Porsche 924

Porsche would like to forget the 924. It had a van engine, was a quarter the price of a 911 so it sat uneasily in the Porsche pantheon of profligacy. Yet it was precise and well-made. Swift enough for the 1970s, indeed swift enough now, it represented an about-turn for the great automotive dynasty, cobbled-up from VW parts bins much like Cecil Kimber made up MGs from Morrises in the 1930s, described in The Classic MG File.
Proper James Dean dangerous Porsches had air-cooled engines in the back, so putting a water-cooled one at the front was not so much radical as revolutionary. Making it almost upright and in line was not Porsche’s way at all. Furthermore the 924 was a mere design commission in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Volkswagen AG wanted an Audi Coupe.
Porsche Design was already working on the large, expensive and thirsty 928, but nobody knew in 1974 if the sports car was going to survive, so it was instructed to design a replacement for the VW Porsche 914, a relatively low-grade although quite popular mid-engined sports car made in Osnabrück between 1969 and 1975. The brief was to use VW and Audi components for something a lot smaller than the 928.
Technicians were told to take an inoffensive 2.0litre single overhead camshaft engine intended for the 1977 Audi 100 and VW LT van. Porsche added Bosch K Jetronic fuel injection to increase power to 92kW (125bhp), and kept weight distribution about even. The 928’s principles were re-employed, with a drive shaft in a tube to a 4-speed gearbox in the rear. This was really a back-to-front Audi 100 front wheel drive unit, although a 5 speed became available later. A few 924s were even sold with a 3 speed automatic. Front suspension was by VW Beetle 1302 MacPherson struts, the rear had semi trailing arms and transverse torsion bars.
Notwithstanding its potential for speed, the light weight 924 used a mundane mix of K70 disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. The same could be said of the tyres, which were rather ordinary 185/70SR14, although wider section, 60 profile covers came subsequently as an option. The body shape was notable for careful aerodynamics, and a late decision to make it hot-dip galvanised provided a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty from the start.
It was still to be an Audi Coupe until, late in the 924’s development, Volkswagen decided it did not meet its marketing plans. So, with Porsche sales still flagging in the shadow of the oil shock, it became a Porsche in its own right. It was perfectly fitting. After all it came from the consultancy proclaimed in the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen Commercial Register of 25th April 1931 as “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratung für Motoren und Fahrzeuge” (design engineering and consultation for engines and vehicles).
Left: Professor Ferdinand Porsche and son Ferry.
As soon as it took full control of the project, Porsche AG gave it better-class trim and seats, plus a revised facia. However there was no space in the Porsche factory at Zuffenhausen, so Audi found room to build it in the former NSU factory at Neckarsulm. Porsche kept a keen eye on quality and over 122,000 were made between 1976 and 1985, 300,000 including derivative 924 Turbo, 944 and 968 (below)variants carried on until 1995. Their merit was beyond reproach and Audi gained an industry lead in how to make rust-resistant galvanised steel bodies. Porsche was rescued from a financial fissure that its regular premium-pricey products were struggling to fill.
924 spec: BODY 2 door coupe; 2+2 seats; weight 1130kg/2486lb
ENGINE 4 cylinders; in line; front; 86.5mm x 84.4mm, 1984cc; 92kW/125bhp @ 5800rpm; 46.4kW (63.0bhp)/l; 165Nm (121.7lbft) @ 3500rpm
ENGINE STRUCTURE ohv; 2 valves per cylinders; 1 belt driven ohc; aluminium head; cast iron block; 5 bearing crankshaft; Bosch K Jetronic injection.
TRANSMISSION 2 wheel drive; 4 speed gearbox; hypoid bevel final drive, 3.9:1. 3 speed automatic option.
CHASSIS DETAILS Steel unitary construction; independent front suspension, struts, coil springs; independent rear suspension, semi trailing arms, transverse torsion bars; telescopic dampers, disc front, drum rear brakes; dual braking circuits; vacuum servo; no ABS; rack and pinion steering; 66l (14.5gal) fuel tank; 185/70HR14 tyres; 6in rims.
DIMENSIONS Wheelbase 240cm (94.5in), front track 142cm, (55.9in), rear track 137cm (53.9in), ground clearance 12.5cm (4.9in), turning circle 12.5m (33.3ft), length 421cm (165.7in), width 168.5cm (66.3in), height 127cm (50in).
PERFORMANCE Maximum speed 204kph (126mph); 21.4mph (34.4kph) @1000rpm; acceleration 0 100kph (62mph) 9.6sec; 12.3kg/kW (9.0kg/bhp); average fuel consumption. 30.8mpg (8.7l/100km) Euromix.