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The Porsche 924 is a sports car produced by Porsche AG of Germany from 1976 to 1988. A two-door, 2+2 coupé, the 924 was intended to replace the Porsche 914 as the company's entry-level model.
Although the water-cooled, front-engined 928 gran turismo was designed first, the 924 was the first road-going Porsche to have a front engine rear wheel drive configuration. It was also the first Porsche to be offered with a fully automatic transmission.
The 924 made its public debut in November 1975. It was criticised by enthusiasts for its mediocre performance, but was a sales success with just over 150,000 produced during a 1976–1988 production run, and an important profits generator for the company. The closely related 944 introduced in the U.S. market in 1983 was meant to replace the 924, but 924 production continued through 1985, followed by a 944-engined 924S through 1988.
The 924 was originally a joint project of Volkswagen and Porsche created by the Vertriebsgesellschaft (VG), the joint sales and marketing company funded by Porsche and VW to market and sell sports cars (Ludvigsen: Porsche, Excellence was Expected). For Volkswagen, it was intended to be that company's flagship coupé sports car and was dubbed "Project 425" during its development. For Porsche, it was to be its entry-level sports car replacing the 914. At the time, Volkswagen lacked a significant internal research and design division for developing sports cars; further, Porsche had been doing the bulk of the company's development work anyway, per a deal that went back to the 1940s. In keeping with this history, Porsche was contracted to develop a new sporting vehicle with the caveat that this vehicle must work with an existing VW/Audi inline-four engine. Porsche chose a rear-wheel drive layout and a rear-mounted transaxle for the design to help provide 48/52 front/rear weight distribution; this slight rear weight bias aided both traction and brake balance.
The 1973 oil crisis, a series of automobile-related regulatory changes enacted during the 1970s and a change of directors at Volkswagen made the case for a Volkswagen sports car less striking and the 425 project was put on hold. After serious deliberation at VW, the project was scrapped entirely after a decision was made to move forward with the cheaper, more practical, Golf-based Scirocco model instead. Porsche, which needed a model to replace the 914, made a deal with Volkswagen leadership to buy the design back. The 914 was discontinued before the 924 entered production, which resulted in the reintroduction of the Porsche 912 to the North American market as the 912E for one year to fill the gap.
The deal specified that the car would be built at the ex-NSU factory in Neckarsulm located north of the Porsche headquarters in Stuttgart, Volkswagen becoming the subcontractor. Hence, Volkswagen employees would do the actual production line work (supervised by Porsche's own production specialists) and that Porsche would own the design. It made its debut at a November 1975 press launch at the harbour at La Grande Motte, Camargue in the south of France rather than a motor show. The relative cheapness of building the car made it both profitable and fairly easy for Porsche to finance. While criticised for its performance, it nevertheless became one of Porsche's best-selling models.
The original design used an Audi-sourced four-speed manual transmission from a front wheel drive car but now placed and used as a rear transaxle. It was mated to VW's EA831 2.0 L I4 engine, variants of which were used in the Audi 100 and the Volkswagen LT van (common belief is that 'the engine originated in the LT van', but it first appeared in the Audi car and in 924 form has a Porsche-designed cylinder head). The Audi engine, equipped with a Weber/Holley carburetor, was also used in the 1977–1979 AMC Gremlin, Concord, and Spirit, as well as the AMC postal jeeps. The 924 engine used Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, producing 95 horsepower (71 kW) in North American trim. This was brought up to 110 horsepower (82 kW) in mid-1977 with the introduction of a catalytic converter, which reduced the need for power-robbing smog equipment. The four-speed manual was the only transmission available for the initial 1976 model, later this was replaced by a five-speed dog-leg unit. An Audi three-speed automatic was offered starting with the 1977.5 model. In 1980, the five-speed transmission was changed to a conventional H-pattern, with reverse now on the right beneath fifth gear.
In 1980, the model received some minor changes including a three-way catalyst and slightly higher compression, which brought power up to 110 hp (82 kW). Nonetheless, the strong Deutschemark and US inflation severely hampered sales, as a well equipped 924 now easily could cost twice as much as the considerably more powerful Nissan 280ZX.
European models, which did not require any emissions equipment, made 123 hp (92 kW). They also differed visually from the US spec model by not having the US cars' low-speed impact bumpers and the round reflectors plus side-marker lamps on each end of the body.
The 924 was sold in Japan at Mizwa Motors dealerships that specialize in North American and European vehicles, with left hand drive for its entire generation. Sales were helped by the fact that it was in compliance with Japanese Government dimension regulations with regards to its engine displacement and exterior dimensions.
A five-speed transmission, available in normally aspirated cars (type 016) starting in 1979 and standard on all turbos (type G31), was a dog-leg shift pattern Porsche unit, with first gear below reverse on the left side. This was robust, but expensive due to some 915 internal parts, and was replaced for 1980 with a normal H-pattern Audi five-speed on all non-turbo cars. This lighter duty design was originally not used on the more powerful 924 Turbo. The brakes were solid discs at the front and drums at the rear. The car was criticized in Car and Driver magazine for this braking arrangement, which was viewed as a step backward from the 914's standard four-wheel disc brakes. However, four-wheel disc brakes, five stud hubs and alloys from the 924 Turbo were available on the base 924 as an "S" package starting with the 1980 model year. Also, standard brakes could be optioned on the turbo as a cost-saving measure.
The overall styling was created by Dutch designer Harm Lagaay, a member of the Porsche styling team, with the folding headlights, sloping bonnet line and grille-less nose giving the car its popular wedge shape. The car went on sale in the US in July 1976 as a 1977 model with a base price of $9,395. Porsche made small improvements to the 924 each model year between 1977 and 1985, but nothing major was changed on non-turbo cars. Turbo charged variants received many different, non-VW sourced parts, throughout the drive train, and when optioned with the M471 disc brake package and forged 16" wheels, the car was twice as expensive as a standard model. Its appearance has been credited as the inspiration for the second generation Mazda RX-7.
J. Pasha, writing in Excellence magazine, at the time, described the 924 as "the best handling Porsche in stock form".
While the car was praised for its styling, handling, fuel economy, and reliability, it was harshly written up in the automotive press for its very poor performance, especially with the US spec cars. With only 95–110 hp, rapid acceleration was simply not an option, but the Porsche name carried with it higher expectations. When the 924 Turbo models came out, Car and Driver magazine proclaimed the car "Fast...at Last!" The later 924S had performance on par with the Turbo, but with much improved reliability, and at less cost. The '81 and '82 Turbos and the associated special variants are garnering interest in collector circles; and while many still exist, excellent examples of the cars are quite scarce as of today.
* includes 3000 special edition "Martini" cars
924 Turbo (931 LHD, 932 RHD)
* sum total of cars brought into US and Japan
^ cars brought only into Italy
924 Carrera GT (937/938)
924S (946 LHD, 947 RHD)
There was also a sport package for the 924S, available for the ROW and US market for which production data is stated below.
924 Special Production
Porsche executives soon recognized the need for a higher-performance version of the 924 that could bridge the gap between the basic 924s and the 911s. Having already found the benefits of turbochargers on several race cars and the 1975 911 Turbo, Porsche chose to use this technology for the 924, eventually introducing the 924 Turbo as a 1978 model.
Porsche started with the same Audi-sourced VW EA831 2.0 L I4, designed an all new cylinder head (which was hand assembled at Stuttgart), dropped the compression to 7.5:1 and engineered a KKK K-26 turbocharger for it. With 10 psi (69 kPa) of boost, output increased to 168 hp (125 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 181 lb·ft (245 N·m) of torque at 3,500 rpm. The 924 Turbo's engine assembly weighed about 65 lb (29 kg) more, so front spring rates and anti-roll bars were revised. Weight distribution was now 49/51 compared to the original 924 figure of 48/52 front to rear.
In order to help make the car more functional, as well as to distinguish it from the naturally aspirated version, Porsche added an NACA duct in the hood and air intakes in the badge panel in the nose, 15-inch spoke-style alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with five-stud hubs and a five-speed transmission. Forged 16-inch flat wheels of the style used on the 928 were optional, but fitment specification was that of the 911 which the 924 shared wheel offsets with. Internally, Porsche called it the "931" (left hand drive) and "932" (right hand drive), much like the 911 Carrera Turbo, which had been "Type 930". These designations are commonly used by 924 aficionados.
The turbocharged VW EA831 engine allowed the 924's performance to come surprisingly close to that of the 911 SC (180 bhp (134 kW)), thanks in part to a lighter curb weight, but it also brought reliability problems. This was in part due to the fact that the general public did not know how to operate, or care for, what is by today's standards a primitive turbo setup.
A turbocharger cooled only by engine oil led to short component life and turbo-related seal and seat problems. To fix the problems, Porsche released a revised 924 Turbo Series 2 (although badging still read "924 turbo") in 1979. By using a smaller turbocharger running at increased boost, slightly higher compression of 8:1 and an improved fuel injection system with DITC ignition triggered by the flywheel, reliability improved and power rose to 174 hp (130 kW; 176 PS).
In North America, the 924 Turbo arrived in late 1979 for the 1980 model year. It was saddled with extra weight, due to the federally mandated large bumpers and other safety equipment, and less power due to stringent emissions controls. Power was 143 hp (107 kW), nearly twenty percent down on the European model. For the 1981 model year, power increased slightly to 154 hp (115 kW) and the transmission was switched to one with a regular H-pattern layout.
In 1979, Porsche unveiled a concept version of the 924 at the Frankfurt Auto show wearing Carrera badges. One year later, in 1980, Porsche released the 924 Carrera GT, making clear their intention to enter the 924 in competition. By adding an intercooler and increasing compression to 8.5:1, as well as various other little changes, Porsche was able to develop the 924 Turbo into the race car they had wanted, dubbing it the "924 Carrera GT". 406 examples (including prototypes) of the Carrera GT were built to qualify it for Group 4 racing requirements. Of the 400 roadgoing examples, 75 were made in right hand drive for the UK market. In 1981 Porsche released the limited production 924 Carrera GTS. 59 GTS models were built, all in left hand drive, with 15 of the 59 being raced prepped Clubsport versions.
Visually, the Carrera GT differed from the standard 924 Turbo in that it had polyurethane plastic front and rear flared guards, a polyurethane plastic front spoiler, a top mounted air scoop for the intercooler, a much larger rubber rear spoiler and a flush mounted front windscreen. It featured Pirelli P6 tires as standard, and Pirelli P7 tires were available as an option along with a limited slip differential. It lost the 924 Turbo's NACA duct in the hood but retained the air intakes in the badge panel. This more aggressive styling was later used for as motivation for the 944. The later Carrera GTS differed stylistically from the GT with fixed headlamps under Perspex covers (instead of the GT's pop up units). GTS models were also 59 kg (130 lb) lighter than their GT counterparts at 1,121 kg (2,471 lb), and Clubsport versions were even lighter at 1,060 kg (2,337 lb).
In order to comply with the homologation regulations, the 924 Carrera GT and later 924 Carrera GTS were offered as road cars, producing 210 and 245 hp (157 and 183 kW) respectively. Clubsport versions of the GTS were also available with 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS), and factory included Matter roll cage and race seats. 924 Carrera GT variations were known by model numbers 937 (left hand drive) and 938 (right hand drive).
The ultimate development of the 924 in its race trim was the 924 Carrera GTR race car, which produced 375 hp (280 kW; 380 PS) from a highly modified version of the 2.0 L I4 used in all 924s, and weighed in at 930 kg (2,050 lb). This allowed for a 0–60 mph (97 km/h) time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h). In 1980, Porsche entered three 924 GTRs at the 24 hours of Le Mans, which went on to finish 6th, 12th and 13th overall. Also building a 924GTR rally race car, and two other GTRs (Miller and BF Goodrich). 17 (some sources say 19) Carrera GTRs were built in total.
Lastly, in 1981, Porsche entered one of two specially built 924 Carrera GTPs (the "944GTP Le Mans") in which Porsche Motorsports introduced a new prototype highly modified 2.5 liter I4 engine. This engine sported four valves per cylinder, dual over head camshafts, twin balance shafts and a single turbocharger K28 to produce 420 hp (313 kW; 426 PS). This last variant managed a seventh place overall finish and spent the least time out of any other car in the pits. This new 2.5 liter configuration engine is the predecessor of the 944 platforms and the later 1987–88 944S 16V M44/40 power-plant.
Production of the 924 Turbo ceased in 1982 except for the Italian market which lasted until 1984. This was due to the restrictions on engines larger than two liters, putting the forthcoming 2.5 liter 944 into a much higher tax category.
In 1984, VW decided to stop manufacturing the engine blocks used in the 2.0 L 924, leaving Porsche with a predicament. The 924 was considerably cheaper than its 944 stablemate, and dropping the model left Porsche without an affordable entry-level option. The decision was made to equip the narrower bodied 924 with a slightly detuned version of the 944's 163 bhp 2.5 litre straight four, upgrading the suspension and adding 5 lug wheels and 944 style brakes, but retaining the 924's early interior. The result was 1986's 148 bhp 924S. Porsche also decided to re-introduce the 924 to the American market with an initial price tag of under $20,000.
In 1988, the 924S' final year of production, power increased to 158 PS (116 kW; 156 bhp) matching that of the previous year's Le Mans spec cars and the base model 944 (itself detuned by 3 PS (2 kW; 3 bhp) for 1988). This was achieved using different pistons which raised the S' compression ratio from 9.7:1 to 10.2:1, the knock-on effect being an increase in the octane rating, up from 91 RON to 95. This made the 924S slightly faster than the base 944 due to its lighter weight and more aerodynamic body. The 1988 model also gained three point safety belts in the rear seats.
With unfavourable exchange rates in the late 1980s, Porsche decided to focus its efforts on its more upmarket models, dropping the 924S for 1989 and the base 944 later that same year.
924S Special models
The 1988 924S SE (US) and "Le Mans" (ROW) were Club Sport editions aimed at autocross (US term for autotests to UK readers) and club racers. The final 924S RHD 'run-out' versions in 1988 for the UK (just 37 white and 37 black vehicles) had "Le Mans" logos with stripes on their flanks. Officially known at Porsche as the "Sportliches Sondermodell" (loosely translates as Sporting Special Model) their options package list M-755 was more complete than the Special Edition M-756 for the US.
Only 980 Club Sport option cars were built in total. 500 units M-756 for US black only, 250 GER 200 black and 50 white cars, 230 ROW 113 black and 117 white; totalling 480 units M-755.
ROW "Le Mans" Edition M-755:
ROW M-755 Paint finishes and interiors were also only offered in two colour choices – Alpine White with Ochre/Grey detailing and upholstery – or Black with Turquoise detailing and grey/turquoise upholstery. On ROW cars there was no Le Mans logo, nor striping and the phone dial wheels in white or black matching color had outer rims of respectively ochre or turquoise. ROW Upholstery was the grey/ochre striped flannel cloth with ochre piping for Alpine White cars, or grey/turquoise flannel with turquoise piping for Black cars.
US market SE:
The 924 has its own racing series in the UK run by the BRSCC and Porsche Racing Drivers Association. The Porsche 924 Championship was started in 1992 by Jeff May who was championship coordinator until his death on 10 November 2003. Jeff May was also one of the founding members of Porsche Club Great Britain. In the United States, the 924S is also eligible to race in the 944-Spec racing class.
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