Here's Why You Should LS Swap Your Porsche 944
There are lots of reasons Porsche 944 LS Swap is a good idea
(With apologies to Max Larsen, "Here's Why You Shouldn't LS-Swap Your Porsche 944," Hotcars, 21 Aug, 2021.)
First, why an LS Engine?
The LS engine is outstanding in pretty much every aspect. This overhead valve, single cam, pushrod engine is cheap and easy to obtain because it came factory-installed in most GM trucks, SUVs, and performance cars starting in the late 90s. GM continued production for a couple of decades making them plentiful.
LS engines take well to performance modifications such as camshaft swaps, head work, forced induction, and supporting mods. They are super strong—with a deep skirt block that utilizes a 4-bolt main cap and two additional horizontal bolts to align each main cap laterally. Moreover, as mentioned by Jeff Smith in his article, Everything You Wanted to Know about the GM LS Engine Family, most parts are interchangeable throughout the "LS family” of engines.
Now let's talk about the Porsche 944.
This 4-cylinder sports car was introduced in the 80s and notably engineered with a rear-mounted transaxle. This 5-speed rigidly connects to the engine through a torque tube. This gearbox placement gave the 944 an outstanding weight distribution for performance handling characteristics. Some upper-level Porsche 944s, such as the 944 S and the 944 Turbo, came with upgraded brakes, stronger transaxles, and stylish features that set them apart and made them great candidates for a V8 swap.
It seems like the only limiting factor of the 944 was the engine. The factory-installed engine was a measly 2.5 liter that lacked power and reliability. The base model 944 made about 143 horsepower, and the engine utilized a timing belt.
If neglected, the belt would fail and destroy the whole engine—resulting in thousands of dollars in damages. To replace this four-cylinder engine could cost anywhere from $2,000-$10,000, and as pointed out by Rory Jurnecka in his MotorTrend article, Porsche 944: History, Changes, Specifications, you'd still be right back to where you started—with low power and a ticking time bomb.
The LS engine utilizes a timing chain, which is stronger and lasts longer than the rubber belt counterpart. If the already- strong chain isn’t enough, LS engines have many aftermarket options for upgraded, stronger timing chains.
Why an LS swap makes the most sense
The unreliable timing belt is a big reason an LS swap makes the most sense. With Aluminum Block LS engines coming in only about 25-30 pounds heavier than an NA 944 engine, the weight distribution is only very slightly modified. And some car enthusiasts say it is even better for helping with torque steer.
Despite what some Porsche purists claim, there is nothing wrong with stuffing a high horsepower powerplant into a light, nimble car. The argument about adding weight to the front of the vehicle and throwing off the 50/50 weight distribution is moot because the car still has the transaxle in the rear. A rear transaxle means the Porsche 944 will almost always be balanced better than a car with a transmission bolted directly to the engine. If you are still concerned about the extra 20-30 pounds, you always have the option to relocate the battery to the trunk.
As with any engine swap, modifications and upgrades to the cooling system, brakes, and suspension are a no-brainer. Although, it should be noted that Porsche built the upper model 944s to handle all that. These cars have transaxles that will withstand almost any power you throw at them and radiators with the cooling capacity for an LS. They come factory with upgraded brakes and suspension.
Yes, the price tag on these old Porsches is increasing. However, considering inflation and the increasing price of every other vehicle, the cost seems in line with industry trends.
It's the perfect time for a 944 LS Swap
Now is your chance to buy a 944 with a tired, antiquated 2.5 liter and utilize an Porsche 944 LS engine swap kit like the one from G Force Performance to make ditching that four-banger for the best V8 engine ever made straightforward.
It's the best thing ever done to the Porsche 944.
Larsen, Max. "Here's Why You Shouldn't LS-Swap Your Porsche 944," Hotcars, 21 Aug, 2021
Smith, Jeff. "Everything You Wanted to Know about the GM LS Engine Family." JE Automotive, Magento2 Store, 3 Mar. 2021
Jurnecka, Rory. "Porsche 944: History, Changes, Specifications." MotorTrend, MotorTrend, 16 June 2020