9Y

Recommended Service Centres:

Eagle & Raymond Automotive  – 1/14 Brennan Close, Asquith NSW 2077‎m

(02) 9477 1500
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SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Final Drive: SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Model Year: 1991

Bought for: $16,995 in Sept 1999

Kms: 135,000

Sold for: $3,000 in Dec 2012

Kms: 247,000

Thirteen years is a long time in partnership with anything. It’s no less emotive than when it’s with a car and the split up has become inevitable. In my case not by choice either which only amplifies the pain.

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This is not just any old second car, occasionally rolled out at weekends to annoy those who actually have a purpose to their journey. No, this, for much of its relationship with me, has been the every-day-use car. One that has never let me down, ignoring that one occasion with the wife that I put down to a girl thing; neither wanted to be usurped as being the most important female in my life.

In saying that, is she really female? This is a phenomena that is new to me. I’ve never been one to assign a gender to my cars, but since I started the trials of selling, I’ve been turned by a rather passionate lady extolling my car’s many delicate virtues and it struck me that, much like my wife, if treated tenderly she did indeed respond well. So it has sort of stuck.

There’s undoubtedly something of the gut pain one has when wrenched away from loved ones. Or, as was often in my case, wrenching themselves away at a brisk trot, back turned and facing a mother imploring her to run faster.

But anyway, I’ll definitely miss her, the smell of leather and fuel as soon as you open the door. The creak of hide as you slide into its still very comfy drivers seat. The idiosyncracy of its ignition placement. That whine of the turbo as it spools into life. The joy of the second gear kick-down. For sure I’m going to miss the manual box, clunky and long travelled it may be, but with it comes involvement, and a reason to drive smoothly and efficiently at pace. It forces you to take note of the road, else be dragged into the abyss of boredom and laziness that autos and other latter day gadgetries afford a man. However smooth and excellent they maybe today, in my opinion an automatic will always be trumped by a manual for sheer connection, to the road as well as to your driving style. All drivers should be forced to take the test in a manual is what I say. The skills learned and abilities improved can only benefit our urban society.

But I digress.

AAS 60C, or arse-sixty-see as I’ve taken to calling her, a 1991 Saab 900 Turbo 16v, pre-GM ownership. For a car that’s age is beginning to nudge the idea of a quarter century, it still looks good. The original paintwork has taken to the Aussie climate rather well and it gleams at me in the morning sun. Looking at it objectively, it is in good nick this one. No major exterior signs of any collision or corrosion. She makes me proud. Its engine is strong enough for couple more hundred thousand klicks, if regularly serviced too.

The smell of 98 octane fuel is a pleasant one as you close the door, alarming initially I grant you but I came to adore it, hooked you might say. I sit motionless for a second drinking it in. The cockpit’s ever so slightly biased toward the driver and its beginning to look its age in aesthetics, but functionally all still sound. The CD is an after market affair that works well enough but the lights have mostly died out for night time use, so it then becomes a hit and miss affair. And there’s a rattle in the ventilation system that has always been there and can only be cancelled out by exactly trimming the air duct controls. Idiosyncratic you might say.

I reach down to my left and insert the key in the centre consol. It starts energetically with maybe a hint of chattering tappets. I let the oil work itself around the engine before I pull away.

Let’s face it, this is a twenty two year old car, twenty three if you add the year it was built prior to registration, so the creaks and rattles that come through the facia and rear quarter have to be expected. Much often turns out to be for ancillary reasons; a clunking seat belt holder for instance or a loose parcel shelf. Nonetheless this is an old car and should be treated with some care, just in case. That being said, in the main it still feels tight.

The steering wheel is so much smaller and skinnier than more contemporary cars and loses nothing for it. The feel you receive through its thinly padded rim is one that inspires trust and respect. And it’s the same minimalism throughout the cabin, for there are no signs of airbags, cup holders or blue tooth connections in here. It’s because of this that what looks small on the outside, a latter day Ford Mondeo dwarfs it, it almost makes up for when inside, thanks to the absence of all that safety rubbish. Saab, as Top Gear showed us, had not forgotten its safety responsibilities, damn near wrapping the whole vehicle in a roll cage.

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Not that a generation junior would agree with me after a first acquaintance with the brakes. They are certainly not as well assisted as anything they would have learned to drive in, but once you get used to the extra effort and travel required, they are effective enough.

At the lights, if the revs are kept up it pulls away strongly and still a match for most V6’s. But woe-betide if your timing is out, the lag will reduce you to a snails pace for an interminable few seconds before finally and, satisfyingly, hitting its sweet spot with such panache that you can almost forgive it.

Find a clear, winding stretch of road however and it hunkers down at the back and acts as if its rear wheel driven. If you get your line right through a series of sweeping bends, using the gears to full effect and taking care to keep the engine working in the power band, it flows as sweetly as any spirited 5 door wagon of today. It’s the sense of involvement you feel with a car of this era though that really shines. In a few years you’d be hard pushed to find a new car that comes with a manual transmission, and we as drivers will be the worse for it.

But you don’t drive this car like a sports car, no, she’s too boat-like, as my GTi driving friend once remarked. It’s more of a Grand Tourer. More sedate but rapid when the moment comes. Its ability to overtake in the 50-70 kph range is still a marvel and one that brings a smile to your face.

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That said, when faced with a series of speed bumps, its low stance makes you wince every time you scrape over some of the more severe ones. Its ride is a tad firm for Sydney road conditions but thanks to its excellent seats you’re never troubled that much.

I drive for fifty kilometres and notice I’ve gone through a quarter of a tank, so spirited driving does come at cost. But for a price of an expensive handbag this fair lady comes with a lot of bang for your buck.

Over the years I tried a few places to maintain my Saab, from Ultratune to the original dealer, whose mechanics as it happened set up their own garage a few years after I bought the car. It was there, at Saabtech, I found real maintenance value. Its all well and good saving on a service by going to a local non specialist, but ultimately using Saab experts paid off in quality and a better driving experience.

For detailed costs visit the research link: 

http://wp.me/P3rCxt-av