Porsche 924 Buying Guide

The 924 has forever been the entry-level Porsche, but that doesn’t make it the poor relation. Here’s what a potential owner should look for

How much to pay

• Project £4000-9000 • Good £9250-14,000 • Concours £25,000+ •

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
Investment ★★
Desirability ★★★

If you subscribe to the theory that a proper Porsche should have six air-cooled cylinders hanging out the back, you won’t like the 924. But that’s your loss, because while more exclusive Porsches are often out of reach, those with four water-cooled cylinders up front are not only more affordable, but they can also be a lot of fun and incredibly practical.

Ever since the 924’s launch in 1975, it has suffered from the stigma of being the entry-level Porsche. The fact that it was developed for VW/Audi and used an engine based on the one later fitted to the LT van didn’t help. At least the later 924S used a Porsche-designed, albeit detuned, 944 powerplant.

Luckily things have now changed, with the 924 recognised for what it is; an affordable sports car that has a healthy dose of practicality. However, those years in the wilderness have taken their toll, with cars being scrapped that nowadays might have been restored. Most of the best models are keenly held onto by their owners, but there are some superb examples up for grabs if you know where to look.

Your AutoClassics Porsche 924 Inspection Checklist

Engine

All 924s featured a four-cylinder engine. Most have a 1984cc unit sourced from VW/Audi, but the 924S got a 2479cc motor that’s a detuned version of the 944 powerplant. The two engines are unrelated, but with both the key check is to look for oil being burned, given away by blue exhaust smoke.

If this occurs only on start-up, the valve-stem oil seals have perished; something that’s easily fixed. With a 2.0-litre engine, if oil is being burned under acceleration, the piston rings and/or cylinder bores have worn, which means a full rebuild is due.

Oil smoke while a 924 Turbo accelerates suggests a tired turbocharger, although it could be tired bores or rings. A 924S engine burning oil under acceleration can be bad news, as the cylinder bores have an Alusil coating that can’t be repaired. However, smoke doesn’t necessarily mean bore wear; the piston rings may be worn.

Look for signs of a blown head gasket on the 2.0-litre engine, and establish when the cambelt was last replaced; the bigger engine is an interference fit, while the smaller one isn’t.

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Gearbox

Some 924s have a three-speed automatic (which gives no problems except for oil leaks) while manual ’boxes were available with four or five ratios depending on model. The most desirable is the five-speed manual, which was standard on the Turbo.

All of these gearboxes are strong, but if a rebuild is due, given away by crunchy changes, beware. Rebuilds can be costly, and parts for the early transmissions (with a dog-leg first) are now scarce. If the gearshift is really vague the linkage bushes have worn, but upgraded parts are available cheaply, to offer a permanent fix.

Clutches are strong, but check for slippage because fitting a replacement is a big job. There's a window in the bellhousing to check for wear; the clutch plate needs to be at least 8.5mm thick.

Even if the clutch isn’t slipping, it could be on its way out. Check for play in the pedal, while on 2.0-litre cars listen for rattling caused by failed springs in the driven plate. These springs act as a damper for the transmission as drive is taken up, to lessen the shock to it. The Turbo and 924S feature a rubber doughnut in place of these springs, which lasts around 100,000 miles.

Clicking from the rear points to tired CV joints in the driveshafts; fixing things is cheap and easy. A sound like glass bottles clinking together betrays worn torque-tube bearings. These locate the propshaft within the tube that carries it – and although no damage will be caused by leaving it, the noise is annoying, and it’s cheap to fix.

Suspension and brakes

The steering column is above the exhaust manifold, so its universal joints suffer from heat exposure, causing them to dry out and wear rapidly, leading to excessive play. The joints typically last just 60,000 miles before a whole new shaft – complete with upper and lower joints – has to be fitted.

Aftermarket wheels are common, so check clearances to make sure there’s no fouling of the bodywork. Turbo wheels are of a five-stud design, whereas other 924s use a four-stud system.

Calipers become sticky with age, reducing the braking efficiency. The rear wheel cylinders also leak with age, so check the brake fluid level.

Bodywork

From the outset the floorpan and rear wings were galvanised; from 1981 the whole bodyshell was coated. Even now, rust should be largely absent from these later models. On earlier cars check for corrosion in the bonnet’s leading edge, door bottoms and front wings. Another common rust spot is where the wheelarch meets the sill.

Corrosion on the underside of the car is most likely down to poor crash repairs. Remove the plastic grilles in the door shuts and inspect the inside of the sills for corrosion, by using a mirror. Then look for leaks around the aperture of the sunroof (if one is fitted), caused by blocked or loose drain tubes.

Genuine panels aren’t available, but some pattern items are. The quality is variable, which is why used panels are generally better – they fit perfectly. You’ll struggle to find any panels specific to an early car; later front wings have holes punched for side repeaters for example, which early cars didn't have.

Knocking from the back as the car is driven over bumps is because the glass has delaminated from the frame in the tailgate. It can be rebonded, but it’s a specialist job. The bonded-in front screen can leak, and sealing this is also a specialist job, but it can be done.

Interior

Seats split where the vinyl meets the cloth. They’re common to the 944, but decent used examples are getting hard to find. Some original materials are still available, which makes life easier.

Erratic electrics are usually down to a faulty fusebox. This is located under the battery tray on the bulkhead, and acid leaks onto it and shorts things out. If the starter motor struggles to turn over the engine, it may have been cooked because the exhaust heat shields have been left off.

History

  • 1971: VW initiates the design of EA425, to replace the VW-Porsche 914.
  • 1975: The 924 debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and production begins in November.
  • 1976: The 924 enters production, and goes on sale in the US.
  • 1977: The first 924s are sold in Britain; soon after launch a higher-spec Lux arrives, and a five-speed gearbox is available from December. Front and rear anti-roll bars are standardised from the autumn. The first special-edition 924 is introduced – the Martini. 100 are built to celebrate World Championships in Group 5 and Group 6 racing, with white paintwork and alloy wheels, plus a black interior with red carpets.
  • 1978: The 170bhp 924 Turbo is announced in September, with a standard five-speed gearbox plus uprated suspension and brakes (now rear discs).
  • 1979: A five-speed gearbox becomes standard for all cars from August, and the 210bhp Carrera GT is exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The first Turbos arrive in the UK in December, and 50 Doubloon special editions are built. These have pale gold metallic paint, polished alloy wheels and a tan, pinstriped interior.
  • 1980: The 924 Turbo is uprated to 177bhp from August, and a month later 100 examples of the Le Mans special edition are produced, with white paintwork, German colours running round the body and uprated suspension.
  • 1981: 75 Carrera GTs (out of 400 worldwide) are imported to the UK in January. The 924 range is freshened up with better ventilation and interior trim, sports suspension and extra badging.
  • 1982: The 924 Turbo is discontinued and the 100,000th 924 is built.
  • 1985: The 2.5-litre 924S replaces the 2.0-litre 924.
  • 1986: The 924S and 944 are now fitted with the same engines, rated at 160bhp.
  • 1988: The last 924S is built.

AutoClassics says…

The obvious 924 to buy is the S, with its 944-derived 2.5-litre engine. It’s the one most buyers want, the most collectible and the best to drive. However, if you’re able to afford only a tatty 924S, you’re better opting for a tidy 2.0-litre 924 instead, as the smaller-engined cars are cheaper to buy.

The 2.0 engine is far simpler and can be maintained at home; the 2.5 unit needs specialist maintenance. The bigger motor will last far longer without major work (250,000 miles compared with typically just 100,000 for the 2.0-litre), but at least the smaller powerplant is straightforward to rebuild. A 924S engine with damaged bores is fit for scrap only.

Predictably there isn’t much appetite for 924s with an automatic gearbox; manuals are far more sought after, especially the five-speed unit that was standard on the Turbo. The 924’s suspension is quite soft, as it was designed more for touring than flat-out driving. An optional suspension pack with larger alloys and Koni shocks was available from 1984, while the 924S and Turbo had much firmer suspension. That's one of several reasons why they’re more worthy of the Porsche badge.

Specifications

Porsche 924
  Power 125bhp
  Top speed 125mph
  0-60mph 8.5sec
  Economy 27mpg

Porsche 924S
  Power 150bhp
  Top speed 133mph
  0-60mph 8.2sec
  Economy 25mpg

Porsche 924 Turbo
  Power 177bhp
  Top speed 142mph
  0-60mph 7.7sec
  Economy 22mpg

Porsche 924 Carrera GT
  Power 210bhp
  Top speed 150mph
  0-60mph 6.5sec
  Economy 22mpg

Picture courtesy of Porsche

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