Home » Scruffy German Toys: 1976 BMW 2002 vs 1984 Porsche 944

Scruffy German Toys: 1976 BMW 2002 vs 1984 Porsche 944

Sbsd 5 3 2023

Good morning, and happy middle of the week! I’m back here at Shitbox Showdown’s international headquarters – a battered Quonset hut at the far northwestern corner of The Autopian’s sprawling campus – and today I’ve got a pair of Teutonic treats for you that both run and drive, but need a little love. Before we talk about them, here are the results from yesterday’s all-wheel-drive battle:

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The V8 Explorer takes it, nearly two to one. Several comments expressed a “better the devil you know” sentiment, which might be part of Mitsubishi’s problem in general these days.

Joan Jett’s 1988 anthem “I Hate Myself For Loving You”  could have been written for those of us who find ourselves in the unfortunate position of lusting after German (or Italian, or British) cars. We know they’re going to break our hearts, drain our wallets dry, and leave us stranded in the rain, in a bad part of town, or when we’re running late (or if we’re very unlucky, all three), and yet, they call to us like so many mechanical sirens, and we gladly smash ourselves to pieces on the rocks to get to them, leaving the shoreline littered with Haynes manuals and broken dreams.

If this sounds liks you, I’ve got bad news for you: I have two more temptresses for you to resist. And one of them at least looks like a screaming deal. Let’s take a look.


1976 BMW 2002 – $2,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Boulder City, NV

Odometer reading: listed as 100,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep!


Every legend has an origin. BMW’s small sports sedan legend started in 1962 with the Neue Klasse models and continues to this day,  albeit with grotesquely enlarged fascias and an overabundance of gimmicky tech. This car, the 2002, really cemented the basic formula in place: two doors, three pedals, a smooth torquey engine, rear wheel drive, and impeccable road manners. Like all legendary cars, the BMW 2002 can command a hefty price.

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That makes this car, a running driving 2002 that isn’t completely rusted out, for a reasonable price, something of a surprise, and as soon as I saw the ad, I knew I had to write about it. I mean, it’s not dirt cheap, and it’s probably the least-desirable 2002, being a 1976 carbureted model, but if you can look past the giant 5 mph bumpers and the need for a smog test in California or Oregon, it’s a BMW 2002 that you can drive home in today for less than three grand.

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This car’s M10 four cylinder starts easily and runs well, according to the seller, and its four-speed gearbox shifts smoothly. The seller says it has “no eminent mechanical issues,” but I think they meant either evident or imminent. Either way, it’s a good sign. It’s driven weekly, so the brakes and clutch and cooling system should be in reasonably good shape; it hasn’t been sitting around and rotting away.


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Of course, for $2,900, you can’t expect perfection. This car does have some rust, but it’s all superficial, from the looks of it. It’s solid underneath. The paint is, of course, toast, and the interior is nothing to write home about. And I think I’d put a matching set of tires on it sooner rather than later. But honestly, I’d be surprised if this car were still for sale by the time you read this.

1984 Porsche 944 – $4,950

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Pflugerville, TX


Odometer reading: 38,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sure does

Imagine you ran a successful sports car company, famous for its rear-engined air-cooled cars, and one day, for shits and giggles, you decided your next car design would keep the transmission where it was, but move the engine to the front, and use a decidedly more viscous fluid to cool it. Your die-hard fans would howl in protest, of course, and dismiss the new models. The front-engined water-cooled cars would remain cheap used for ages, until values of your old air-cooled models exploded, and then…

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Time was, and it wasn’t that long ago, that you could buy a scruffy but drivable Porsche 944 or 924 for about $2,000. But since the values of “real Porsches” has gone completely off the rails, a $2,000 944 now costs $4,950. A rising tide lifts all boats and all that. It sucks, but that’s the universe we live in.


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This is a fairly early 944, with a simple 2.5 liter four making 143 horsepower. That may not sound like a lot, but when family-friendly Plymouth Reliants were rocking 84 hp, and Corvettes were barely breaking 200, this car was no slouch. Its engine is canted over at a 45 degree angle, for the simple reason that it’s basically half of the V8 from Porsche’s 928. The seller says this one runs well, but doesn’t give much in the way of specifics.

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Cosmetically, it’s a little rough, with most of the clearcoat gone from the paint, and the dashboard top a maze of cracks. It doesn’t look rusty, at least. And a bad paint job doesn’t stop you from enjoying a romp on the back roads; in fact, it makes it a little more carefree.

If you have the German car sickness, I apologize for showing these to you. Either one could lead you down a rabbit hole of parts ordering, weekend tinkering, and borderline obsession that could ruin you. The fact that they both run and drive makes them all that much more enticing. But think of it this way: No one ever lay on their deathbed thinking about how reliable their Toyota Camry was. Life is too short to drive boring cars. So which one will it be?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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1 year ago

I love the front-engine Porsches, but not that one. Gimme the nice simple lil Beemer.

1 year ago

I owned almost that exact 1976 BMW 2002! Mine was the same “wonder-rose” color faded to pink but had a tan interior. I loved loved loved that car!!! It was super fun and very tough. The tiny size and huge windows allowed you to just fling it through traffic or on narrow roads.

Unfortunately a trash truck slid on some ice, popped up over the trunk and crushed it flat from the rear bumper to the rear window! I bought four more 2002s over the years trying to get the flavor of that one back… but they never seemed quite the same.

Ward William
Ward William
1 year ago

Even though the price of 944s is moving upwards, investing in a 2002 will give a bigger return.

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