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
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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.

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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!

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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

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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?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

First cool car I ever got a ride in was a 944 that belonged to my Mom’s cousin’s husband. IDK, it belonged to someone. It was red and a great experience, solidified my love of Porsche. All that being said, gimme that double-oh-deuce!

John Alexander
John Alexander
1 year ago

Another “Thank heavens that BMW’s on the other side of the country” post that draws me in and makes me lust for a classic Bimmer. Why do you do this to me?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  John Alexander

Because you need a classic Bimmer, duh.

InWayOverMyHead
InWayOverMyHead
1 year ago

Sheesh, I can smell that 944 from here. No way somebody put the Turbo badge and rear 951 diffuser on an NA (without the 951 front end) and didn’t beat the crap out of it. Odometer gears on these are famous for rotting/breaking, so that 38k is not likely anywhere near accurate.

Again, there are no winners here.

Larry B
Larry B
1 year ago

Am I missing something or is the 2002 missing something? Such as the rear window?

Jmerc
Jmerc
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry B

That’s exactly what I’ve been staring at for the past 5 minutes.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry B

Nahh… it’s just REALLY clean!

Last edited 1 year ago by FloridaNative
Matthew Richardson
Matthew Richardson
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry B

No I think it’s there. Look at it in pic 7 on the left side. I think you can see the refection where it starts to curve.

Jmerc
Jmerc
1 year ago

In that pic yes it is there, but all those pics weren’t at the same time even if they were the same place. It is for sure missing in other pics though.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago

The only thing that 944 has going for it… is the weight distribution. And a galvanized body. Rust usually isn’t an issue on these.

I have an ‘86 951 (944 turbo) that I’ve spent the last 5 years restoring. I _love_ the car. This isn’t close to that car (now or when I bought it). It’s not even a 944 S. (Although someone did, apparently, stick a turbo badge on the rear at one point).

The pre-85.5 interiors were ugly. And this one is trashed to begin with. Needs new carpet, dash and upholstery. These _can_ be all DIY… but it’s a lot of work.

Looking at that engine bay… I’m guessing it needs all new seals. And the front struts rebuilt. And all the bushings replaced. And new engine mounts. And a timing belt. And the wiring looks suspect. A new harness is an expensive PITA.

The paint is horrible. Get one with a single-stage enamel if you can. You can do amazing things to those to bring the original paint back. Clear coat? Not so much. And… that missing hood badge, if it’s important to you… is $120.

And let’s talk mileage. These odometers have brittle gears. Given the state of that car… I suspect it’s had 38K miles… for the last 150K miles.

I’d take the Porsche over the BMW… if this were a better 944. It’s not. I’ll take the BMW.

Last edited 1 year ago by Millermatic
SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

The 944 also has fuel injection going for it. I’m not a fan of carburetors. I agree that there are better 944s. This one is sus.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago
Reply to  SlowCarFast

Unless you need new injectors. That’s just a rabbit hole… It’s easy “upgrading” them if you’ve chipped your car. Finding “stock” options is… confusing as hell. Unless you feel like dropping $700 per injector for them.

Fortunately, my 37-year-old injectors flow just fine.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Eh, I just considered doing an injector refresh since mine had sat for so long, and they’re not THAT pricey. I just looked it up—even the worst-case scenario buying-the-new-Porsche-part option is $322 a piece at Paragon—and they show rebuilt ones (out of stock, admittedly, but that’s just one site) for $50 each.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stef Schrader
Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Different part numbers for the turbo – 944.606.112.01 vs 951.606.110.01. Different flow rates and resistances.

I haven’t found any for that “low” for the turbo part. I just got mine “ultrasonic cleaned” and flow tested for $50 or so and they work fine, fortunately.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Yeah, turbo stuff is sometimes a little pricier, but gosh, not by that much.

Cleaning usually seems to be enough, though. Darn gummy fuels.

Bobfish
Bobfish
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Was gonna point out the galvanisation, thank you. Even the 924 got it decently after ’80!

Clark B
Clark B
1 year ago

BMW for sure. No emissions testing around here. And it’s hard to tell, but it looks like the BMW has a single stage paint job. If that’s the case, some polishing will bring it back to life. It’s my favorite kind of vintage car, the kind that’s a bit shabby but mostly original. The kind where you don’t mind if it gets rock chips, or maybe gets dinged in a parking lot, or if you get the carpets dirty one day.

I definitely have a soft spot for German cars, however I have gone the cheap route and have a 1972 Super Beetle instead. Since it’s not an early model parts are still plentiful and cheap. And it falls solidly into the “shabby but mostly original” camp.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

That Porsche seller sure has an affinity for unloved cars. Besides the 944 for sale, I spot a Maserati LeBaron, the “best” F150, and… what is that? a Family Truckster with the hood up in the lead photo???

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

Olds Toronado I believe.

Tyler Anderson
Tyler Anderson
1 year ago

Looks like I’m the contrarian opinion today.

Maybe I just really like 944s. Bonus points if they run.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 year ago

First and foremost, how dare you. I’d let go of my “find a cheap weekend car” urge for a few weeks and now it’s back, and everyone on this site knows how vulnerable I am to a German temptress. Ugh.

The 2002 is the objectively better decision. It’s cheaper and will probably offer the same amount of driving pleasure. Frankly I see either of these as restoration candidates at this point, so the cost of entry is just the beginning…but those $2,000 off the top will go a long way and I’d imagine this car will be less of a hassle than one of the quirkier models from a company that specializes in quirkiness.

But for me personally? I voted Porsche. I know this is one of the worst cars they ever made and I’m more or less just paying for the badge. But I don’t care. I’ve been obsessed with Porsches since I was a kid and this would at least get me in the door…plus my aunt had a pristine 944 S she drove me in when I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest shit ever, so this scratches the ever important nostalgia itch.

This also leads to a question…what’s a lamer way to get into a Porsche, one of these VW collaboration efforts or a Macan? I could conceivably choose to do either and not stress myself too much financially but I just feel like if I’m going to Porsche one day I should keep saving my money for one that has a mid or rear mounted engine….

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

My advice? 944 it up, my dude. Macans are nice and you’ll be comfier driving around town for sure, but 944s are the better fun-car for track days and stuff. Plus, y’know, trading for a 911/Cayman later still exists as an option. 944s are (groan) holding their value, so I doubt you’d lose much on getting one now unless you absolutely destroy it.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

I’ll take the 2002 over the 944, just because the number is bigger 🙂

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago

This is a great deal for a 2002 that runs. But seriously, just put all the money together, find a little bit more, and buy this instead.
https://chicago.craigslist.org/wcl/cto/d/oak-park-1986-porsche-944-5spd-115k/7611604679.html

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
1 year ago

Wow. That ’86 is a nice car. I’m surprised you can buy one in that condition for $10,000. I thought that price seemed low, but Hagerty values an ’86 in good condition at $10,500 so I guess it is about right. You would be out of your mind to spend $4950 on the scrapyard ’84.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stig's Cousin
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

Hagerty’s “good” prices seem like highballs for like, regular ol’ private-party 944s.

That Chicago 944 seems like a decent option, though—and its seller might actually want to sell it!

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Oh my, that’s some nice 944. This is the correct answer.

James Mitchell
James Mitchell
1 year ago

That Bimmer looks awfully sweet. Meanwhile the Porsche has climbed out of fuck-it money territory while remaining a fuck-it money car.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago

Gimme the 2002! I would restore it lovingly.

TurboCruiser
TurboCruiser
1 year ago

That Porsche:

“Low miles. Its only got 38,000”

“But you told me you flipped it… twice?”

“Exactly. 238,000. All highway. That’s nothing for an ’84. She runs like a top, totally mint.”

Last edited 1 year ago by TurboCruiser
Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

The BMW is in better shape from 10 feet away. The 944 is not bad but it needs a cheap/tacky dashcover or new dash.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

The Germans were always too austere for billig und fröhlich but it looks like one slipped through the cracks.

B-M for the W.

Last edited 1 year ago by Man With A Reliable Jeep
Timothy Arnold
Timothy Arnold
1 year ago

I sold a far nicer 1988 944 for $3500 a couple of years ago, so yeah, that price is stupid. But even if it was priced lower I’d pick the BMW.

The only thing I’d do with a 944 these days is LS swap it, which I considered doing to mine for some time, but then I realized I’d get it partly torn down then lose interest.

Last edited 1 year ago by Timothy Arnold
Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
1 year ago

That BMW is a hell of a value if it is as good mechanically as the seller implies. This is another shitbox showdown vehicle I would buy if it were closer to me. My ideal classic car is a bit beat up. I like to drive my cars without worrying about them getting damaged. I would drive this thing as-is, although I might do some work on the interior.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 year ago

The 2002 wins this one easily. That is a good price for a running 2002

The 944 is way overpriced!

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 year ago

Nice work, Tucker … you finally forced me to vote for a BMW.

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago

The problem with the Porsche is that they were too cheap for too long while Porsche maintenance and Porsche parts remained shockingly expensive. Worse, the cars were fundamentally reliable, allowing their third owners who bought them really cheap to defer maintenance and skip first small and later large repairs because the cars (like the classic GM car meme) would run bad, but run for a long time.

This car is trying to ride the rising tide of 944 prices – which are rising because almost all of them are gone, dead from neglect. Thus the surviving good ones command big dollars. This one ain’t a good one. It needs everything you can imagine and then some.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago
Reply to  Lokki

As the owner of “a good” turbo… I can’t agree more. After $10,000 in parts (and your own labor)… you’ll still have one of the least desirable 944s.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Lokki

I’m convinced the “Porsche tax” is primarily labor given that parts really aren’t that bad—Porsche seems to have figured out that 944s are owned by cheapskates like myself, I guess—but it’s still been enough to dissuade even cheaper owners from keeping up with their cars over the years.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Agree most parts aren’t “that bad.” And there are quite a few reasonably priced “OEM” parts that are just as good as the “OE” parts. (Not the oil pressure sensor… I’ll only buy original on that from now on). The chunk of change I spent covers a _whole_ lot of parts and machine work over 5 years. Rebuilt transaxle (bad ring and pinion), new clutch, engine mounts, rebuilt struts, rebuilt turbo, rebuilt head, new exhaust, rebuilt interior.

The ring and pinion hurt. A lot. The flywheel wasn’t cheap either.

If I hadn’t done my own labor? (Barring the machine work?) I’d be sleeping in the car.

Last edited 1 year ago by Millermatic
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Ooooh yeah, that’s a LIST.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

That’s the short list. There’s also the torque tube bearings, the radiator, the waste gate, the exhaust, the rod bearings, the engine harness, the transaxle mount, the wheel bearings, the re-plated parts, the re-upholstery (from kits)…

Had never so much as changed my own oil when I started the project. Learned a hell of a lot. Figure I’ve easily saved “5 figures” of labor.”

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Hell yeah, that’s the way to do it.

ToyotaTaxPayer
ToyotaTaxPayer
1 year ago

My head says bimmer, heart says 944 from high school nostalgia. Porsche gets my dumb vote.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 year ago

I didn’t think there were any cheap 2002’s out there. Better than I expected for the money actually.

Bomber
Bomber
1 year ago

I personally love the 944 but that Bimmer is calling my name. It needs to be restored…I mean restomodded back to life.

GertVAG
GertVAG
1 year ago

Porsche for me to live my Jacky Ickx dreams! And at least it’s a fine driving platform.

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