Porsche 924 (1976-1989) - Buyer Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Stuart Grant

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Originally derided as a 'Porsche-wagen', the 924 morphed into hardcore and now highly collectable variants like the Carrera GT

From Unique Cars #307, Jan/Feb 2010 (prices quoted as at 2010)

Porsche 924

Almost from the day its rear-engined 911/912 range was released, Porsche was hatching plans to kill it off. First came the mid-engined 914, but a cramped cabin and impractical mid-engine layout demanded something closer in concept to the rear-engined cars.

The front-engine/rear-drive 924 was conceived as a sports-oriented Volkswagen, replacing the aged Karmann-Ghia. Porsche was contracted to design the car, using Audi mechanicals in a four-seat body, but by the time it was ready for the road Volkswagen didn’t want it.

So, with the global ‘oil shock’ flattening traditional performance car sales, Porsche saw an opportunity to recoup some of the 911’s lost market and decided to market the hatchback coupe as its own.

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‘Duck tail’ spoiler, pumped up guards, and turbo bonnet scoop and decals shout Carrera GT

The car appeared in Europe and the USA in 1976 and on Australian roads a year later. At a time of serious inflation, the first local cars were listed at $19,620 but the second shipment leapt to more than $25,000.

Despite needing to deal with new emission control rules, local 924s offered a claimed 92kW compared to the 74kW produced by US-market cars. But the combination of an engine that wouldn’t happily rev past 5500rpm and a tall Euro-spec final drive ratio delivered sluggish acceleration that wouldn’t improve until the 1979 introduction of a five-speed gearbox.

| Read next: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo review

Late in 1979, a turbocharged version was added to the range; the KKK turbo boosting power to 112kW and slashing the 0-100km/h time by almost two seconds. The Turbo was identified by duo-tone paintwork, intercooler ducts above the front bumper, larger alloy wheels and a rear ‘duck tail’ spoiler.

Early cars used chequer-pattern seat and door trims – replaced within a few months by something less confronting. The ultimate and most desirable 924 is the limited-production Carrera GT. Just 400 road cars were made for Group 3 homologation, entitling the derivative GTR versions to run at tracks like Le Mans.

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Carrera GT still looks tough and has performance to back it up. But even in 2010, it would have set you back up to five times the cost of a standard 924

Mudguards bulging with fibreglass extensions weren’t there simply to attract boy racers. The wheels were 40mm wider than on a standard Turbo, carrying V-rated tyres, which would handle the Carrera’s vastly improved performance. With a gutted interior and extensive use of body plastics, GTs were 150kg lighter than a standard Turbo and serious contenders for long-distance competition.

At the 1980 Le Mans 24 Hour, three of four GTR Carreras built finished 6th, 12th and 13th outright.

| 2019 Market Review: Porsche 924/928/944/968

Australia’s links to the 924 ended in 1982 when it was replaced by the 944. Overseas, the older car went through a series of upgrades that included 924S and Lux models sold variously in Europe and the USA.

On the road

Slip inside the 924 cabin and the first impression is that this is not really a Porsche. That was a problem for 1970s dealers trying to flog these to existing 911 owners but shouldn’t worry today’s buyers who may be comparing it against Japanese models like the RA23 Celica or an early RX7.

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The low-set steering wheel can feel cumbersome at first but the direct ratio and excellent chassis balance minimise excessive rim movement.

The dash layout is messy, with secondary gauges down on the console and cheap-looking fittings, which can deteriorate due to sun exposure.

With a wheelbase 130mm longer than a 911’s, the 924 offers more cabin space plus the practicality of hatchback access to the long, shallow luggage platform.

There’s plenty of movement available from the 911-style front seats but pushing them all the way back will just about zero rear leg room, which otherwise provides adequate space for a couple of pre-teen children.

A four-speed manual transmission was initially standard, with a five- speed optional from 1979. Early cars have a tall final drive ratio that produces good economy but keeps 0-100k/h times above 10 seconds.

A doughy three-speed automatic was available from 1977 but its characteristics further blunt performance. Fuel economy even from five-speed cars is excellent; averaging 10.2L/100km with 8L/100 available on longer journeys.

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The only disadvantage is the ‘dog-leg’ Porsche shift pattern, with first gear on a separate plane to second that makes shifting from first straight into fourth embarrassingly easy.

Due to an excellent chassis and near-perfect weight distribution, the 924 handles far more securely than the oversteering 911. Most cars were specified with the optional front and rear anti-roll bars, which contribute to a harsh ride on rougher roads but minimise body roll.

On a smoothish surface with some bends to keep things interesting, the 924 feels agile but not especially quick. Adding wider wheels and tyres larger than the original 185 section will improve mid-bend velocity, stability and stopping distances.

The brakes – disc front but drums at the rear – came in for road-test criticism for lack of feel and excessive pedal movement; issues that may have been cured by more advanced pads and linings.

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To boost (intentional pun) the fun factor, you’ll need to hunt down one of the rare Turbo cars, or even a very scarce Carrera GT like Craig Rayner’s beauty.With hip-grabbing corduroy seats and chunky mudguard extensions covering 15-inch wheels, these look like the homologation specials they are and certainly deliver performance to match the warpaint.

In standard form, the turbo engine increased power by 30 percent and delivered sufficient poke to get the 924 chassis working to its potential. To enhance the experience, these cars came standard with uprated shock absorbers, larger diameter tyres and all-disc brakes. Carrera engines, with their smaller turbocharger and modified cylinder head, produced 155kW. Top speed was 240k/h, with 0-100km/h arriving in 6.9 seconds. Further suspension mods delivered levels of adhesion unmatched by any previous Porsche.

How much?

With more than 1000 924s reportedly sold in Australia, opportunities to buy a decent car shouldn’t be difficult. The majority in the current market are manual, with five-speeds in well-kept condition going for $7000-8000 and four-speed cars around $2000 less.

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A decent automatic will also cost around $6000. Turbos are hard to find and likely to cost more than $10,000, with outstanding cars reaching $15,000.

The Carrera offers genuine Le Mans heritage and scarcity at a surprisingly reasonable price. Only 15 were sold new in Australia and top quality cars are unlikely to cost more than $50,000.

A prototype recently sold at auction in the UK for around $55,000 and excellent left-hand drive cars (eligible for full registration in a year’s time) can be found at $25,000-35,000 plus associated import costs.

Club membership is a big advantage and Porsche clubs exist throughout Australia. The best cars never reach the open market so talking to owners might turn up the 924 you’re looking for. Owners will also know which parts are VW-sourced and can be obtained for far less than the same item in a Porsche carton.

The 924 is a very easy car to over-capitalise. A $3000 ‘project’ can very quickly absorb five times the amount you’ll spend on a really good five-speed car.

BUYER CHECKLIST

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Body & chassis

All or part of the 924 structure was made from zinc-dipped steel and is rust resistant unless damaged and not properly repaired. Look for unevenly faded paint, poor panel fit (especially the rear hatch seal) and dropped doors. Rust is often apparent in wheel arches and window surrounds, with more serious damage occurring to the inner sills. These can be checked by peeling back the carpet but more effectively on a hoist. Acid can rot the battery tray and surrounding metal, letting water into the cabin, so check for damp carpets. Ensure that the hideaway lights activate quickly.

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In turbocharged form, 2.0-litre four provides plenty of poke

Engine & transmission

Providing the Audi single-ohc engine isn’t rattling or trailing smoke when the throttle is closed, there’s probably enough life left in a mid-priced car to make it viable. Coolant leaking from around the heater valve can contaminate clutch facings and oil needs to be checked for signs of a blown head gasket. Turbo cars must come with detailed service history; probably including a new turbocharger during the past 60,000 kilometres and oil changes every 5000km. The gearbox (four-speed is Audi, five-speed is Porsche) is unlikely to give problems but play or rattling from the gear lever suggests the linkages running from the rear-mounted transmission require re-bushing. A clutch cable kept in the car is worthwhile as they aren’t something the local spares shop will stock.

Suspension & brakes

Low value/high maintenance cars like the 924 frequently suffer neglect and the suspension is just one place where cash-strapped owners think they can save money. Worn front suspension and steering rack bushes create clunks and steering looseness but are relatively cheap to replace. Likewise soft front struts, which will cause the nose to float on undulating roads. The front brakes on early cars work hard but good quality rotor replacements cost less than $100.

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Red-striped corduroy buckets lighten up typically functional black Porker cabin

Interior & electrical

Low cost cars are likely to be showing extensive interior deterioration. However, virtually everything inside a 924 is available, including seat and carpet retrim kits. Basic vinyl seat coverings start at $700; leather for later versions at more than $2000. Dash tops crack due to heat and may have already been replaced at least once. Switches and other hardware are mostly VW parts and should be available second hand at sensible money. Check the steering wheel for cracks between the rim and spokes. Starter motor wiring needs close inspection as it runs close to the exhaust system and can lose insulation as a result.

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I OWN ONE!

And a very scarce one at that. Craig Rayner’s 924 Carrera GT is one of just 75 right-hand drive cars built and came to Australia from Britain in 2008.

A self-confessed Porsche addict, Rayner has owned both front and rear-engined models, including no less than five 968s.

Through Melbourne-based specialists RSR Garage, the car was found in Sydney shortly after it arrived and Craig jumped at the opportunity to own it.

"It was a one of only seven black cars built right-hand drive and has only travelled 33,000 miles since new," he says. "I went up to Sydney and drove it straight back to Melbourne; running down the highway it was really comfortable and the economy was great."
Although the Carrera offers undoubted sporting heritage, Rayner doesn’t plan to use it for competition.

"I’ve got a couple of other ones for that," he laughs. "This one is just for taking out on a Sunday drive every so often to enjoy what really is a superb driving car."

Porsche 924 (1976-89) specs

Number built:  122,304 (924), 12,365 (924T),  406 (924 Carrera)
Body: all steel (except for Carrera), integrated body/chassis, two-door coupe
Engine: 2.0-litre, single-overhead camshaft four-cylinder with fuel injection and optional turbocharger
Power/torque: 92kW @ 5800rpm/165Nm @ 3500rpm (924)
Performance: 0-100km/h – 10.2 seconds. 0-400m – 17.0 seconds (924 five-speed)
Transmission: four or five-speed manual, three-speed automatic
Suspension: Front – independent with Macpherson struts, coil springs and wishbones. Rear – independent with semi-trailing arms and transverse torsion bars (anti-roll bars optional)
Brakes: disc front/drum rear (924), disc front & rear (924 Turbo and Carrera), power assisted
Tyres: 185/70H14 (924)
Price range: $1500-12,000 (924)
Contact: Porsche clubs throughout Australia. 
Website: 924oc.co.uk

 

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