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Why We Love Porsche’s Transaxle Cars

It isn’t easy being siblings with an overachiever like the Porsche 911, but the game of relativity is so often a losing one – especially in the classic car world. Yes, the 911 is an icon which has shifted the paradigm of the sports car time and time again, but there’s so much more to Porsche than just the exploits of its rear-engined halo car. In fact, we think some of the most interesting, functional, and surprisingly attainable vintage sports cars you can buy today are the non-911 models from Porsche’s archive – particularly the “transaxle” cars like the 928, 944, and 968.

Featuring muscular, rakish good looks, the transaxle cars that Porsche began producing in the late 1970s were a surprisingly different approach to a more conventional layout for a brand that had made its bones doing things differently. These cars had their engines out front, their transmissions in the back, and a nearly perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight balance. Their clever transaxle design was a major innovation in its day and gave these cars an exceptionally stable feel at a time when things like traction control and electronic drivers aids as standard equipment were still decades away. We consider them to be some of the most underrated and balanced grand tourers money can buy, but historically, these cars also represent a long period of experimentation in Porsche’s history – a place where the brand could explore engines beyond the flat, boxer-style engines that powered their greatest hits without rehashing or heavily editing the beloved 911 formula.

From the powerful V8 that lurked under the long hood of the 928 (a motor surprisingly reminiscent of a great American V8), to the unexpectedly potent turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder that powered the 951 generation of 944s of the late ‘80s, these cars were quick, had a smooth power delivery, handled fantastically (Car and Driver even named the 944 the Best Handling Production Car in America in 1984), and had ample cargo space for most trips thanks to their rear hatch design. Whether you’re seeking to add one of Porsche’s often unsung best to the stable that will actually fit the kids comfortably for that cars and coffee trip or simply want to experience the less-explored side of Porsche’s design excellence, we can’t recommend a transaxle Porsche enough. And like any classic Porsche, these cars are a fantastic investment – just at a more attainable point of entry. What’s not to love?

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November 10, 2023 — Walt Grace Vintage