My first Porsche was purchased in April 1991, but this 30-year story really begins in 1986. Ronald Reagan was President, Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing was a chart topper, and the KC Royals, having won the ’85 World Series, were looking good again as they headed into summer. Little did I know that the seed of a 30-year Porsche ownership story was about to be planted.
That July, an industry colleague of mine returned from Europe. While discussing a project, I noticed a Porsche brochure laying casually on his desk. I couldn’t help but look inside. The full-page glossy photos would make any car enthusiast drool. Yes, Jeff Zwart was in his prime. I slowly perused the pages of 911s, secretly knowing I couldn’t afford one. Reaching the full-page center spread, I saw the new 1986 944 Turbo. Now what is this I thought, eyeing the graceful lines penned by Harm Lagaay. Back then I was a muscle car type, with 2 Pontiac GTOs in my past. But this Porsche, with its front engine shape and layout, spoke to me. Knowing it too was out of reach financially, but not as far, I continued to flip the pages. The visual of that ’86 Turbo in that brochure was strong and I filed that thought away.
About a year later, I saw a 944 Turbo zipping along on I-35. The image from the brochure had come to life. I was astounded by its stance and how it looked at speed. I tried to keep up, but it was soon out of sight.
By 1991, prices had come down enough that purchasing one was possible. In March, I started looking seriously. The internet was not available then and the task was hit or miss. I needed to be patient and diligent if I was going to find the right one. I decided to visit Art Bunker Porsche. I told the salesmen my story and what I was looking for. That’s when I got lucky. He said he had access to a 1986 944 Turbo finished in black on black and it would be available in a private sale soon. It was just what I wanted and at a fair price. He told me to call back early next Monday so we could set a date to see the car in person.
Three long days later we met at the local Winstead’s on I-35 at SM Pkwy. When the Porsche drove up, it was love at first sight. Exactly as I had imagined. Some cars look good in certain colors. The 944 Turbo looks great in all black. Stately yet sinister. So, on 4-4-91, I purchased (1) – 944… A dream realized.
With a little research, I learned that it was initially bought by an MD in Maryland (MD!) and had come to KC in 1990 to a private owner who was a Mercedes salesman. It had 33k miles and was everything I imagined. It handled like nothing I had ever driven and could do 0-60 in six seconds! That seems slow today, but even muscle cars were hard pressed to reach that milestone then. The paint was in good condition, and more importantly, everything worked. The engine was a turbocharged 2.5 liters 4 cylinder with 217 hp and 247 lb/ft. The 5-speed transaxle was a delight, as I had only driven a 4 speed previously.
Later that summer, a man driving a 912 stopped by the house while I had the Porsche in the driveway. He introduced himself and also me to PCA, describing events and extolling the virtues of club membership. So, I joined KCRPCA in 1991 and was super impressed with the monthly editions of Panorama. I was amazed at its first-class presentation; it was and still is as good or better than what was available commercially. I now have 30 years of Panorama in a dedicated bookshelf. It is so full I need another one!
As the nineties progressed, I became aware that this Porsche was often called a 951, which is Porsche’s internal project number. This differentiates it from its base 944 sibling. By 1996, the 951 was 10 years old and often the loser in spirited highway sprints with other newer sports cars. That’s when I discovered “boost psi” and that it was changeable for much more horsepower than a naturally aspirated (NA) engine. That may seem elementary now, but I was a slow learner about all things Porsche in that era. After plenty of research and talk, talk, talk….I finally ordered an Autothority chip in early 1997. It instantly added about 50 hp for about 265 hp. The first drive after installation was “whoa” awesome as the difference was remarkable. Little did I realize the slippery slope of modification that I had entered!
Later in 1997, I became aware of Driver’s Education at Heartland Park Raceway in Topeka, KS and attended an event one Saturday. I soon signed up and purchased a helmet. My first DE occurred in April 1997 and I learned so much that first weekend. I was amazed at what I didn’t know. I was new to road courses and Euro type driving as I had been a straight-line guy without knowing it. I cooked the brakes the first day as I did not know I needed DOT4 brake fluid rather than stock fluid. With that taken care of, I was released to solo the last part of that first Sunday.
During the course of years 1997-2001, I slowly embarked on engine and suspension upgrades to change the 951 to keep up with newer and faster sports cars. Turbocharged Porsche engines have room for additional boost with aftermarket chips, intake and exhaust modifications, and other external mods such as replacing the OEM airbox with a mass air flow unit. Horsepower gains on the 951 can be significant.
In 1999, my prized possession received a polished intake and a special valve job. The engine was tuned for 100 octane and horsepower had increased to about 300 hp by then. Several DE events were quite incredible with the new power. Did I say “slippery slope” earlier? Soon Koni adjustable front shocks with a shock tower brace were added. Bilsteins in the rear served to lower the stock ride height for noticeable better handling. The 16-inch phone dial stock wheels were replaced with 8 x 18 front and 10 x 18 rear HRE 10 spoke chrome 3-piece wheels. They really fill out the wheel wells nicely and finish the great stance that it still has today.
This beautiful beast has evolved over the years and now is close to 35 years old. Its build date was July 1986, the first month that I became aware of this perfectly balanced Porsche. It has a transaxle in back which makes for 50/50 weight distribution at its svelte 3000 lbs. weight. In 2002, I changed the steering wheel to a 930S wheel. It is a perfect match, looking better than stock. 1986 was the last year without airbags and installation was easy. To continue the visual enhancement, the outside mirrors were changed to the 968 aero style in 2013, replacing the flag style OEM mirrors. In 2016, the amber front parking lights and sidelights were changed to clear style with amber backlighting.
The final engine mods came in 2009, as it became too much hassle to continue running 100 octane. I needed to get back to 93 octane. I made the change when the 951 developed a small oil leak near the turbocharger. I wanted to make sure that the changes were “done right” for this next iteration of my 951. This is where being a member of the PCA comes in handy. I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Karl Wilen of Rennsport KC at one of the club’s numerous events. After a short chat with him, I knew he was the best man for this endeavor.
He replaced the chip and mass air flow to Vitesse brand and adjusted them to create a balanced and much better integrated system that resulted in a much more livable drive. Now with 16.0 psi boost level on 93 octane, it dynoed @ 305 rwhp and 272 ft/lbs. of torque in 2010. With drivetrain loss, this engine now is about 340 hp at the engine. This is a great power to weight ratio for a 35-year-old 4-cylinder Porsche! It is also a testament to Porsche for its built-in margins that can be upgraded for street or track. This design has stood the test of time as it still looks somewhat modern.
I use Sumitomo tires all around; a great value, and the rotors were upgraded to cryogenic cross drilled type about 1998 during my DE days. Somewhere along this timeline, the turbo and injectors were replaced with larger units. This 951 is much the same today in 2021 with 87k miles. I have 30 years of receipts in 3 files now. As the club saying goes; “no calculator is allowed anywhere near those files!”
I have owned the 951 for 30-years now and have been a KCRPCA member for just as much. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Porsche-journey over the years; from first just reading Panorama, to the thrill of attending DEs, navigating the path of amazing modifications, and meeting wonderful friends along the way. The last 15 years have been the best, with my wife Trisha and I becoming heavily active at club events. What a great club with great events for all types of interest in Porsche. But the friends that have been made are the highlight of KCRPCA! This 30-year run with this 951 has had a few ups and downs, but mostly fun and exhilaration. I am always ready to jump back in and feel the late 1980’s come back to life. I even keep Dire Straits in the CD player!