What it’s like maintaining a car from 1985


1985.1 Porsche 944-Javier

Maintaining a car from 1985 at the age of 17 isn’t really an ideal option, especially when graduation is right around the corner. It can be a money pit at a young age, but you can learn so much from working on a car. When I started looking for a car, I didn’t intend to purchase a Porsche 944, but when I found the car listed on the app Offerup, I thought I should take a look. I had little to no knowledge about this car. I only knew that Mazda had copied the design back in the 80s.

When I set up a date and time to look at the car, it met all my expectations. The car was clean inside and out, and the engine was mechanically healthy. Everything seemed to be correct and hasn’t been messed with too much, besides a new radio that was wired completely wrong. I made an offer to the owner and bought the car the same day.

After a few months of owning the car, I had fixed small issues that were easy to repair. A lot of the stuff was just interior pieces cracking and falling apart. New hardware from Lowe’s fixed pretty much everything. Once i was able to afford more parts, I sent out my driver’s seat for reupholstering. While I waited to get my seat back, I began to deep clean my interior, since I hadn’t done a proper cleaning when I got the car. I also ordered a new cat-back exhaust from Dansk since my old one was on its way out. Installing an exhaust is a 5 out 10 difficulty; the challenge level can vary depending on the vehicle and its age due to rust and old bolts being stripped. Overall, the install was straightforward and wasn’t too hard for my first exhaust removal and install. From this point on, the car was running strong and drove perfectly…Until 3 months later, when the car began to misfire and experience power loss.

After doing some research on old forums from 2012, I learned that the issue could be a spark or fuel issue, which I suspected, but didn’t know exactly what the problem could be. I went ahead and replaced the fuel pump and filter since it seemed like it hadn’t been changed for a while. The car began to run strong again until I went for a test drive and the issue appeared again. At this point, I went ahead and looked through the car and made sure nothing was causing a short and nothing was burning, since I had smelled smoke while driving. When searching for anything that looked burnt, I found that the distributor cap and rotor were broken off and weren’t sending spark to any of the spark plug wires. Once that was replaced, the car was running strong again. From the experience, I learned to keep up with maintenance and make sure everything is regularly inspected.

I began to go to Cars and Coffee and sho case my car at public events. I got to meet amazing people and also the owner of CRE. CRE is a Porsche 944 and 924 specialist; they run an amazing team and get these amazing cars running again. Ever since I got the car, I noticed that ride quality wasn’t the best. The car would clunk and feel extremely stiff driving on slightly bumpy roads. So to fix that issue, I had my motor mounts and tie rod ends replaced by the guys at CRE down in San Diego. While the car was down there, I sourced a used but new set of Koni shock inserts for the car.

I will say suspension work on an old car isn’t the easiest, but it’s definitely not difficult. Installing the rear shocks was easy for the most part, besides the bolts being a bit difficult to slide it. But after a few adjustments they slid and bolted right in. For the fronts, I had to do a bit more work since they required more unbolting. After I had gotten the old ones out, I cleaned the shock housing and refilled it with the recommended amount of coolant. From that point on, it was just about doing everything in reverse and getting the car off jack stands. I could tell the ride quality was so much better and handled like a proper sports car from the mid 80s.

After a year and a half journey with a Porsche 944 from 1985, I can say that is was definitely a pricey learning experience, but I’m overall happy with the purchase of the car.