white 924S shot and posted by William Rubano
The affordable Porsche nowadays seems like an oxymoron. If you want to buy the cheapest Boxster you have to shell out $52,100 before you put a single option on it, which you’ll want to do unless you want your fifty grand car to be about as well equipped as a twenty grand subcompact. Even their latest move towards four cylinder turbocharged engines won’t generate a price drop. How the times have changed.
Of course back in 1976, when the original 924 was released, the idea of Porsche making anything other than a sports car to pad its wallet was absurd. To be fair, we’re still talking about a time when the Matra-Simca Rancho was still a year away from release and a Porsche Sedan just sounded…wrong, as did any Porsche with an engine in the front to be honest. Not to mention that the development of such a thing would put a lot of strain on a financially-challenged Porsche.
The 924 came about because VAG (Volkswagen-Audi) was interested in a line-topping Audi sports car. The development was undertaken by Porsche, as part of their long-running contract with VW to develop new concepts and build prototypes. The 1973 oil crisis made VAG have a rethink, and back down from the project, allowing Porsche to buy back the design and produce it as their own, with some concessions to VW regarding where it would be produced; meaning it had to be built at a VAG-owned factory (former NSU plant), and staffed by VW employees. Essentially, VW was building a car full of their own parts, engine and technology for Porsche to sell.
924 by Paul Niedermeyer
The 924 was released to the public in 1976 with a SOHC 2.0-liter four cylinder. The 924’s engine gets a bad rep for also being fitted in the VW LT van, but it actually appeared here first so we have to make one thing clear; the Porsche 924 didn’t have a van engine, the VW LT had a sports car engine. In any case, this engine was nit really new, but a further development of the older Audi ohv engine, which had been developed by Mercedes back in the early 60s to replace the two-stroke FKW engine. The German automotive industry is a bit incestuous.
The 924’s engine in European trim made a reasonable-brisk 125 hp, which could hit 204 kmh (125 mph) thanks to its slippery shape.). The NA version initially made all of 95 hp, but that was upped to 110 in 1978. By 1980, a three-way cat allowed power to rise a bit more to 115 hp.
That US engine didn’t pack quite enough of a punch to take full advantage of the amazing handling, according to the automotive press at the time. But best of all, the 924 made Porsches affordable; in 1977 you could pick a brand new 924 for $9,390($36,853 adjusted for inflation). New Porsche for under ten grand? Sign me up! The results were as expected, and the 924 became a sales hit, renovating the brand and giving it some much-needed liquid assets.
And in 1979, a 170 Horse turbo came along to give the people what they wanted (for a price).
The 924 platform was then evolved by Porsche to create that ultimate yuppiemobile, the 944, which replaced the 924 in America. Europe got both models alongside the GT-oriented 928. The 944 was more expensive than the car it replaced but it had better sporting credentials and, presumably, was considered to be so desirable as to turn the 924 redundant on this side of the pond.
Our featured model, captured and uploaded to the Cohort by William Rubano, was the product of circumstance. Volkswagen was going to stop production of the EA831 engine that had powered all 924’s since its inception for the 1985 model, but Porsche wanted to keep producing the 924. It was still pulling good sales numbers in the markets were it was sold and halting production would mean that the cheapest Porsche would be the 944, which was retailing for $21,000 ($46,418) at the time. Their solution was to take the 944’s existing 2.5-liter engine, detune it and upgrade the suspension. The resulting 924S was launched in 1986 and brought back to America with an advertising-friendly price tag of $19,905 ($43,195). I’m calling this one a 1987 as that was the year when the bulk of them were produced, with 8940 examples rolling off the NSU-Neckarsulm factory.
The 924’s Story ends thanks to two factors. One was that exchange rates meant that the 924 became less and less profitable for the brand; the other was that the gap between the 924 and its big sis was becoming more and more narrow. The 1988 924S, benefiting from a last power bump to 160 HP and a low weight, was actually faster to 60 than the base model 944. Porsche retired its low-priced offering that same year and instead decided to focus on more upmarket offerings. Hard to argue with the results, considering that most of the profit margin from a Porsche nowadays comes from insanely expensive leather packages and $7,000 surround sound packs.