I first came into contact with this 924 at NorCal Treffen, a nifty little event in an out-of-the-way park. I was drawn to the car's nearly perfect appearance. It had a few rock chips here and there, and a repaint intended to hide some prior deer-induced damage had faded beyond acceptable, but the amazingly period-correct Gotti wheels and a gorgeous full brown interior set this Guards Red wonder apart from any other 924 I'd ever seen. It had a For Sale sign on the windshield and I'd almost pulled the trigger right then and there to buy it.
Only a few weeks later I saw the very same car at the Werks Reunion during Monterey Car Week. This time I was walking around the show with a newfound friend that was happenstance looking for a vintage German car. His sights were set on a BMW E30-chassis 3-series, but I managed to convince him to buy this wonderful thing. After just a few thousand dollars exchanged hands, it was his, and he loved it nearly as much as I would have.
I've had a transaxle Porsche in the past, mine an early production 944 with manual steering. That is but the one car I regret having sold in my life, as it was equal parts pretty, fun, and cheap to run. I've always had a soft spot for narrow-body 924s with their non-interference cylinder heads. Sure they're a bit down on power to my 944, but they drive quite similarly, and certainly the interior is familiar. I found myself in his neck of the woods, as it would happen San Francisco, California, one weekend, and asked if I might reacquaint myself with this lovely car once again. He, of course, said yes, and I was ecstatic to get behind the wheel.
To most Porsche owners, this car would be under-powered. Being a 1980 model, this car features the 2-liter Audi-sourced engine with just 110 horespower, and 4-lug wheels with drum brakes in the back to save a few dollars. Harm Lagaay's design is as resilient today as it was in the mid-1970s, featuring a sloping hood and a gorgeous glass fastback. The 924 looks a bit better than the later 944 in my opinion, simply for the fact that it does not have the rubber rear spoiler of the later model. It's a very pure and very simple design that holds up well. It is quite obviously not a new car, but among its contemporaries, it has aged quite well.
The 924 is a true compact car, as it takes up far less room than many modern sports cars, and even today's compact cars. It is also significantly lighter and balances that weight quite well with the engine up front and the transaxle at the rear. This car sold new for just over $10,000, which was quite a lot of money in 1980, but still at entry level for a Porsche priced well below its 911 and 928 brethren. Holding on from 1976 through 1988, the 924 served Porsche well, and they sold a lot of units. As an entry level car, it worked wonders for Porsche's bottom line.
Getting in the 924, I was struck by the beautiful simplicity of the brown tinted 3-gauge dashboard, and the large steering wheel made easy work of the non-assisted steering. Clutch action was good, power was acceptable considering the weight it had to move. Cornering was adequate, but with narrow wheels and less-than-optimal tires there is little you can do to change that. It did well with what it had, cornering neutrally, and squealing all four tires at once when pushed through tight bends. The particular road we chose to really push the car's limits was an excellent one in the southern Bay Area, featuring some long sweepers and some tight hairpins. At about half-way the brakes started to cook a little bit beyond their normal temperature range and lost a bit of bite, but it was easy to tell that with some proper tires and proper brake pads, this car would be a corner carving dream.
I have fallen back in love with Porsche's entry level offerings. They've always been dreams to drive, and in my eyes even outperformed their more expensive brothers. The engine isn't exactly sonorous, but it's certainly inoffensive. The chassis, however, more than makes up for its misgivings. For those who have not, perhaps now is the time to give the 924 a second glance, you just might like what you see.
If you'd like to ride along with me as I drive the car, here is some Point-of-View video that I made while driving the car. Hopefully it will give you some semblance of an idea of what it is like to drive a nearly-perfect 924. I suggest you wear headphones, as the audio recording is binaural, and you'll get to hear exactly what I heard while driving this car.
[Some Photos ©2016 FLATSIXES/Bradley C. Brownell, All Rights Reserved, Engine and Bumper Detail Photos Courtesy Rick Deacon, Video courtesy Winding Road TV on YouTube]