(how is it that we’ve never had a 924 CC?)
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
The older I get (and the older the 924 gets), the more I can’t help to like it. I find it more elegant than the fender flared 944. Weirdly, I even find the US bumpers strangely appealing on the 924. They may still look like an afterthought – but a good one!
I still like it not that I want one but its a nice looking car that handles great
I like them too. I must admit I’m occasionally tempted by the bargain pricing on these, but a cheap 924 would probably be a heart breaking money pit.
What old car isn’t?
But I am right there with you. It was a dream car at the time. Had a styrene plastic model of one that I built (rather poorly) from a kit. Sign me up for one with the round side marker lights and reflectors.
Of course some of my other dream cars were the Caddy Cimarron and the Sterling 827SLi, so automotive disasters have always appealed to me.
Well, my 63 VW is slightly heartbreaking but isn’t a money pit, it just sits there looking great and I don’t have time to work on it so I don’t spend any money 🙂
I’d like to have a Cimarron for a week, that would be fun.
As in any other older car, it all depends on the previous owner. When I bought mine, it came from a guy who had a hobby/business out of his garage, fixing used cars for resale (think “Flipping Bangers”). He didn’t have a history of the car, so just prior to purchase stopped by a local independent repair shop who had a good reputation for working on European cars and asked the guy at the desk’s advice.
First words out of his mouth were, “Timing belt and water pump, it’ll cost you about $1000.00.” I added that to my budget, and within 48 hours of purchase had it in to get the work done. As I’m not a terribly good mechanic on anything more complex than a bicycle, these guys were the backup I needed. And, in the seven years I owned the car, I could count on it needed something serious ($500.00 or so) done once a year. The car needed towed once in my ownership, a relay to the fuel pump failed, and that was that year’s ‘serious repair’ and the cheapest one of the bunch.
Not too bad for a car that had 120,000 miles on it when I bought it. It definitely gave me the courage to consider doing the same sort of thing again someday.
The 924 may have been developed by Porsche for VW, but it certainly didn’t end up any less of a Porsche than the 356 or 914 for its trouble. Early 356s were made out of VW parts which were used exactly as they’d been used on the VWs they were taken off. At least the 924 was a clever combination of existing components to create something with chassis dynamics none of the parts donors could imagine.
The whole conversation about what constitutes a real Porsche seems rather moot when most Porsches are now rebadged VW and Audi hatchbacks. Even back when Porsches were GT cars, their European production volume and model variations amounted to little more than marketing a narrative to be bought into by the California dentists and plastic surgeons who made up their important market. Try finding a 901/911 sold in Europe after 1974 without 5 MPH impact bumpers, and you’ll see that lifestyle marketing worked both ways.
The older I get, the more I regret trading in my 924S, for the stupid reason that it wasn’t a convertible (well, at the time, having recently buried my wife, it made a certain amount of sense). In 54 years of automobile ownership, that remains the single stupidest move I ever made.
Lack of power never bothered me. I know my limitations as a driver, know what I can handle, and learned long ago what works for me.
And I enjoyed showing up at car shows and pointedly parking my car in amongst the 911’s in the Porsche class. 99% of the owners were fine with that. We all had a good chuckle at the snobs.
Another car that I briefly drove, 40+ years ago, and had forgotten until now. I remember some ergonomic oddities; a low driving position and eccentric (as in off center) steering wheel. And this was around the time I had my own Alfa.
When under development VW was in full transition from air cooled rear engine, rear drive cars. The 924 would give them a modern “sports car” in the preferred front engine, rear drive idiom. I think VW discovered just how good their new front drive cars actually were, especially with the Scirocco. The Scirocco was modern, efficient, relatively cheap to build as it shared engines and platform with the Golf and it looked great. It actually out performed the 924 in many ways. VW had their sports car, especially with the pinnacle Scirocco 16V.
Tracked down a 77 model in the local adds. 1st UK model year hence still LHD with sunroof and working A/C …Wow. The owner put his 7 year old son in the passenger seat fort he road test…. ?. All went well to put it into reverse . There wasn’t one so he pushed n I steered. No sale, for me that day.
I always liked the 924…to me they seemed kinda practical, and has aged gracefully. Now days it looks like just a nice car to take for a drive on a Saturday afternoon.
Definitely practical, it was the only really useful sports car I ever owned, and the one that actually competed with the garage full of motorcycles due to that practicality. Excellent grocery getter, that rear hatch was perfect for hauling a bicycle rack, and were it not for my usual unwillingness to take any sports car out in bad weather, could have easily been the only car I owned.
Hey, a Slant-4!
I 67 per cent like it.
Yes, but the early models had a Holley 1280 carb that liked to stall in left turns.
ROFL! The perfect comeback!
HAH! Zing. 🤓
(…actually a Holley 1286.4, but who’s counting?)
This is the 924 I had. The Martini & Rosso special edition. It was beautiful with a crimson interior. It was fun but the engine sounded pretty coarse. Some parts were hard to get – like the engine mounts except stiff after-market ones that made the car really buzzy. The interior plastics felt cheap. The heating and ventilation system was really basic (no a/c) and the rear seats were unusable except for very short “emergency” trips.
I sort of miss it – when I look at this photo. But then I remember what it was like to live with and then not so much. I replaced it with a 2007 Civic Type R (fn2) which may not have the same status but is a much better car, more fun to drive, easier to live with carries a lot more stuff, seats four comfortably (when needed) and Honda’s K20 engine is just awesome. I still have it.
The photo doesn’t want to upload. Oh well. It did look good.
I’ve always liked these, as basic and unadorned as possible, if possible. By all accounts, it seems agreed that it was a not-fast car with a gruff engine and superb handling, but I like the looks a great deal. (The non-US versions knocked a good second or two from those acceleration times, taking them into decent territory for 1976).
I’m a bit fascinated by your “weak chested” comment regarding those looks. Is that a common complaint, ie: that folk just thought it looked a bit wimpy? If so, it might explain some of the disdain for the car, and that’s a bit of mystery to me because I don’t see it that way. Ofcourse, I get that some flared and bespoilered 944 looks readier to race in some manly contest, but the earliest, quite feminine 911 is by far the best looking of that line, and it doesn’t seem to attract the same view. Intriguing.
As for those air-cooled fools who – small of outlook, large of snob-gland – quite risibly disdain these as some lesser VW-esque perversion, well, they have clearly not studied much history. And in any case, to take such a thing seriously is to display no understanding of how limited a human lifespan truly is. These are perfectly good little machines, and the name-badge is just a proprietory capitalist exchange-value thing that ain’t gonna save anyone’s soul or cure death.