Your classics

Your Classics: Liam Freeman and His OEM-Plus Porsche 944

by Antony Ingram
18 January 2024 3 min read
Your Classics: Liam Freeman and His OEM-Plus Porsche 944
Photos by Antony Ingram

We wouldn’t begrudge anyone for wishing to keep a car just as it emerged from the factory. There’s also a lot to be said for expressing your individuality and creating something unique with extensive modifications. But sometimes, there’s a happy medium between those two extremes, extracting more character and ability from an already well-developed car through carefully chosen components.

Liam Freeman’s Porsche 944 S2 is an example of that line of thinking. To the lay enthusiast it may look much like any other 944, while someone well-versed in Porsche’s transaxle sports cars will immediately notice what separates it from an unmodified example. But for the owner, the changes turn an already-impressive car into a truly great one.

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Porsche 944 profile

Which is interesting, because to start with, Freeman wasn’t even that interested in the platform. “It was a friend who suggested them, and I wasn’t too sure. But the more I looked into them, the more I realised it was a really good platform for a younger enthusiast, who might already have been priced out of the ‘80s and ‘90s 911 market.”

A Turbo was still out of reach, but the S2, which ran from 1989 until 1992 (when it was replaced by the 968), seemed perfect: a 3-litre four-cylinder engine, 208bhp, and the same balanced handling as all of Porsche’s front-engined cars. “I bought my first one in 2019, as a project” says Freeman, “but then it got hit a week after getting it back on the road. It was going to cost ten grand to get all the bodywork done, so I thought, should I just go out and buy a better-condition S2? And that’s what I did.”

The original car’s demise has been a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it turns out. Despite finding some rust in the footwells just days before last summer’s RADwood, the car looked stunning – helped by its rare colour combination. “It’s Cobalt Blue, with a Cobalt Blue interior, which is even harder to find as they made it for one year only. And it was a Porsche GB press demo, though I’ve not been able to find it in any magazines yet…”

The car was stock when Freeman acquired it, but over the past year has gained a few carefully selected modifications, partly for Freeman’s own amusement, and partly because so few other people are really working on these cars, the Porsche market dominated by the 911. All the changes have been recorded for posterity on The Back Roads, a YouTube channel started by Freeman and friend Jared Hodges, who owns a home-turbocharged second-generation Toyota MR2.

Porsche 944 rear 3/4

“We focus on classic and retro cars, specifically for younger enthusiasts. We want to try and introduce people to these retro and classic cars, when they might have grown up on cars from the 2000s onwards. Someone will have to take ownership of these cars eventually, and we’re trying to show that they’re not too scary to look after.”

For the 944, the goal has been to imagine how the car might have evolved if it hadn’t become the 968. There’s a front lip, which has made the car more aggressive and looks a touch wider, while the most visible change is a vented nose panel, behind which a large air filter can be seen. Along with an ECU chip, it has really woken the car up, though as Freeman points out, “unless you have a Turbo, you’ll be chasing power for the rest of your life. Though we have considered swapping to an Audi 5-cylinder turbo… but that’s a long way down the line.”

The 944 is also currently sitting on 17-inch Carrera Cup 2 wheels, but Freeman has a set of three-piece 18-inch wheels waiting for some wider barrels to properly fill the arches, matched to a set of Gaz coilovers already on the car.

Then, it’ll just be a case of using the car. “Ironically, for a channel called The Back Roads, we actually don’t get out driving that much,” Liam says. “But we want to go on some long road trips, and the 944 and MR2 are actually in quite a similar place at the moment, so we want to try some track days, too.”

Plenty of owners get a great deal of pleasure from driving their standard Porsche 944s, but as this 944 demonstrates, choosing that path that splits the difference between unmodified and extreme alterations can really take a car to the next level – and hopefully inspire a few people to get into the hobby themselves, driving and working on older cars, along the way.

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