photos and story by matt biggs

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Not my specific car, but the Porsche 924 generally.

I have to open by confessing that the first time around [c 1980] the 924 pretty much passed me by. Porsche to me [as many others] was the 911, something sparked in me by the black “911 [930] Turbo” that I’d seen in Condor Man, anything less just left me wanting. Later I took a liking to the front engined models, well, the 928 and then the 944, the latter after a friend’s parents bought one. And by association the 924? Well, it didn’t look as purposeful as the more aggressively styled 944. Then when I was told that the 924 had a van engine, I pretty much dismissed it entirely, a black mark on Porsche’s heritage.

Move on a number of years and very little changed, except, about the time I began lusting after the 968 and gained an appreciation for the smooth profile of the 924, it was actually quite attractive but it wasn’t a real Porsche.

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Yet more years passed and generally cars changed, apparently advancing, but my love of the aging / evolving 911 maintained my interest in the Porsche marque.

Possibly 2 or 3 years ago, egged on by a 911 fanatic friend, I was toying with the idea of classic 911 ownership, alas not the RSs shown left, which was something I had been doing for a number of years to a greater or lesser degree of seriousness. To keep my eye in I was eagerly studying the 911 and Porsche magazines. Taking one such magazine on holiday I had pretty much read it cover to cover and was left with one unread article I’d been skipping over, it was a chap’s account of tracking a 924.

That article changed my views. If I recall correctly, it was a 924S the chap was driving. What I am sure of, was that the car had next to nothing by way of modifications. The startling revelation was the author’s love for the car after one day with it. He was surprised at how well it performed. It performed well, this was something of a shock. The lack of power, relative to the other cars on track, was compensated for by the balance and feel [remember steering feedback?] which made for quick progress through the turns. I liked the sound of that. Liked it a lot. I was now loving the simple design of the car so this newly discovered information really captured my interest.
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So I did a little 924 research, nothing serious, just dabbling. Firstly, it turned out the 2.0 didn’t have a van engine; it had an Audi 100 engine, which to be fair was also used in a van. It also transpired that the look I’d grown so fond of gave the car a lower CD than the flared 944, and with the 2.5l engine in the 924S many thought the 924 felt quicker at the top end. The 924 was also lighter than the 944 and allegedly all the better for it. Suddenly, from relative obscurity [in my mind] the 924S sounded like it should be on my ‘ones to own’ list. I had been a fool, very much mistaken, this was every bit a real Porsche.

By this point I was taking keener interest in articles about the 924, and the good reviews kept coming. Digging a little deeper I discovered something else that moved the 924S further up my list; parts. In addition to the engine the 924S shares many of the drivetrain components with the 944 and some with the superb 968. Spares shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Better though, some of the uprated parts from the later cars can provide an easy and cost effective upgrade – as much as upgrades are ever cost effective. Taking it even further, with a small adapter the 924S will even take the brakes from a Boxster. The parts situation looked very good and the upgrade options looked great, should the car actually needed for anything.

Ultimately, with modern cars becoming more complicated, driver aided and capable, the idea of a basic well-balanced sweet handling modern classic really got under my skin. I still had a fondness for the superior 944 but somehow the more basic underdog edged it. The Porsche 924S was now firmly cemented at the top of one list of cars to buy. I really wanted one.

So began the perusal of classified ads and online auctions.

a lesson in how not to buy a car...

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The Buying Process

I had added the Porsche 924S to my “Cars to Buy” list. Many of us have car lists, some are potential cars we want to own, others are fantasy lists, preparedness for that lottery win. If you’re new to this form of listing, take a look at PetrolBlog’s Real World Dream Barn.

As any good car lister will tell you it is critical that they are maintained in good order and updated regularly, with adjustments to rankings or additions / removals to the lists as appropriate  Research is required. In the modern age resources are bountiful, from shows on dedicated motoring channels to specialist [car!] magazines to the internet. With out a doubt the most satisfying of these, especially when budgeting, are classified ads and online auctions.

During my “research” into 924s and 944s I saw a 1986 Porsche 924S advertised on PistonHeads, first noted in late 2010. The car was advertised as generally sound, but a non runner. A trader had picked it up very cheap with the intention of setting it up for track work. The car had been fitted with about £1,400 of parts (receipts to prive) and MOTd in January 2008 before being sidelined for a while after which it wouldn’t start. Three years later, nothing had changed, other than the trader’s wife wanting it off the driveway. The advert painted a cautious picture backed up by the photos:
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The price, £1,000. But, I didn’t need a second car. I left it at that.

In early 2011 there was an update from @FailCar on his Peugeot 205 GTi restoration, he was making great progress and the car looked amazing. It really got me thinking, generally speaking, about that second car. Then, a little while later, came @RalphHosier and his Jaguar XJS, awesome car for a track project. I wanted to play.

I was back on PistonHeads. Going through the Porsche ads again. The 924S above was still available. Something had change though… the price! It was down to £550. In a moment of impulse I hit the contact button and fired off an email enquiry. The following day, nothing. I became impatient and put in a call to the seller. The car was still available and the guy’s wife really wanted it off the driveway! My biggest issue, the car wasn’t drivable and was 150 miles away. I saw from the seller’s web site that they arranged transport, I asked for a price and he went away to check it out. I was expecting £300-£350. He called back…

“I’ve got a guy, he can deliver for £265″

“£265,” I repeated and then paused to do some mental sums. They must have taken longer then expected.
The seller wasn’t enjoying the pause…”soooo… I’ll sell you that car for £400.”
“Okay, I’ll take it.”
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I hadn’t seen the car and probably hadn’t asked enough probing questions but a day later and I was doing a bank to bank transfer of the funds. About a week later and the car was delivered.

While I was waiting for the car to arrive I became somewhat concerned about what I had bought, condition that is. As the flatbed turned up with my first Porsche I was delighted to see it wasn’t a completed shed although it did then occur to me that I didn’t even know if it had a manual gearbox – something of a preference for track work. As purchasing experiences go, this hadn’t been very thorough. Having never seen the car, knowing it was not in great nick, a non-runner and having taken the seller at his word as to the condition this was quite possibly a model in how not to buy a car.
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Inspection revealed that the car was very tatty, the photos in the advert were quite flattering, but it was pretty much as described and, as a friend who had been drafted in to help move the car confirmed, it was a manual. All was not lost. Well, that was my appraisal based on the seeing the car on the trailer.

Thankfully the delivery guy knew what he was doing and offloaded the car straight into the garage, winched it in. It just about cleared the up-and-over door and in to safety. I of course wanted to play immediately. I turned the key… nothing. Battery out, sheering the bolt in the process, and on to the charger.

Now this is [modern] classic car ownership.

924S road assessment

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With the honeymoon period over, how I feel now...

After 1,000 miles (without breakdown) I decided it would be appropriate to write a short review of #Project924, mostly so I have something to refer back to. So, just to recap, this is a 1986 model Porsche 924S with the detuned 150bhp 2.5l engine from the 944.

Starting from the outside, I like the shape of the car. It’s come back to me. This is one of my theories of car evolution; taking the 924 as an example, when it was released it was new, exciting and desirable. Then, a short number of years after production ended, it looked dated. Move on another decade or two and it is so far behind the times it is becoming classic and looking dated doesn’t matter, and can be enjoyed again. My own car is not perfect, from a distance the it looks shabby, the paint has faded badly and instead of Indian Red the car looks a combination of light red and milky white. Get close up and you can see the dings, in almost every panel, blistering on the tele-dials (a great looking wheel) and damaged rubber seals.

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Inside and the driver’s seat hasn’t faired a great deal better than the exterior with a tatty door-side bolster and on the base the cloth seat is pulling away from vinyl the bolsters. Appearance aside the seats are actually rather comfortable, seemingly remarkably soft compared to the sports seats of modern cars. Typically, for a square dash 924 / 944, the dashboard has faired no better than the seats and has cracked in the sunlight. The steering wheel is a nice size and design, if a little skinny, but the spacers fitted to the seat, to raise it up, mean there is little room between my legs and the wheel.
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The switchgear is a bit of a mixed bag. The column mounted light and wiper stalks feel small and flimsy to the touch, but using them they are actually solid and click home with a precision missing in many modern cars. As for the rest of the controls, these are on/off rocker switches, none of the soft-touch push button business here. The switches are quite scattered around the cockpit with some very small ones on the transmission tunnel take some guesswork in the dark. Also, with the old on/off principal, there is no self-cancelling, which means I have left the sidelights on once or twice.
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Dials are another odd one. Much to my delight there is an oil pressure gauge and volt metre, two things that these days are largely replaced by warning lights. I love these gauges as I can see what’s going on with the car as it happens rather than something to tell me what’s gone wrong after the fact. These dials are fitted in the centre console either side of the clock, an analogue number where the adjustment knob obstructs the hands around the 7-8 positions, at which point if it guess work. A few of the dials behind the steering wheel are obstructed by it too, so there is occasional craning to check all is okay. The fuel gauge appears to drop in stages, but that may be a faulty sender.

The car is fitted with an electric sunroof that, as yet, I have been too scared to use, for fear of leaks if I do; it came supplied with the storage bag for the boot, should I take it out completely. As an aside, almost every advert I see for a 924 tells me, “includes the roof storage bag, which is quite rare”, it almost seems more rare for it to be missing. The electric windows work well, although slowly if using both at once. There is no air con, which I suspect would add more in weight than it does in cooling ability.
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Putting the key in the ignition occasionally requires a little fiddling with the steering wheel, but generally nothing drastic. Turn the key again and the gauges spring to life. Turn it again and the engine fires into life, most of the time. There are occasions where the starter spins for a while and the moment I am about to release the key, it catches. The final starter scenario everything sounds laboured, like I’m trying to start a cruise liner, and again, just when I am about to quite it, when it sounds like the battery has had enough, it’s go time.

Setting off means releasing the handbrake that is down by the door, and despite being on the wrong side, is surprisingly instinctive. It does seem to have a catch point about half way down, where I think that the brake is released and I drive off before I notice the warning light and release it the whole way. And curse a little.

Visibility, for a sports car, is rather good thanks to the large rear window and not too much metal. Things aren’t so great in the rain as the wipers are setup for left-hand drive and don’t clear where I’d ideally like.
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Unassisted steering means I need to remember to keep moving when manoeuvring at low speeds where it seems extremely hard work. Once I get going things lighten up a lot, perhaps too much, but I suspect I need to look at the front shocks and then get the geo sorted. There is absolutely no messing between the steering wheel and the teledials with the slightest movements are transmitted instantly and the car also goes exactly where it’s pointed, and it takes me by surprise on occasions.
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The front shocks don’t seem quite right but overall the suspension seems to work well, the car stands up quite a lot and there is a fair amount of roll going into corners, but grip doesn’t seem to be an issue even with the skinny tyres. There is some feedback from what’s happening underneath me as I slowly find the limits; I haven’t got there yet. I have yet to really push the car, partly as I am trying to ease it back into life.

Going on new and then sitting ideal for three years the brakes are poor in stopping power and feel. I have run the bedding-in procedure a few times and it has helped, but they may need a refresh before too long.  Again I think the shocks may need some attention, which would also help with the stopping power. On the plus side, they are judder free and the car doesn’t pull under braking.

The engine, it leaks oil. I just need to identify exactly from where. It does seem to still pull strongly, although sounds a little rough at times, but then again how smooth can I expect a 2.5 four to sound at high revs? I am not sure if it relates to the oil leak but the pressure is a little on the low side at idle, running a little over 1 bar, when revved though it seems fine and when cold it runs around 5 bar. Something needs attention. It is becoming less prominent but there are vibrations into the cabin and the bonnet dances around a little but I am hoping I just need to change the engine mounts.

Getting the power down doesn’t seem to be an issue, while the car isn’t fast by today’s standards, it is still reasonably quick and is improving the longer I run it.  The gear change is somewhat industrial, with a long throw, but it is precise and each ratio engages with certainty and I quite like that.  I do seem to need to run a gear lower than I would ordinarily as the engine judders a little below 1,250rpm with the throttle open, possibly the engine mounts again.

Despite the foibles I am really enjoying driving #Project924, it is well balanced and very engaging to drive and I believe when I sort a few problems it will only get better. And yes, there are many problems to sort, but it is quite clear this car was made at a time when cars were better built; rattles are virtually non-existent and tactile objects all feel solid. As a project car, it’s great to drive as is and there is plenty to get on with, mechanically and cosmetically. Instinct tells me it will be great on track too.

In conclusion, the Porsche 924S, a great proposition.

 

by Matt Biggs

To see more, check out: http://project924.co.uk

About the #project924 blog Tinkering with a 1986 modern sports classic that may lead to an adequate performance no track.

That’s the gist of what this is about, but how did it come about?

The car, I bought a tatty, non-running Porsche 924S. It was an impulse buy, although a model I’d been considering for a while. Partly I wanted something to work on and restore, hence the non-runner. I also wanted something with track potential, that with my limited skills, I would not have to worry about. There were other factors but they’ll be explained in more detail.

The blog itself also came about due to a number of factors. For a couple years I have been posting on the Z4-Forum and found I like documenting and writing about my work on the car almost as much as I do working on the car itself. I have also posted a few videos on YouTube which I enjoyed doing and, as with the forum, was both surprised and pleased how much others got from them. I liked sharing but I wouldn’t have ever considered blogging were it not for friends on Twitter – some of whom were among the “other factors” in the car purchase – whose own blogs I’ve enjoyed and introduced me to the medium. Am a bit of a geek too so the outcome was inevitable.

Rather unexpectedly this has found an audience, I hope you enjoy the blog.

2013—a year with a porsche 924S

 


Comments

Roger
02/05/2014 06:45

This is what gets me out from under my own 924s and off to the local book store every month. Unfortunately, articles like this one on this particular car are few and far between these days. And that is why you should send your story to every PCar magazine in existence. That way I can buy a copy and read this again. Nicely done, Matt.

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