Porsche 924 is First Produced

The Porsche 924 is an automobile produced by Porsche AG of Germany from 1976 to 1988.

A two-door, 2+2 coupé, the 924 replaced the 914 as the company's entry-level model, and was the model that finally retired the 912. It was the first Porsche model powered by a water-cooled, front-mounted engine to make production, although the similarly-configured 928 was designed before the 924. The front-engine, rear wheel drive arrangement was normal for most other manufacturers, but it was unusual for Porsche, who had previously only used mid or rear-mounted engines of a boxer configuration, all of which had been air-cooled.

The first official appearance of the 924 took place in November 1975 (as a press launch rather than a motorshow appearance) at the harbour at La Grande Motte, Camargue in the south of France. The model was a success and not only helped to take Porsche out of financial ruin, but created the revenue stream needed to continue building and developing the 911. The 924 was replaced by the 944 in 1983 in the US market, but continued to be produced until 1985 for other markets.

For the 1986 to 1988 model years the car acquired the powerplant from the 944 model and became the Porsche 924S.

The 924 was originally intended to be Volkswagen's flagship coupé sports car. Volkswagen commissioned Porsche to design the car (VW project number 425), who developed a fresh chassis and transmission that would work with an existing Audi I4 engine. They also handled the suspension, and the interior and exterior design. Porsche decided on a rear wheel drive layout, and chose a rear transaxle to help provide 48/52 front/rear weight distribution. This slight rear weight bias, despite the front mounted engine, aided both traction and brake balance.

Due to growing concern over the 1973 oil crisis and a change of directors at Volkswagen, they put the 425 project on hold, eventually dumping it entirely after their decision to move forward with the Volkswagen Scirocco model instead. Porsche, which needed a model to replace the 914, made a deal with Volkswagen leadership, agreeing to buy the design for an undisclosed figure—some suggest 100 million DM, others say 160 million—but most agree it was less than the amount Volkswagen paid Porsche to design it.

The deal specified that the car would be built at the ex-NSU factory in Neckarsulm located north of the Porsche headquarters in Stuttgart, the Volkswagen employees would do the actual production line work and that Porsche would own the design. It became one of Porsche's best-selling models to date, and the relative cheapness of building the car made it both profitable and fairly easy for Porsche to finance.

The original design used an Audi-sourced four-speed manual transmission for the 924 mated to VW's EA831 2.0 L I4 engine, subsequently used in the Audi 100 and Volkswagen LT van and producing 95 horsepower (71 kW) in North American trim. This was brought up to 110 horsepower (82 kW) in mid-1977 with the introduction of a catalytic converter, which reduced the need for power-robbing smog equipment. The four-speed manual was the only transmission available for the initial 1976 model. An Audi three speed automatic was offered starting with the 1977.5 model.

European models, which didn't require any emissions equipment, made 125 hp (93 kW). They also differed visually from the US spec model by not having the US cars' low-speed impact bumpers and the round reflectors on each end of the body.
A 5-speed transmission, available starting in 1979, was a "dogleg" Porsche unit, with first gear below reverse on the left side. This was troublesome and was quickly replaced for 1980 with a normal H-pattern Audi five speed. The brakes were solid discs at the front and drums at the rear. The car was criticised in Car and Driver magazine for this braking arrangement, which was viewed as a step backward from the 914's standard four-wheel disc brakes. However, four wheel disc brakes, five stud hubs and alloys from the 924 Turbo were available on the base 924 as an "S" package starting with the 1980 model year.

The overall styling was penned by Dutchman Harm Lagaay, a member of the Porsche styling team, with the hidden headlights, sloping bonnet line and grille-less nose giving the car its popular wedge shape. The car went on sale in the USA in July 1976 as a 1977 model with a base price of $9,395. Porsche made small improvements to the 924 each model year between 1977 and 1985, but nothing major was changed.

J. Pasha, writing in Excellence magazine, at the time, described the 924 as "the best handling Porsche in stock form".

While the car was praised for its styling, handling, fuel economy, and reliability, it was harshly written up in the automotive press for its very poor performance, especially in its US spec cars. With only 95-110 hp, rapid acceleration was simply not an option, but the Porsche name carried with it higher expectations. When the 924 turbo models came out, Car and Driver magazine proclaimed the car "Fast...at Last!" The later 924S had performance on par with the turbo, but at much improved reliability, and less cost. The 81 and 82 Turbos and the associated special variants are garnering interest in collector circles; and while many still exist, excellent examples of the cars are quite scarce as of 2009.

Initial configuration for the Porsche 924 was a 2.0L inline-4 SOHC engine producing 125hp in the ROW (Rest of World) configuration, 95hp in the US, mated to a 4-speed transmission, with solid front disc and rear drum brakes. Porsche then proceeded through a series of upgrades to improve the performance of the car to meet the public’s expectations of Porsche performance. Upgrades involved better brakes (vented discs front and rear), optional sport suspension (including springs, torsion bars, swaybars, shocks and struts), 5-speed transmissions, and more power for the engine. Comfort and convenience upgrades included the addition of AC, power windows, power mirrors, better stereo, optional 3-speed automatic transmission, and the like.

Other steps were taken by Porsche to try to improve the car’s appeal in the market, starting with special editions such as the Martini Edition (also known as the Championship Edition, in 1977), the Limited Edition (1978), and the Sebring edition (1979). Trying to take this effort further, Porsche worked with a few major American dealerships starting in 1979 to enter and conquer the SCCA’s D-Production arena with the D-Prod Kit Cars, known internally as the 933 (the internal Porsche project number). 16 of these were made. Most are still around, but few are still in D-Prod form, as the class was dropped in the 80’s. The majority have been upgraded to GT3 specs for SCCA racing, or GT5 in Porsche Club Racing.

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