words and photos by derek mccallister

On my way back from work not too long ago I decided to take a different route. The long way home, filled with a few fun corners. 
The 5 o'clock rush tends to be monotonous and just getting home on the highway can be cumbersome. That day I didn't get my standard commuter mileage. As I came up on one of my favorite corners, I downshifted into 3rd and held throttle and then got on it a little as I came out of it. Feeling the turbo spool up, all that nice power to weight ratio, and WHOOSH—the car just picked up. 

It’s a good way to bring a smile on after a long day at work.

As the smile on my face got a bit bigger knowing I wasn't going to have to deal with the 5 o'clock rush, I backed off a little on the throttle and got back into a normal gear and just sputtered along. As I let off the gas, a hesitation came up out of no where. I got back on the throttle, sputtering; then a sudden loss of power. 
“This is not good.”  I thought.

As I babied it home, the car died on me about 3 blocks from my house. Slightly terrified, I started looking for obvious issues; busted parts, broken turbo bits, a fuel leak; nothing obvious at first. As I crawled under the car with the car barely idling, I heard a weird hissing sound coming from the turbo area. Upon a decent inspection I noticed a split in the bellows…that was it. The boot that went from the turbo to the metering plate had finally split after 34 years—assuming it was the original, of course.

With a huge amount of relief, I went online and ordered a silicone intake replacement at the suggestion of our fellow flüssig nut, Dan Beckett over at Ideola’s Garage. But that wasn’t before I spent hours on end trying to order the OEM part, added one to the cart, ordered it, and then was told it was NLA; and they didn’t actually have it in stock…even though the site said they did.

The silicone piece came in a few days and I replaced it, no big deal. Once the car was running again, it suddenly ran incredibly rich. Realizing that I must have had some kind of vacuum leak the entire time, I realized it was running a bit more lean than it should. So I spent the better part of the rest of my day tinkering with cleaning grounds, replacing vacuum lines, tuning the fuel mixture and eyeballing the spark plugs to get “the perfect mixture.” And while it's still not completely perfect, it purrs like a kitten and boosts fantastically now.  Although believe me, since I did it “by ear” it was far from perfect.  Let’s just say it was “mostly just drivable.”

“Sorry officer...You see, these cars make me so happy that my body subconsciously responds with the gas pedal.  Instincts, ya know.” 

As time has gone on, I methodically have had to replace various parts and really catch up on the car’s deferred maintenance. It was bought severely neglected needing an awful lot of TLC, but I knew these cars were a rare bird, a dying breed and something special.  I have a thing for obscure cars—I enjoy things not often seen.  Cars that make you go, “What is that?” or perhaps, “I haven’t seen one of those in years!”  For some reason, that just makes my day.

The steering reminded me of my 911, responsive and firm; just like a manual steering rack should feel. The turn in rate felt slightly similar, but without the reassurance of all the grip in the rear. It was, however, very responsive and solid. With good rubber, it holds its own with no quarrels. Underpowered by today's standards, the power to weight ratio is still preferable at close to 180hp and 2500ish lbs of weight.
The brakes, too, reminded me so much of my 911. Stops on a dime, incredible response, and they simply felt solid; there is no mush, no play, and you can get on them with confidence. It truly brought me back to the days of my 911, but without the weird quirks. In a 911, for example, when you get on the brakes hard enough, the front will begin to lock up quickly.  The 931 doesn’t do that and requires an awful lot force to begin doing so.  An interesting fact I had learned was that the G31 transmission in the 931 is actually inspired by the 915 transmission of the 80s 911s. It felt solid and shifted great; but unlike a 911, it didn't feel like I was rowing a boat. This is truly an interesting car always reminding you that it's a Porsche, but with its own personality and driving behaviors.

Now unlike the naturally aspirated 924s, the 931 is more...thirsty. If you can stay off the boost, you'll find that you can get OK mileage. But sooner or later you'll be on an open road with no one in sight and you'll drop it a gear or two and go,

“Should I?” 
Picture
typical Oregon winter...
Picture
the reward for cleaning the snow of the ole 931? a glass of scotch and a cigar waiting for enjoyment on the wing of my Lambo.
Unfortunately for me, my limbic system seems to bring up too many fond memories and lets my foot do the talking before I can even think about it. My subconscious foot answers, “YEP.” and there goes the mileage. I often wonder; if my foot does all the talking, can I use it as an excuse if I get pulled over? “Sorry officer, I subconsciously thought with my foot…my limbic system made me do it.  You see, these cars make me so happy that my body subconsciously responds with the gas pedal.  Instincts, ya know.” Nah—but it'd still make a fun story.

But what about that NACA duct? People always ask me if I installed that. When I tell them it's stock, people just respond with,

“What's it for?”

and I respond,

“To keep that part of the engine bay cold, it also brings in cold air to keep the intake cool for the turbo.”

OOPS, magic word, TURBO. Then an excited conversation about the car starts because so many people have no idea that a 924 Turbo even existed; it isn't a car that demands attention. They look about the same as any other 924, but with a 5 lug setup if you got the GOOD brakes, and 928 wheels; which look sexy as hell.

"Say the words “Turbo” and “Porsche” in the same sentence, and car fanatics just light up."

My 931 happens to be a fairly beautiful color, what I believe is Oak Green Metallic. I've never seen it on any other Porsche in person. It's not in the best shape; it has rock chips and it's been driven to hell and back…but with a nice buff, she sure does shine up and look fantastic. It never demands the kind of respect and attention you'll need to give, say, a Ferrari or Lamborghini. 

The other great thing about Oak Green Metallic is if you’re driving in the woods, people probably won’t even notice you’re behind them in the mirror without your lights on.  And when people ask you questions about the car, there's always a fun conversation to be had when they realize it's not just a 924, but a 924 TURBO. Say the words “Turbo” and “Porsche” in the same sentence, and car fanatics just light up.
Picture
even though the Jalpa is going in the toasty garage, the 931 doesn't mind...wont' even get jealous because she knows she'll always be my favorite.
I’ll let you in on something even more interesting; they share a some of the same turbo parts as the Porsche 930 (911 Turbo) from the turbo and waste gate. So when the time comes for that waste gate rebuild, you can pop the parts from the 911 turbo in the rebuild mix and change it out for a 1 bar spring and get more boost.

Hang on a sec, a 924 with 911 turbo parts you may ask? Yep! Why? Simple, because Porsche knows that when something works, there's no reason to change it, rather, they re-purpose it. This is what makes the 931 so interesting in that it shares so many characteristics and parts from various cars. And while it may look like a plain 924, there's nothing plain about it.

There is no doubting, though, that these cars are harder to work on; there's a lot to them. Unlike its grown up brother, the 944, with EFI and all the modern day bells and whistles, the 931 sported the 2.0L Audi/VW mixed engine with CIS. So it takes a special person to sort through a neglected 931. 
Picture
the 931's steering wheel was treated to the artistry of my trademark leather recovering
Picture
and here's the finished product
You have to be willing to get dirty spending hours at the top and underside of the car to make it right. Things like chasing oil leaks, vacuum leaks, and various issues with seals that haven't been replaced can be a bear. The occasional random-hillbilly-backyard-wiring-fix that some distant-common-ancestor-previous-owner attempted to do, but had no idea what they were doing, often finds its way in cars like these.  Then to top it off, you'll have all of the hydraulic issues that plagued the 944 with the master and slave cylinder being ancient…except that they are MORE ancient than the 944 slave and master cylinders, so you’ll likely end up having them go out sooner.

I have to say, though, one of the best things about the 924 N/A and 944 N/A is that they share so many parts. Things like the dash, some interior bits, switches, electronics, and the like, are identical so when you need to get parts for the interior, as an example, or any miscellaneous bits, you can go find either of the cars to pick it from and replace it on yours.

It’s only when you get into the turbo system and CIS system that you really need to worry about finding more specific stuff. Even then, it just comes down to making things work and sometimes finding another solution. I found out the hard way when the turbo bellows were NLA, hence my replacing them with a silicone equivalent; which works great I might add.  There are more and more parts now that are NLA (No Longer Available), and that means being crafty and patient enough to find the parts to make it work in order to keep it alive.

Picture
the 931 next to my former 911...it's a different kind of fun.
At the end of the day it's still a 924 because it still feels like a 924 and still looks like a 924. The major differences are that it's actually a fast 924; I dare say a semi-quick 924 sounding a bit different and it feeling more stout and responsive. The best part? You end up with the most sleeper 924 that people expect to be a slow and old Porsche. You hear a hint of the turbo spool up, go to change gears, hear the wonderful “woosh” of the mechanical waste gate between shifts with the satisfaction of knowing it's all yours.

But what do you do with a car like a 931 in the winter? I mean, with a higher power to weight ratio and wider tires, surely they've got to be squirrely and dangerous to drive? SURELY they have to be snappy and hard to handle, right?

Hell no.

Last winter I drove the 931 all the time. Having come from previously daily driving a 1982 Porsche 911 SC in the winter, the 931 was a welcome heap of balanced response. The primary issue with the 911 was that it had so much grip in the rear, with so little in the front that it always wanted to under steer. If the back got out a little bit you had to be ready to get on the throttle and counter steer and work your way out, and quick. Once the back end started to swing, if it wasn't corrected, you were done and your ass was looking where your face was 3 seconds ago and there was nothing you could do about it.

The 931 on the other hand was so much more balanced with the near 50/50 weight distribution that you could toss it around with confidence. You could really get the damn thing sideways. The wider tires helped a bit with the traction if you had dedicated snow tires, which I don't recommend driving without in such conditions; nevertheless, it was predictable…SO predictable. If you really wanted to get on it, you could very easily blip the throttle; and in a lower gear with a little turbo spool, you could easily maintain throttle and very smooth control if the car started to scoot on you.
With the large brakes, stopping is a little bit on the touchy side in the snow. Not so much, though, with good snow tires which I must preach the importance of. It felt fantastic to have a car that still stopped nicely, didn't have freaking ABS, had a manual rack with the wonderful feedback that I WANTED out of a car. I felt confident driving it in the snow…not at all worried, not concerned, just confident. Mind you, not a cocky, “I feel like Mario Andretti” confident, but a car I genuinely felt home in. You see, confidence is important when driving a car in all conditions because if you’re afraid of your car, you're hesitant, feeling a bit awkward and strange. While I had become greatly accustom to the 911 for the past several winters, the 931 was a welcome change. It reminded me of the 924 N/A but with far better steering, far better traction and more... ahem... fun.

I've never felt like the car was going to break loose simply by being in the rain…there's a fix they have for that called tires that aren't bald, or tires that aren't shitty. On the other extreme, I've also never felt like the car was going to kill itself on a super-hot day. It's a car with a stout engine, a stout build and one that car never bats an eyelash at what you toss at it.

If you feel like you can keep up with a car that's like an expensive girlfriend that needs constant maintenance but always leaves you with a huge smile on your face, then the 931 is a car that any flüssig enthusiast can appreciate. They are crawling up on age at this point, but if you can find one, take care of it, and keep it happy, it’ll treat you back with the same. They are truly a great car to enjoy. 

Picture
the great thing about owning a 924? the camaraderie...you're never alone!
Like an aggressive cougar in the throes of a midlife crisis, is how I can best describe them.  Some men have heard strange and intimidating things about them, and maybe at first it isn't intimidating, but then you realize what you've gotten yourself into.  Most men approach and then cower in fear of not knowing what lies ahead.  But if you can keep up with the maintenance, you might end up on a wild ride with a voracious appetite that is completely worth your time; and one that you’ll never forget.  Anyone can get from A to B, but it's more fun if you have to hold on and grab the “oh shit!” handle once in a while.  

With a total of just under 14,000 931 cars ever made, they’re not only a neat treat, but a rare treat to see and drive.  There's plenty of room for modification, more boost, and more power to unleash the potential beast within if, of course, someone wanted to spend the time and money…remember the 924GTR at Le Mans in 1980 putting out 320hp? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.

So if you’re thinking about getting one, do it…these are one of Porsche’s best hidden gems, oozing with rich history and it won’t be long before someone sniffs out a good thing and makes it the next vintage Porsche to collect.  
 


Comments

08/14/2014 19:56

Kudos on the great story. A 924T is on my radar (along with a 928, and, and....) and every owner story bumps it up the list a little higher.

Extra kudos on the Jalpa. So overshadowed by it's bigger brothers, but so very desirable.

Reply

Hi Swade,

Thanks for the kind compliments. The 924T is fantastic and won't disappoint :) The Jalpa is becoming more and more rare with 412 ever made and the number of crushed/totaled/parts cars/lost cars they are becoming more and more desirable (Just like the 924T).

Have a fantastic week!

Reply
Joe Sharp
08/18/2014 19:02

Derek,
I saw this pic on 944online, now it's here, love that car and the Jalpa. Can't wait to ride in both!

Reply
Matt Mariani
09/15/2014 17:43

Great Derek, keep up the good work. I like your taste in cars.

Reply

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply