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Tuesday, 10 July 2012 12:44

The 944 3.2 Turbo

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It would seem there are a lot of myths, and rumours regarding the history of the JMG and 9XX big bore 3.2 944 Turbo engines, so we thought it was about time that we cleared up the story behind their development and build.

The story starts back in 1989 with the early development of the Porsche 944 3.0 Turbo engine which never made it into production in the 944, but ended up being used in the Porsche 968 Turbo S and RS models.

At the time, Porsche were not in great financial condition, budgets for development of the next generation of 944 Turbo engine was limited and the engineers took a look at what parts they already had in production for other Porsche 944 models, such as the 2.7 lux, the 3.0 S2 and of course the 944 Turbo. All bar the pistons, every part of this new engine was sourced from available parts in the factory already developed and tested. Luckily having strong contacts with the development engineers at Porsche, so we are one of the few specialists in the world who actually know for sure the entire process of the original 3.0 Turbo engine development and build, along with exactly what parts were used. But we also benefit from knowing what the engineers had wanted to try and what else they had tested.

Over the years we have produced several big capacity Porsche 944 engines, such as the 2.8 and 3.0 litre engines, but in addition we had also had in the back of our mind about what the engineers at Porsche had wanted to try and wanted to try the same project, the 3.2 Porsche 944 Turbo engine, which given the chance could have been the power plant of the 968 Turbo RS.

Also as background we should also mention our partners. The engineering company we use to machine engine components also perform work for McLaren, AMG, Brabus as well as several Formula one teams. We also have other contacts in motosport, including engineers from Illmore, Penske Racing and Cosworth. So we really are lucky to have access to some of the best engineers and minds in motorsport.

One day in 2005 we had been discussing the viability of boring the 944 Turbo engine out to 108mm, a full 4mm further than a 3.0 968 turbo engine, or the Porsche 944 S2 engine and the decision had been made to engineer a replacement set of bores, constructed from a steel alloy, allowing for a larger bore with a closed deck design, but a number of problems remained to be solved, in particular head to block sealing (its not like you can get a 3.2 Turbo head gasket off the shelf) and final engineering analysis and simulation of the engine.

About the same time, a new customer had suffered a terminal engine failure, caused by of all things a small fragment of the airbox being sucked through the turbo (destroying it in the process), which turned the blades of the compressor into aluminium dust/grit, which in turn was consumed by the engine, causing heavily scored bores.

I explained the various options to this customer, a used engine, a freshly built 2.5, a hybrid 2.8 or even a 3.0. We joked with the customer that in the near future we might also be able to provide a 3.2 litre engine, not expecting any interest, but instead the customers eyes widened.

Over the coming months the development of the 3.2 engine continued.

The problem with head to block sealing was solved with using brass rings pressed into the closed deck liners, with the waterjacket sealed from the outside world by a lasercut 3.0 S2 head gasket. Other issues were cured and dynamic simulation of the engine showed that potentially the engine would be capable of holding together up to 800 bhp while maintaining a healthy safety margin, even if run and tuned for up to 32 psi of boost!

Eventually the design was set, and parts began to turn up for a total of 3 engines.

One engine for the customer with the ill fated airbox, another for a customer who had been sold a large stack of poorly selected parts by another specialist (who will remain nameless) and another for another for ironically the same specialist!

With the stresses and pressures of a successful Porsche specialist garage, a worry was that it might take us weeks to complete the build on these engines, so with the careful supervision and advice from Jon, a local precision engineer was hired to assemble these three engines. Unfortunately, the way the internet works, it is often thought that this engineer designed the engine for us as well, which is not the case, but he has developed a reputation for building engines off the back of it.

Unfortunately the precision engineer seemed a little too worried about every detail, that perhaps a more experienced Porsche engineer would not have worried about and as a result, it took almost six months for the engines to be completed, but he did do an excellent job. Sometimes worrying about a project can ensure a perfect outcome, even if it did take forever for the engines to be assembled!

So there we were, three 3.2 944 Turbo engines, and three customers. But it was about to be the case that one customer would prove to be unsuitable as a customer for the engines. The specialist in the midlands released a press release, which published in a Porsche magazine explained how they had developed a 3.2 944 Turbo engine for their track Porsche 944. We were pretty sure we were not going to let another specialist claim to be the inventor of this package, so our excuses made and his name crossed off of the list of three potential customers, much to the other specialists annoyance, but we just could not let his plan of deception to work, the 3rd engine was put on ice.

Number one car to receive the engine was prepped, Klaus Hoffman our chip guru insisted that the standard performance chip he supplied us with would be flexible enough to run the engine in and the first 3.2 944 Turbo was born.

Test drives to perform the initial break in period were "interesting" to say the least. Only running 15 psi and 50% throttle in dry conditions showed what initially seemed to be clutch slip on the standard 944 Turbo cup clutch, which was a worry during one of the original test drives. That was until we experimented with the clutch slip at 120 mph (on a private three lane test track) just as the road (track) entered a gradual left hand bend and it became very obvious that what we were experiencing was not clutch slip, but complete loss of traction of both rear wheels!! This engine is an animal, even in running in specifications, without a performance exhaust, intercooler and even running through a standard airflow meter!

Dyno testing eventually discovered that this car in "running in spec" was producing 320 bhp and over 450 ft-lbs of torque!

The owner was suitably impressed and took the car away to continue running the engine in.

The next car belonged to the chap who had been sold a stack of poorly selected parts for a 2.8 944 turbo engine and had almost been bankrupted in the process, all because of "the midlands specialist". So as a good will gesture and PR exercise his car also received a 3.2 engine, which had some installation issues, which when eventually rectified, had another 3.2 944 turbo prowling the streets.

The third engine eventually found a home in a German guards red 944 Turbo. A little bit of a sore subject around here, as once the engine was installed, the owner begged to be allowed to take it away to have a custom exhaust built, only partially paid for the engine, and never returned! No longer at his German address, he is thought to be somewhere in the UK, but rest assured, if we find where it is, we will be repossessing the number three engine!

The story does not end here though, there are more rumours which need to be addressed!

It seemed that number one car's owner suffered a string of bad luck and a case of not following good advice. Originally he was given a discount on our engine and services in exchange for his continued development of the car and publicity. When he first collected the car he was told that the car desperately needed a performance exhaust, ideally a three inch diameter system, all the way from the turbo back. He also installed his own Vitesse MAF kit and piggyback unit with chips. Following the running in process, he installed the MAF kit and chips, we gave the car its first oil change and off he went. Now running 18 psi of boost, he began to suffer from an issue with number 4 plug tip overheating, sometimes closing the plug gap and causing a misfire, which confused us, but we had insisted that he up-rate other parts of the car, in particular the exhaust. The car went on several track days, and even appeared in a youtube video making sounds like a jet fighter from the restrictive exhaust.

About a year later, the owner of number one had told us he was saving for an exhaust, but he had suffered an accident while on a track day. It seemed the brakes may have failed, the brake peddle sinking to the floor and resulted in him hitting a tyre wall, very hard!

Once the car got to us, the recovery driver commented he could find no problem with the brakes, which seemed to have a good brake peddle, which seemed a mystery. We recommended a re-shell, with a 944 turbo shell we had in good condition. But the owner of number one opted to have body repairs performed a body-shop recommended by someone else, which ended up taking the best part of a year and we had to adjust and finish their work for them to help the cars owner who was obviously at his wits end! We also upgraded his brakes to 964 Turbo items and replaced the brake master cylinder as a precaution.

At the same time it became apparent that the owner of number two car was also suffering from financial problems. So he had asked us to find a buyer for his car. Which appeared in the form of a long standing customer and owner of the UK's previous fastest 944 turbo, also JMG tuned. The result of an owner able to afford the car, was the installation of a performance exhaust and much more modification, I like to think of this car as the success story of the 3.2 line up, not due to excellent engineering, that all the 3.2's benefited from, but from a customer able and willing to invest in exploiting the engine.

A year later, the owner of number two car had finally agreed to upgrade his exhaust on his car, much to our relief.. That was until he was only a couple of miles away when BANG, the engine blew up.. On taking the engine apart it became instantly obvious that the same detonation and combustion issue that was effecting number 4 spark plug had now destroyed that cylinder and piston! Further investigation and forensics also showed that the cause of detonation was such high exhaust back pressure, that caused the exhaust gas temperatures to rise so high, especially on that one cylinder!

The customer authorised the repairs to the engine, involving a long period while pistons were manufactured, as well as authorising servicing, an MOT test and much more, the final bill was some £5000, which could have been saved by following our advice. The annoying thing was not our time being spent on an unnecessary repair, but that once the repairs were complete, being told he could not afford to pay for them!!! What followed was two years of the car being in storage here at JMG until the owner could afford the repairs or a new buyer found for her. In the end we purchased the car completely, and installed the engine into a good customers 944 Turbo, where it is happily performing even today (with a performance 3.0 inch exhaust!)

There has been much misinformation on the internet forums about this story, in particular the owner of the first one complaining that in six years of 3.2 ownership, he only had the car for six months. I think the reason for this is that the owner was seen as a celebrity in the 944 Turbo world, because he owned the first 3.2 and finding an excuse why he no longer was using it, or eventually was no longer owning it was not so easy, so it was easier to blame us indirectly with comments such as "In six years I only got to drive the car for six months".

So the moral of this story? three 3.2 944 Turbo engines made, three of the original owners could not afford their projects, even though they did not over run and cost more than they should have. If you want the performance and the glory of being an owner of a special Porsche of any sort, please make sure you can afford the project.

The moral of the story for us here at JMG Porsche, if a customer wants to commission a special project, make sure that they pay a healthy deposit before we begin, and they fully understand how long the project may take to complete!

If you would like a 3.2 Turbo engine for your Porsche 944 or 968, the current price would be around £20,000 including installation and tuning.

Read 9578 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 13:06