photos and story by matt biggs
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  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.
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.
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...
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:
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.