27 March 2023

924: The Porsche That Was Almost A VW

For a company with a reputation founded on producing rear-engined, air-cooled sports cars, the 924 was a hugely important model. Yet it was very nearly not a Porsche at all. Originally a joint venture, the plan was for the 924 to be a flagship model for Volkswagen and early development work was with this in mind. However, the oil crisis made VW, worried that the car may appear too decadent, re-evaluate. The result was the Golf-based Scirocco, while Porsche picked up 924 development as its entry-level model, replacing the 914.

With its back story and Audi/VW derived 2-litre overhead cam engine, even with a Porsche-fettled cylinder head you can see how Porsche traditionalists struggled to warm to the 924. However, to rule it out would be to overlook its fantastic styling, perfect weight distribution thanks to a transaxle layout, affordability and durability.

Launched in 1976, the lure of an affordable Porsche was too strong for many and the 924 sold well. Released initially with a four-speed transaxle, the 924 went through subtle revisions almost every year until it was discontinued in 1992 after almost 150k of all variants had rolled from the production line.

To address the criticism of the car’s straight-line speed, the 924 Turbo launched in 1979 and took power from 125bhp to almost 170. Featuring the now standard five-speed manual gearbox, the Turbo received unique alloy wheels, brake and suspension upgrades and a bonnet scoop; everything to remind customers – and the press – that the latest model boasted the performance that was previously lacking. The homologation 924 Carrera GT of 1980, with wide-bodied flanks, was surely the ultimate 924 and gave subtle hints as to the arrival of its bigger brother, the 944, in 1982.

The 924 was sold alongside the 944 for six years and underwent a continual evolution. Most notably with the introduction of the 924S, which featured a slightly detuned Porsche 2.5-litre from the 944. This raised power to 150bhp and gave performance not too dissimilar to a standard Turbo. The 944 went through several revisions and eventually evolved into the 968, but that’s another story.

As the first Porsche to receive a front-mounted, water-cooled engine, the 924 is an incredibly important model. Without its trailblazing, the European Car of The Year and supposed 911 replacement, the 928, would never have been possible. If you need any further inspiration to buy a keenly priced 924, just look at how values of its V8 brethren have risen in the last 10 years.

Alongside an incredible range of interiors, specifications, several engine and transmission choices (including a three-speed automatic), special edition 924s were also available, such as the Le Mans and Martini, both of which now command a price premium.

Once maligned but now considered to be not only a genuine, but significant classic, the 924 has spawned a die-hard transaxle Porsche following that is almost as passionate about its cars as air-cooled fans. In terms of affordability, reliability, parts supply, looks and driving dynamics, we think a 924 makes a perfect starter classic.

Have a favourite 924? Believe that the purity of the driving experience and perfect weight balance leave a 911 in your dust? Tell us your thoughts below.