1989 Porsche 944 S2

1989 Porsche 944 S2

Owned by a trio of fanatical petrolheads, this glorious Guards Red 1989 Porsche 944 S2 not only serves to bring joy to its owners when they get behind the wheel, but alsohelps increase awareness for a rare life-limiting condition...


Words Dan Sherwood

Photography Dan Pullen


MUTUAL APPRECIATION

Three owners, one Guards Red 944 S2.

In much the same way laughter is seen as the best medicine, a love of cars can forge friendships, ignite passion, facilitate memorable travel experiences or even act as much needed distraction when life isn’t going according to plan. For the three Porsche-loving friends in charge of the Guards Red 944 S2 splashed across these pages, enthusiasm for all things automotive presents these attributes and more — it also acts as an instrument to aid crucial awareness for a little-known (but disturbingly common) terminal illness.


1989 Porsche 944 S2

WHEN IT COMES TO RUNNING COSTS AND SHARING WORKLOAD, BEING PART OF A MÉNAGE ET CAR CERTAINLY HAS ITS BENEFITS

1989 Porsche 944 S2 - dashboard

If you haven’t heard of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) before now, you’re one of the lucky ones. For the 300,000 boys currently living with the disease worldwide, it’s a life-changing condition they know only too well. As many one in 3,600 boys are affected, a figure equating to around a hundred boys being born in the UK with DMD every year. Girls can also be affected, but this is an extremely uncommon occurrence, with estimates suggesting only one in fifty million females are born with DMD.


INNER SILL ROT IS A VERY REAL COMPLAINT FOR OWNERS OF FOUR-CYLINDER CARS FROM PORSCHE’S TRANSAXLE FAMILY OF PRODUCTS

A disorder of the dystrophin gene (the largest protein-coding gene in the human genome), DMD is caused when a mutation occurs in one of the gene’s seventy-nine exons. In short, those afflicted with Duchenne are unable to produce dystrophin, a protein essential for the stability and repair of muscle cells. Without it, every muscle in the body will eventually waste away.

Those with Duchenne usually appear healthy at birth, but their physical development often stalls, and they struggle with everyday physical activities, such as running, jumping and climbing stairs. Diagnosis commonly occurs around five years of age. The ability to walk is typically lost between the ages of eight and twelve, with a strong decrease in arm function generally happening by the mid-teens. Decline may occur much sooner, while in rare cases, some DMD sufferers may never walk at all. Unfortunately, at present, there is no known cure and only a handful of condition-easing treatments. Tragically, those diagnosed with DMD are not expected to reach their thirtieth birthday.


1989 Porsche 944 S2

“My son, Connor, was diagnosed with DMD in February 2016, just two days after his fourth birthday,” explains Matt Crawford. “My wife and I noticed he was struggling with negotiating stairs. We visited our local hospital and were told his unusually large calves were a common sign of the disease, not due to an excess of muscle, but rather a process known as pseudo-hypertrophy, which is caused by dying muscle cells being replaced by fat and scar tissue. As a family, Connor’s diagnosis really knocked us for six. Our lives were changed forever, but rather than dwell on the situation, we were determined to do everything we could to raise money to help both our son and other DMD suffers.”

In April 2016, only a few weeks after Connor’s diagnosis, Matt established Chasing Connor’s Cure (chasingconnorscure.co.uk). A registered charity, it funnels into Duchenne UK (duchenneuk.org), an umbrella charity helping to fund DMD research projects across the UK. “It really is a great cause,” Matt smiles. “For every penny the Chasing Connor’s Cure website and related activities raise, we get to dictate where the money should be spent, meaning it goes exactly where we recognise it is needed most.”

The largest fundraising event Chasing Connor’s Cure is linked to is an annual sponsored bicycle ride from London to Paris. Celebrating its eleventh year this May, the event (known as the Duchenne Dash) starts from the Herne Hill velodrome in London, where competitors mount saddles for a daylong, 180-mile ride finishing at the base of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a serious undertaking organised with the aim of raising a million pounds every year.

Through Chasing Connor’s Cure, Matt has raised an impressive £650,000 for Duchenne UK. He also uses his co-owned 944 S2 to attend various Porsche meets and shows — the car attracts a huge amount of attention wherever it goes, affording him the opportunity to spread awareness of DMD. As useful as the three-litre coupe is for this activity, however, charity work was never intended to be the car’s purpose — acquisition of a Porsche was simply to entertain trained mechanic, Matt, and his long-time friend, Mark O’Neill, during enforced periods of lockdown at the height of the pandemic. “It was August 2020,” Mark recalls. “Matt and I found ourselves without a car to tinker with. We kept boredom at bay by looking at 944s being advertised for sale online. In the end, we hatched a plan to go halves and began our quest to find the right Porsche.”


1989 Porsche 944 S2

The pair decided a Guards Red S2 was their preferred 944 colour and model.

Introduced in 1989, the S2 is powered by a normally aspirated, three-litre, sixteen-valve, twin-cam inline-four developing 208bhp. This particular Porsche powerplant was hailed as the largest-displacement four-cylinder production engine of its time and makes use of a revised transmission and gearing better suited to the heightened power output. The S2 is a great looking 944, too — it inherited the 944 Turbo’s front and rear airdams, making the S2 seem far more of a premium Porsche product than its normally aspirated predecessors. Quoted performance figures include a sprint to 60mph in six seconds and top speed of 150mph for cars equipped with a manual transmission. A limitedslip differential was optional. Design 90 alloys were standard equipment.


LOCKED DOWN

COVID-fuelled restrictions on movement made viewing potential Porsche purchases a little tricky, which is why Matt and Mark missed out on a couple of contenders early on, but the duo persisted. Unfortunately, many of the S2s they encountered were a little rough around the edges. Indeed, some had covered mega-miles, some exhibited questionable sill repairs, some hadn’t had their belts and chains replaced at recommended intervals. And then there was the age-old threat of corrosion to contend with. Mark, in particular, was concerned about rust. A friend of his owned a 968 Sport suffering inner sill rot, a very real complaint for owners of four-cylinder cars from Porsche’s transaxle family of products. A solid S2 was therefore of utmost importance.

“We learned to remove the inspection covers inside the door shuts and peer inside to check for corrosion or signs of repair,” he recalls. “This action revealed very quickly if we were in the presence of a suitable S2.” Eventually, in January 2021, he and Matt found an S2 they were happy with. Their mutual friend, Duncan Brown, offered to join the venture as a third co-owner. “I’d been contemplating the possibility of buying a sports car,” he tells us. “When Matt mentioned he and Mark had found a 944 S2 to share, I was only too keen to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve been friends with both Matt and Mark for a while — their sons play for the football team I coach. Matt and I have also completed the punishing Duchenne Dash together.”


1989 Porsche 944 S2

As a keen cyclist, Duncan had ridden a similar London to Paris route, but had completed the ride across three days. He was therefore shocked when, six years ago, Matt first mentioned his plan to complete a similar ride in just twenty-four hours. “I thought he was mad!” Duncan laughs. “That said, I like a challenge, and when I heard about the charity and the condition it supports, I was only too happy to get involved. Matt and I have been doing the ride together every year since.”

The 944 S2 in question was listed for sale with dealer, Clive Moughan, trading as Mr 911. Clive presented the car for viewing and a test drive. It didn’t take long for a price of twelve thousand pounds to be agreed by all parties. Having covered 77,000 miles from new, the bright red transaxle was a good, clean example bolstered by thorough service history, complete with original copies of every MOT test, a fully stamped service book and a folder full of paperwork. “It was clear this has always been a superbly maintained Porsche,” Mark muses. “It was purchased new from Motortune on Brompton Road by a chap named Wahid Mekhaiel and delivered on 28th April 1989. The car was regularly serviced at AFN until 1994, when maintenance switched to Autobahn and Autowerke in Norwich.”

In 1998, the car was sold through independent Mayfield-based marque specialist, Paragon, to a Mr and Mrs Taylor, who paid the princely sum of £13,995. The Paragon number plates and rear window sticker remain in place to this day. Under twenty-two years of stewardship by the Taylor household, the car was maintained by Paragon and, later, La Rose Porsche in Sevenoaks. “Mr Taylor sadly passed away, but his widow continued to use the car, albeit sparingly. She kept up with scheduled servicing and MOTs, though. Ultimately, she contacted Clive and asked him to help find the car a new home,” Mark reveals. “Looking at data listed on the MOT certificates, only five thousand miles were covered from 2011 to 2021.”

Following purchase in late January 2021, Matt, Mark and Duncan commissioned a thorough inspection and service, a task entrusted to Project Nine Engineering in Tonbridge. “We’d noted niggles in need of attention, including a failed digital clock, which seems to be a common failure on the 944 Turbo, S2 and the 968. The central locking was also playing up. And, somewhat embarrassingly, the car failed to start on the Project Nine Engineering forecourt.” The culprit was identified as a faulty alarm control unit, which was promptly removed. Miraculously, eliminating this ancient security device cured the central locking complaint, as well as frustrating intermittent interior lighting. Even the clock started working. “Project Nine provided us with a to-do list, but confirmed the car was straight and original, which was a huge weight off our minds,” Mark confirms. “Even so, the list of remedial work was far from short, amounting to more than thirty hours of labour and a hefty bill. Thankfully, it was split three ways!”

Jobs included fitting a new timing chain, tensioner guide rails, belts and a genuine Porsche water pump. Additionally, the car required replacement rear wheel bearings, a brake fluid and gearbox oil change, a new fuel pressure regulator, flywheel sensor and a full service, including spark plugs, filters and fluids. Away from the mechanicals, Mark, Matt and Duncan also stumped up for a few incidental items, including sun visor clips, sunroof gears and a substitute centre console to replace the original part, scarred from the installation of an old-school phone cradle.

“Some of the more rewarding tasks included fitting a modern Bluetooth- enabled Alpine head unit and upgrading disintegrating door speakers to new four-by- sixes, which necessitated modification of the mounting plates due to deeper baskets and larger magnets,” Mark remembers. “A custom wiring harness was created to retain the factory DIN plugs without cutting the factory loom. The Alpine unit sounds superb and looks so much better than the old cassette player in the car when we bought it.”


THE POWER OF THREE

The final pieces of the puzzle were refreshed windscreen wiper arms, tailgate rubber seals, replacement switchgear and new OEM locking wheel nuts (to replace previously fitted barrel locks) bought through Porsche Centre Tonbridge. When it comes to running costs and sharing workload, being part of a ménage et car certainly has its benefits, but it can generate logistical issues, particularly around storage and use. Luckily, Matt, Mark and Duncan found an agreeable solution.

“During winter, the car is registered SORN and kept in a secure local storage facility,” Matt explains. “Then, come spring, we return the Porsche to the road and make use of a shared calendar, which allows each of us to effectively ‘book’ the car out for any events, road trips or meets. It is rare for there to be a clash of requests, meaning the schedule works out really well. This 944 has been a great toy we can all enjoy.”

The car had a busy first summer under the trio’s ownership, attending the first post-COVID Breakfast Club at Goodwood in June 2021, followed by participation in the Porsche Club Great Britain display at the year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. A trip out to the Goodwood Road & Racing display day took place a few weeks later. Rounding out the car’s appearances at big events in 2021 was the Festival of Porsche at Brands Hatch.

“There’s no doubting the fact this 944 would benefit from a complete respray, but our priority has been to take care of the mechanicals,” Matt states. “Mileage recently crept to just over 80,500, a figure achieved with help from a recent trip to the 2023 Goodwood Members Meeting, a journey we made in convoy with two of Mark’s cousins, who were driving a second-generation 991 GTS and Dodge Viper GTS. While it may lack the otherworldly performance and visceral soundtracks of these newer machines, we were the delighted to be driving the 944, which didn’t miss a beat during the trip, a feat undoubtedly helped by a recent oil change at Porsche Centre Tonbridge, plus a new Bosch battery and clutch cylinders replaced by the team at La Rose Porsche.”

He is keen to continue memorable trips like these. “Being able to enjoy the car with Connor, my wife and my other three children is such a great experience,” Matt reflects. “As a family, it also helps distract us from the day-to-day struggles of Connor’s condition. I’m grateful to Mark and Duncan for being so enthusiastic about sharing the Porsche. It’s made us closer as friends, not least because we now have yet another common interest, namely making the car the best it can be in order for us to continue enjoying it for a long time to come.” Whether used as a show machine, motorway mile muncher or Sunday afternoon cruiser, it’s clear this Guards Red 944 S2 will continue to be cherished, not just by one careful owner, but by all three. The fact it can serve to highlight the existence of DMD and help raise awareness of Chasing Connor’s Cure makes it all the more special.

Above and below Matt, Mark and Duncan look forward to piling on the miles this summer, whilst fundraising for the Chasing Connor’s Cure and Duchenne UK charities.

Above 14,071 944 S2s were manufactured between 1989 and 1991, with 3,650 of the total exported to the United States. Below Turbo-inherited ‘oval’ dash was light years ahead of the normally aspirated 944’s earlier ‘square’ dash, a carryover from the 924. Above Matt and Connor enjoying time out in the gorgeous Guards Red coupe, an early example of the S2 and in fantastic mechanical condition.


Above The 944 S2’s three-litre M44 inlinefour was the world’s largest displacement production four-cylinder engine at the time of model launch.

Above Much to the dismay of 944 Turbo owners, the S2 was launched with the force-fed model’s exterior styling, making the look of a Turbo and S2 largely indistinguishable from one another.

Below Despite being an early S2, the car has covered little more than 80k miles.

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