Riskier Business by Ben Shahrabani
September 18, 2013—If you've read Wide Open’s other Monterey stories then you know the trip was a great time (speeding ticket excluded)! The long weekend was an amazing romp that included driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, a stay at Monterey's only all-suite hotel (Yoav chose to sleep in dumpsters instead), and several delicious meals. Oh, and of course, the car festivities.
For those who have never been to Monterey Car Week: it’s not limited to car auctions, vintage racing and the Concours. Yes, that’s why you come but the real car show is what you see on the street. People park what they drive there. On roads and in parking lots are cars costing to the multi-millions—Ferraris from the Enzo versus Henry II era, Aston Martins, Gullwing 300SLs, Porsche 550 Spyders.
I drove slightly over 800 miles during this pilgrimage to Monterey Car Week. Many were surprised that I would put that amount of miles on the 993— "Did anything break?" "How did it hold up?” Questions of that nature, repeated over and over. I'm glad to report that nothing important broke. OK, my aftermarket cupholder was a casualty when trying to get the editor of this fine site into the backseat after a tasting course dinner at L'Aubergine, but if that was the only thing besides the window switch that failed (before I left), I think we did pretty well.
After returning home, the 993 was looking a little shabby: covered in dust, dirt, grime, and 800-plus miles of dead bugs. I decided it was finally time to book a little automotive 'spa' treatment at a place called Glistening Perfection. The 4S has been pretty good to me over its past 5-years, and although a few things (cough, cough) have gone wrong, it never left me stranded. It deserved a little bit of rejuvenation. It got the full treatment: detailing, paint correction, replacement of the rear fender fore-shields, and most cool-ly (pardon the pun) a German nano-ceramic window tint to keep temperatures down in the cabin. I may have sweat two-pounds of water weight driving back thanks to the hot sun blasting the cabin. This tint cuts heat transfer by 75%.
Moe Mistry, the proprietor of Glistening Perfection, was kind enough to lend me his almost completely original condition 1983 Porsche 944 as a loaner until my car was ready. As you know, the 944 is an aggressive looking car with its big, square pop-up headlights, wide fender flares and fast back profile with a large-ish fixed spoiler. The 944 looks designed and has held up pretty well (especially the later 944's).
Having never driven this vintage of 944, it was all a bit new to me. This is a series I 944, the original. The first thing I noticed was a cockpit from another era. This cabin, besides its obvious tears, hasn't aged well, certainly not as well as the almost immortal 911's. The driving position is low and laid back, but the shifter fell to hand nicely. Sadly, turning the ignition key yielded a letdown. Frankly, the 944’s inline four is a bit agricultural at least at idle. This particular 1983 944 was the normally aspirated model, not the turbo, and over the past thirty-years it probably lost some of its factory-fresh 147 horsepower (even economy cars today have 147 horsepower!). The steering was light, even without power assistance. The gearing short, but the clutch was very light. Comfort? The seat foam had broken down long ago and sucked me into the seat. The climate control was a total mystery to me the entire drive up to Los Angeles so I just left the A/C on.
In all honesty I wish it had been a Tom-Cruise-Risky-Business-928. I drove the 944 in a variety of situations: freeways, canyon drives, and supermarket runs (putting things that need to remain cold under the expansive glass rear hatch is foolish—ask me how I know). The 944 got me to where I was going every time, but something was missing from the driving experience. 944's got rave reviews for handling in their heyday, but this one… well… it just felt a bit wooly and disconnected, the engine a bit gutless. You had to ring it to the upper end of its rev-range to get any momentum out of it (It redlines at 6300 rpm). Also, there’s a 'shift-up' light that comes on very early, like 2500 rpm. Really Porsche? 2500 rpm?! This was supposed to be a sports car. I ignored the light. 0-60 was supposed to come up in 8.2 seconds. Back in 1983 this was heady stuff I suppose. The 1984 Corvette, priced comparably, did 0-60 in 7.0 seconds.
I drove the car around for several more days. My impressions did not change. Would new shocks and bushings help? Probably, but I think it’s just a testament to how far cars have come. This was a good reminder that older cars should not be compared to today’s. Having not driven another factory fresh or concours example, I have no basis for comparison... and this one is hardly a prime example. The 944 had me looking forward to getting my 993 back.
Having just returned from Monterey it seemed like the perfect time to get my 911 cleaned up and looking like new. It already runs great but I wanted the exterior to match. That I got to fool around with the 944, no matter its flaws, was a bonus. It’s just too bad that I didn’t get to experience one in better shape. [kiWO]