words and photos by felix page
It lived on a road nearby, with a gaudy blanket thrown over the back seats, reeking of both neglect and adventure. At the time, my Dad was driving around in a Sierra XR4x4 and generally instilling an intense interest in cars for me. However, it was this little brown wedge which caught my imagination.
Unfortunately, my house mates had little interest in playing my guessing game, so I set about looking for a car myself. With car insurance ambitious but plausible, I told my Dad what I was going to do. I wouldn't say my idea was met with support, rather a realisation that arguing against this pursuit would be futile.
“Do you have breakdown cover mate?”
It was apparently working fine before I got there, however it was now back firing with such violence that a lesser quality car would surely have fallen apart. With this my first foray into buying a car, I humoured the seller and we went for a test drive.
The car stopped 3 times before breaking down altogether. Not to worry, the seller quickly phoned his bank, hoping some breakdown cover was included with his credit card. Of course it wasn't. Eventually, a friend of his picked me up in his van, who was quick to repeat how reliable the car is usually. Missing the train home by minutes, I sat on the platform lamenting my first ride in a 924.
A few days after the first saga, I saw another advertised for slightly over my budget. The seller sounded pleasant on the phone, telling me the wing mirrors could do with repainting. With this important matter made clear, I bought single train tickets from Cardiff to Farnborough. This second attempt at car ownership would prove to be even more challenging.
Awaking to a snow covered country, the trains were disrupted, with just 1 of 4 London trains running that morning. This meant standing in a crammed carriage all the way to Swindon. Such an ordeal, combined with single tickets influenced the standard of car I'd accept.
Finally, arriving in Farnborough more than 5 hours later, we made it to the car. It was for sale due to a baby, something I can vouch for. Upon arrival a relative greeted us, pointed out the only car on the driveway as the car we had come to look at. He didn't know anything about it, besides, the owner was giving birth in the front room!
I tried my best to look like I was examining the car thoroughly, finding a few things to strengthen my haggling position. The mirrors were quite tatty, and the dash was cracked massively. And the recent respray meant the paint was bright appliance white, with bonus appliance white on places like windows and black plastics.
I called £800 out to the relative, who went inside to consult with the owner. Amongst the commotion it was suggested that this was too low. Questioning the used car buying ethics from a woman in labour, we settled for a price somewhere in between. As we were signing the paperwork the midwives came out of the front room, chirping “it all happens at once”. I never met the owner.
I stayed up on the eve of my 21st, to see the clock tick over to 00:00 and my insurance commence! In an attempt to remember how to drive, I went out for an hour at midnight with my Dad, which was perfectly uneventful. On my first day I practised what would become some frequent routes, including driving the 40 mile round trip to my University campus before driving alone in the evening to my student house.
Managing the motorway, driving alone and in the dark all on my first day back at the wheel after a few years was a vital confidence boost! It was a good idea to go straight into it, without being spoilt by power steering, good visibility or a clutch that's not weightier than a small child.
One day I was driving a house mate to the beach for their project. Remaining diplomatically silent perusing the cassettes at my disposal, they noticed Buddy Holly lurking in the glove-box. After explaining that this particular tape was not a part of my collection, but accidentally included in the sale of the car, it was clumsily pushed into my tape player. Then the speaker balance was tweaked to allow only sound from the right, before copious amounts of volume was then applied.
"A few other modifications were made to satisfy the young boy racer in me..."
Removing the sunroof at every opportunity, I was having a great time with the car. A friend helped me perform a basic service, which I can carry out on my own now. A few other modifications were made to satisfy the young boy racer in me, with a 924 Turbo bonnet added and the larger 944 spoiler fitted to the rear hatch.
With the honeymoon period over, a few things started to go awry. I was preparing to join the M4 from the A48, progressing up the sweeping slip road, listening to Rush Exit Stage Left. A suitable album, as at this moment the left rear brake pretty much did the same. The Armco loomed large, my tan coloured shorts a darker shade. I didn't crash in the end but the rear wheel literally had 5cm of play in it.
I thought it was a bearing at first, but the garage told me otherwise. Now £216 lighter, it's "sporting" Brembo drums with new shoes and so on. The car feels a lot tighter and the brakes work better of course. My handbrake is almost digital, whereas it used to be like the lever on Get Your Own Back. It was a bit frustrating spending money on drum brakes, but the car had been good to me up to this point, and not having the use of it for a few days made me realise just how much I enjoy it.
I was at the Retro Rides Gathering and took the opportunity to take my car up Prescott Hill climb, with increasing enthusiasm. A few days after attending, I'd occasionally find the car with a flat battery. At first, I thought it was a dodgy electric mirror, after taking off the door cards I found they'd been cut off and the wires just left bare, free to contact the metal door! I guess the sudden changes of direction at the hill climb unsettled the wires, leading me to discover their condition.
However, a few days later and the problem was still occurring. The wiring loom for the alternator is a notorious issue, and mine had both melted & corroded and my alternator packed up. I didn't have the skill level to change it myself, so it was off to my local independent garage for some more attention.
After a new alternator, loom & labour, I was faced with the biggest bill I'm likely to pay. A new rear section for the exhaust is another part I've replaced during the course of ownership. This was thanks to a large speed bump designed for trucks rather than 924's!
This has included a full set of refurbished alloy wheels with new, matching tyres. This has been a real transformation to both looks and handling, as previously I was living on the edge with two mismatched budget tyres on the rear. The refurbished wheels showed up my drum brakes, so I painted those silver.
One of the side repeaters fell out at some point, so a set of original amber ones have replaced the clear set. I was thinking of getting another clear set, and a set of clear indicators on the front, much like Brandon's car in this issue, however I decided it would be cheaper to embrace the 80's ambers!
"On a visual level, the tweed pattern ties in nicely with the black & white details on the car. "
Unfortunately, not all of my attempts at making the car more presentable have been successful. I took on the challenge of repainting the mirrors. After the primer, I applied too much paint so it ran. I started again, only for it to then start raining. Eventually, as the final coat of lacquer was drying, the cat sat on them! Having wasted so much paint and time, I ended up lacquering them with my own tears.
Happily, there were no mechanical issues at all. With ambitions for adventure satisfied in the short term, I set about upgrading the car with 5 stud brakes from a 924 Turbo and Gaz coilovers.
However during this time I realised that wielding spanners is not something I have the patience or character for. My life moved on and my little old car did the same a couple of weeks ago. It's destined to live out its days as a track car and I scratched that 924 Turbo itch.
Will I go looking for the simple pleasures of a 924na again in the future? Having enjoyed over 1000 miles in the first week of my turbo, I'm not sure yet, but now it's languishing at the garage with a leaky gearbox.