Curbside Classic: Porsche 924 – A Porsche Mostly In Name

My title is not intended to be used in the way Porschephiles have historically looked down their noses at the 924 (and 914) as a pseudo-Porsche. I’m not a Porsche snob or purist. But the stark reality is that the initial 924 really was a Volkswagen in just about every sense, as in all of its parts, and even its assembly, for what that’s worth. It was created to be a VW, using as many parts in the existing VW/Audi line as possible. Of course Porsche did the design and development, as they had for so many other VW projects, including the 914.

So when VW decided not to build it, Porsche bought the rights and had VW/Audi build it for them. And put on the Porsche badges.

Of course that was just the starting point, and the 924 become more and more of a Porsche.

That’s the story that’s been told most commonly, although noted historian Karl Ludvigsen tells it a bit differently, that the Porsche Project 425 was intended all along to be a joint project, to replace the 914, which of course had been a joint project too, sold as both a VW and Porsche in Europe. But there’s a key difference: The 914 was a lot more Porsche than VW; in fact just about the only major component from VW was the four cylinder Type IV engine in the VW version.

That was quite different with the Project 425/924: It was essentially all VW/Audi components, so one does wonder how that was going to work for Porsche as a joint project. How would they have differentiated their version? As much as I respect Ludvigsen, that take seems a bit unlikely, but you can decide for yourself which story appeals more.

Porsche Project 425 exterior design was by Porsche stylist Harm Lagaay. It ‘s a bit polarizing. It was pretty slick for the times, both in the visual and aerodynamic sense. But that also made it look a bit weak-chested. What’s remarkable is how the basic shape lasted so long, all the way to 1995, with the 944 and its successor, the 968.


The engine was the VW/Audi 2 Liter EA831, a development of the original Audi four-stroke four as first used in their Audi F103 (72, 60, Super 90) from 1965. This engine was actually conceived and developed by Mercedes, during their brief ownership of DKW/Audi. So any 924 owners feeling insecure about their engine’s provenance can point out that it’s actually a Mercedes engine.

Audi’s FWD four-speed transaxle was moved to the rear. The 2.0 L SOHC engine was also shared with the VW LT van, the Audi 100, as well as by AMC in the US, in the Gremlin, Concord and Spirit as well as the Postal Jeep. As used in the 924, it was rated at 125 PS in European trim, and 95 hp in de-smogged US trim.

In US terms, it was just barely adequate for the times; R&T clocked the 0-60 sprint in a rather modest 11.9 seconds, and the 1/4 mile came in at 18.3 @75mph. This was of course a period of lowered expectations, but a cheaper Datsun 280Z spanked it easily on the straightaways.

Not so in the twisties, where the Z was too soft and its steering rather dull. The 924 version that R&T tested had the optional handling package, which gave it a high level of handling at the expense of ride quality; in fact, several of the R&T editors said they wouldn’t buy one because of the brutal ride of typical SoCal freeway expansion joints and such. The regular version was better in that regards, but gave up its edge on the curves. Like everything else about the 924, Porsche would eventually develop its suspension to a much higher level, especially so in the 944.

Speaking of suspension: the 924’s rear unit was essentially the same as used in the full-IRS VW Beetle and such: a semi-trailing arm unit with transverse torsion bars. I suspect that’s why the rear wheels of that prototype Project425 has such a narrow rear track.

This 924’s interior is a bit rough, but then it came in for criticism early on for feeling rather cheap. It looks more like an old Corvette or Camaro interior, especially the plastic on that console, than a…Porsche.

Like the 911, nominally there were seats in the back, but they may have been even smaller.

The giant glass rear hatch was in keeping with the times, more or less. It did contribute to the 924’s slippery shape, which allowed it to hit 111 mph (per R&T) despite the modest 95 hp. That also contributed to a 24.5 mpg average mileage, also quite good for the times.

The closest competitor to the 924 in Europe was the Alfa Rome GTV, but in the US that was always a bit of an outsider, in no small part because of numerous ergonomic shortcomings. And the previously mentioned 280Z. Realistically, a healthy number of 924 buyers were new to the brand, and attracted to it because of the name. A red 924 was a pretty hot number with young women in LA at the times.

That all changed when the 924 Turbo arrived a couple of years later, which was fast but pricey. The real breakthrough of the family was of course the 944, the car the 924 should have been all along: a genuine Porsche.



Vintage R&T Comparison: Porsche 924, Datsun 280Z, Alfa Romeo GTV

CC Porsche 944 – The Unconventional Daily Driver   B. Saur