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Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

Small-block LS for this 1987 track demon

Bryan Joslin
Aug 8, 2014
Photographer: Chad Bee

Porsche traditionalists may have dismissed the 944 Turbo long ago on the basis of its front-engine layout and VW/Audi roots, but few would argue it didn't possess an excellent chassis. It always seemed capable of dealing with more power than Stuttgart ever allowed, even the Type-951 Porsche 944 Turbo - a legend in its day - boasted a mere 217hp when it arrived in 1986. Spec Clutches proved its potency with a LS swap.

1987 porsche 944 turbo GM LS2 V8 swap 02 Photo 2/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

The Porsche 944 Turbo problem, some suggested, was simply a matter of its cylinder count. The 944 was endowed with exactly half the 928's V8 engine. It might have had one of the bigger four-cylinders ever built, but it wasn't enough. Yet every red-blooded American knows the universal cure for import anemia is a small-block Chevy V8.

As the owner of Spec Clutches, Dave Norton knows a thing or two about getting power to the road. He had bought the 944 Turbo as a track car for his wife, but it spent more time sitting than being driven, eventually getting buried behind other shop projects.

1987 porsche 944 turbo european spec porshce 944 rear bumper 03 Photo 3/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

So when a customer blew the engine in his own Porsche 944 Turbo, Dave of Spec Clutches sold him the engine from his dormant track rat, leaving a void between the fenders, which served as motivation to give the Porsche the kind of power it deserved.

Inspired by a friend, Dave built and installed a 383ci LT engine - a stroked iron-block Chevy 350ci (5.7L) V8. But he changed his mind even before firing it up. Looking at the numbers, he decided a newer aluminum LS engine would be a better choice, settling on a 402ci (6.6L) LS2 block topped with LS3 heads for their bigger valves.

1987 porsche 944 turbo recaro profi SPG carbon fiber seat 04 Photo 4/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

The final build spec reads like something Smokey Yunick might have built - with its forged pistons, rods and crank ensuring strength, while ported heads, a high-performance valvetrain and custom Ed Curtis cam keep the gases flowing until they're expelled by custom headers and a fabricated 4" stainless exhaust. The combustion process is managed by a FAST XFi system with injectors, fuel rail, throttle body and ignition. Finally, a C&R radiator and Mocal oil cooler keep temperatures in check.

The Chevy-engined Porsche 944 dynoed at 540hp to the rear wheels, with 498 lb-ft. This is anything but subtle, with the Teutonic growl that's typically emitted by the 944 replaced by the unmistakable bark of a pushrod V8. As Dave says, "It's an attention getter," sounding like "A Nascar Sprint Cup car."

1987 porsche 944 turbo sparco 353 suede steering wheel 05 Photo 5/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

Shoehorning a Chevy V8 into the Porsche 944 chassis required both custom engine mounts and oil pan. A Quick Time bellhousing would mate the all-American engine to an upgraded 944 Turbo S five-speed gearbox. Solid mounts and a custom spherical linkage from Lindsey Racing improved the shifting.

Turning to his specialized subject, Dave installed one of Spec Clutches own 10.5" stage 2+ clutches with billet aluminum pressure plate and flywheel. He also fitted a Guard limited-slip diff to distribute the torque to the 18" Fikse Profile 5 wheels at the rear.

1987 porsche 944 turbo custom exhaust 06 Photo 6/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

Measuring a monstrous 12" wide and wearing 315/30 Toyo R888 rubber, the rear rollers were matched to a set of only slightly narrower 11" wheels up front with 295/30 covers. Under the wheels are "Big Black" front brakes from a Porsche 928 GTS, using its four-piston calipers and 322mm rotors. The rears are stock 944 turbo components.

Dave insists that despite the small-block LS under the hood, his car never feels like anything but a Porsche 944. Credit goes to a supremely balanced chassis with race-spec hardware such as the Bilstein coilovers, Blaszak front control arms and Racer's Edge "banana arms" in the rear. There's additional bracing from a Lindsey Racing three-point crossmember along with a welded Kirk Racing rollcage.

1987 porsche 944 turbo MGW shiftknob 07 Photo 7/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

The width of the rolling stock forced the rims beyond the bounds of the stock fenders, so Dave had a local custom shop fit a Broadfoot Racing GT2 widebody kit. It consisted of a front bumper, wider fenders and side skirts. He also sourced a fiberglass hood from GT Racing, as well as the nose panel that would eliminate the front headlights. Both these additions helped shed a few pounds to compensate for the extra cylinders.

Finished in Grabber Blue from the Ford Mustang GT500 palette, the 951 commands attention, especially when fitted with its huge carbon fiber and aluminum Kognition Design rear wing. This was actually mounted to the rollcage to ensure the downforce didn't deform the factory 968 hatch that sits in its shadow.

Inside, there is a pair of Recaro Profi SPG seats with Schroth harnesses. Dave also specified a Sparco steering wheel on a quick-release hub and floor-mounted Tilton pedal assembly. Hollywood Speedometer modified the Porsche gauges to work with the GM sender units before upgrading the illumination with an LED conversion.

The finished Spec Clutches project straddles the line between road- and racecar. According to Dave, he can drive it to the track and, with a few minutes spent setting up the aero, it's ready for hot laps. In fact, the Porsche 944 is currently set up for NASA and time attack events, but with a few changes could also be competitive in SCCA GT road racing. As Dave put it, the monster 951 is "Streetable, but only just... And only in the dry, only in the daytime, and only in Alabama!"

1987 porsche 944 turbo kognition design rear wing 08 Photo 8/8   |   Spec Clutches Porsche 944 Turbo - Chevy V8 Swap

Tech Spec

1987 Porsche 944 Turbo

Dave Norton
Bessemer, AL
Owner, Spec Clutches

6.6-liter GM LS2 V8 with Manley flat-top forged pistons, Callies forged rods and 4340 forged crank, CNC-ported LS3 cylinder heads with Ferrea valves and springs, titanium retainers, Morel lifters, Manton pushrods, Ed Curtis custom cam, FAST XFi fuel injection and ignition with 65 lb injectors, Bosch 044 fuel pump, Weldon fuel regulator, custom C&R radiator, Accusump oil pump, custom oil pan, Mocal oil cooler, custom Danny Smith headers coated by Polydyn, 4" custom exhaust with SpinTech muffler

five-speed Porsche 944 Turbo S transmission, Quick Time SFI bellhousing, Spec 10.5" stage 2+ clutch, billet aluminum pressure plate and flywheel, Guard limited-slip differential, Lindsey Racing shifter, spherical linkage, solid mounts

Bilstein coilovers, Blaszak front control arms with Racer's Edge spherical block and bearings, 30mm Lindsey Racing front sway bar with Racer's Edge delrin bushings, Racer's Edge rear "banana arm" and spring plate bushings, Lindsey three-piece crossmember

Porsche/Brembo 928 GTS "big black" four-piston calipers, 322mm rotors with aluminum hats f, stock four-piston calipers, 289mm rotors r, Hawk DTC 70 pads

Wheels & Tires
18x11" f, 18x12" r Fikse Profile 5 wheels, 295/30 R18 f, 315/30 R18 r Toyo R888 tires

Broadfoot Racing GT2 fender flares, front bumper and side skirts, GT Racing fiberglass hood and nose panel, European-spec Porsche 944 rear bumper, Porsche 968 hatch with spoiler, Kognition Design rear wing, custom LED turn signals, Ford Mustang GT500 Grabber Blue paint

Recaro Profi SPG carbon fiber seat, Schroth harnesses, window net and side restraint, Tilton pedal assembly, Sparco 353 suede steering wheel on quick-release hub, Danny Smith shift lever, MGW shift knob, modified instruments with LED lighting, Kirk Racing rollcage

Thanks, Jonathan Goolsby at Goolsby Customs, Mike Ramsey at Mirror Image, RadioActive graphics, Danny Smith, Dave Lindsey, Karl Poetl, Stan Chen at Toyo Tires, Mark Stewart, Tom Egan, Kelli Broadfoot, Blake Fuller

By Bryan Joslin
7 Articles



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