A new direction
In 1976, Porsche created a cultural revolution with the launch of a four-cylinder, front-mounted, water-cooled coupé. In spite of criticism, the model was a huge success.
The Turbo version (pictured right) is distinguished from the base version by a modified grille with additional air intakes and special wheels. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / D.R.
The history of this long-unloved model commenced during the difficult economic and industrial climate of the early 1970s, a situation which did not escape the manufacturers on the other side of the Rhine. In 1970, Volkswagen commissioned the Porsche design office in Weissach to develop the successor to the VW Porsche 914. The project, internally called the EA 425, was initially destined to be an Audi, but at the last moment Volkswagen's CEO Rudolf Leiding decided to drop this sport model from the VW programme, fearing that it would not achieve a sufficient level of sales. Porsche, looking to expand its range more widely, seized the opportunity and the 924 was ultimately produced under the Stuttgart firm's name, while its production was handled by the Audi-NSU plant in Neckarsulm.
This view of the Transaxle transmission shows the two axles, with the engine at the front and the gearbox and axle assembly at the rear, connected by a drive shaft. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / D.R.
A different path
In 1972, Ferry Porsche and his sister Louise Pïech, owners of the Zuffenhausen-based brand, decided to hand over the management of the company to Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann, the originator of the Carrera 4-shaft engine used in the 356. Fuhrmann believed that the 911 would soon come to the end of its lifespan and that future models produced by Porsche AG would need to move away from the classic air-cooled mid-engine concept. At the same time, the development of the 928 project, adopting the principle of a water-cooled front engine, seemed to put the future of the 911 on the back burner. This concept had the advantage of offering a real luggage compartment and two seats in the rear of the car, which was desirable for a grand touring sports coupé. But against all odds, the 911 evolved and continued its course, with the success that we know. The 928, on the other hand, was temporarily suspended and not launched until 1977. However, there was still a strong feeling at Porsche that there was a need for a second generation model alongside the 911 and in September 1975 the 924 was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show as a downsized 928. A new era was about to begin at Porsche.
The 924 was an important milestone in the history of Porsche. Pictured is the 924 Turbo version launched in 1978.© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / D.R.
An original architecture
In an effort to save money, many existing mechanical elements were reused to produce the new 924 in series, like the Audi 100 engine and gearbox, or the VW Sirocco and Beetle running gear. The main novelty of the 924's design is its unusual mechanical implementation, which had been seen previously in the 928 prototype. This is the so-called Transaxle transmission, consisting of a longitudinal front mounted engine, while the gearbox and differential are mounted on the rear axle. The two elements are connected by a transmission shaft (20 cm in diameter) rotating within a rigid tube. This provides a very balanced weight distribution, offering the 924 optimal traction and handling. The structure is self-supporting and the aerodynamic bodywork was designed by the Dutch designer Harm Lagaay, who managed the Porsche Design Office from 1989 to 2004. Lagaay's idea was to offer a less radical design compared to the 911, making the 924 accessible to a wider customer base. It is clear that this goal was achieved, as between 1976 and 1988, 151,711 cars were produced, including 13,916 of the 924 Turbo version and 16,669 of the 924 S version.
Seventeen 924 GTRs with a 275 hp 2-litre engine were built from 1979 onwards to compete in Group 4. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / D.R.
The 4-cylinder 1,984cc cast iron block ( 125bhp and 16.8mkg torque at 3,500rpm) of the 924 was sourced from VW/Audi, while the aluminium cylinder head and top end were designed by Porsche. The 2-litre 924 is equipped with a 4-speed manual gearbox, however a 3-speed automatic transmission was available as an option. In 1978 a 5-speed manual gearbox was introduced and a 924 Turbo version was launched. Its M31/1 engine kept the same displacement but power was increased to 170 bhp at 5,500 rpm and its maximum torque was 25 mkg at 3,500 rpm allowing a top speed of 230 km/h. A Carrera GT version with 210 bhp completed the range the following year. The second important development was the introduction of the 924 S in 1986, the successor to the 924 2.0. Its 2,479 cc engine was derived from the 944, introduced in 1982. It developed 150 bhp at 5,800 rpm with a torque of 19.4 mkg at 3,000 rpm and a top speed of 215 km/h. Throughout its lifespan, the 924 was produced in special and limited editions including those of Le Mans in 1980 and 1988, Weissach and Jubilee in 1981, and Kenwood in 1983.
Porsche 924 (1976)
• Engine: type 047/8, 4 cylinders in line, front, longitudinal
• Displacement: 1,984 cm3
• Bore x stroke: 86.5 mm x 84.4 mm
• Power: 125 hp at 5,800 rpm
• Power supply: Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical injection
• Ignition: Bosch transistorized
• Distribution: overhead camshaft, 2 valves per cylinder
• Transmission: type 088/6, rear wheel drive, 4-speed manual + M.A.
• Tyres: 185/70 HR 14 (front and rear)
• Brakes: discs at the front and drums at the rear (double hydraulic circuit)
• Length: 421.3 cm
• Width: 168.5 cm
• Height: 127 cm
• Wheelbase: 240 cm
• Front track: 141.8 cm
• Rear track: 137.2 cm
• Weight (empty): 1,080 kg
• Maximum speed: 204 km/h
Porsche 924 on the racing track
The new 924 Porsche range continued the tradition of the Zuffenhausen-based company of keeping a close link between the production of " passenger cars " and those intended for racing. In 1979, on the initiative of engineer and "in-house" driver Jürgen Barth, the 924 commenced rally racing. Despite a class victory in the Australian Rally, the Porsche management at the time would not officially engage in this discipline and only Porsche customers would be able to race the Group 4 (Grand Touring) 924. In the United States, one of Porsche's most important markets, the 924 D participated in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and won the Touring Championship in 1980. That same year, three factory 924 Carrera GTs were entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, achieving a very good result with a 6th place overall with the Jürgen Barth-Manfred Schurti team, while the other two cars finished 12th and 13th.