‘The Poor Man’s Porsche’
Not that one would consider the 924 very affordable by the end of the run, mind you – but, then, it was cheap by Porsche standards. In 1986, the Scirocco had grown 8 more valves and was a competent performer – more than the match for most of the competition. Base price had also grown to almost $14,000, and equip one with power options to match its more luxurious Audi and Porsche cousins and suddenly you were close to $16,000 out the door. But it was still a big leap to the Special Build Coupe GT, which crested $21,000 with a few options. While it offered a bit more luxury than the 16V, there wasn’t any improvement in performance from the 130 horsepower NG 2.3 10V. To get more grunt, you had to turn to Porsche.
Porsche’s “budget” 944 had also grown in price, and by ’87 you were looking at – no surprise – a $5,000 increase over the Audi to get a more prestigious badge. The new 16V 944S was even more expensive though it looked no different. So to bring the 944 back to its sub-$20,000 base price roots, Porsche brought back the 924. The car that was originally suppose to be the Scirocco and was, for some time, the bread and butter of Porsche’s sales was a 924 in body only as it now had 944 underpinnings. The Super 924 was therefore a bit of a sleeper, offering slightly better performance than the base 944 due to better aerodynamics of the pure design and lighter weight. Base price was briefly $19,900, so in dealerships that sold both Audi and Porsche products, this was a heads-up competitor to the late GTs. And though they ostensibly had similar missions, they were remarkably different cars. As we’ve recently looked at the Scirocco and Audi, let’s take another gander at what you’re missing with the 924S:
You don’t have to cast a very wide net to get a needy Porsche 924. Heck, you don’t need to cast a wide net to get a pristine 924, either! That fact alone makes the requisition of a 924 in need of restoration not only financially irresponsible, but downright ludicrous. But there are reasons which sometimes defy common sense and logic.
Now, if you wanted to grab a tired 924 that would be special, there are plenty to choose from. A few years ago there was a ’88 Special Edition near me for a song. I still regret not going to check it out. But any late 924S offers a budget sports car with a special badge, and the 944 crossover parts mean it’s easy to keep them going. Moving to the early chassis, there are of course Turbo models that are popular, but also a plethora of special editions – the Sebring, the Martini and the Limited Edition being the most notable here.
Today’s car is none of those models. But if anything it’s much more rare, and that’s why it’s worth a closer look. That’s because this car has the very rare M471 Sport Group Package. While often associated with the Turbo, it was also available but seldom chosen on the naturally aspirated model. The M471 package came with 5-bolt hubs, Turbo 4-wheel disc brakes, 15″ ATS mesh wheels, Koni sport shocks, Euro Turbo 23/14mm sway bars, and the Turbo rear spoiler. Early models also came with a special “S” decal on the hood. With only a claimed 100 imported, it’s one of the most rare configurations of the 924:
Update 12/2/18: This Euro 944 ultimately sold for $7,944.
Update 6/7/18: The seller has increased the price again to $8,944 but with a no reserve $5,944 opening bid auction.
Update 5/23/18: The price of this Euro 944 has dropped from the original $9,440 ask to $6,944.
An interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s GTI is today’s early 944. They were produced at the same time; the waning days of the normal A1 production, while Porsche was at the same time accelerating production of its watercooled transaxle lineup to meet the demands of the heady 80s. There are other similarities as well; the shape is iconic, they have an oversized (for their class) 4-cylinder and a manual transmission. Both are no-frills, relatively speaking; few electronic or power gadgets adorn the interiors here. And both are heralded as driver’s car, with intimate connection to the road and experience through each corner.
But while the A1 GTI is pretty much universally lauded as a legend, the 944 remains firmly an “also ran” for enthusiasts – even within the water-cooled arena. Perhaps that’s because there were much more potent versions of the 944 out there. Beyond the mid-’85 refresh, 1986 saw the introduction for U.S. fans of the new Turbo model, 1987 saw the 16V version launch and a larger 2.7 8V – and, of course, then there were the 944S2, Turbo S and 968 models. Early 944s, then, are about as unloved as the Volkswagen Dasher.
If you’re an enthusiast, though, that means great return on your investment. And like the GTI, it’s not just entry price that is relatively low on these 944s; compared to the 928 and 911, repairs are far less expensive and the glut of examples (nearly 57,000) brought to the U.S. means used parts – or even entire parts cars – are quite easy to find. So while all of them are worth at least consideration, every once in a while a really neat example pops up that is worth a longer look:
Increasingly as some of our childhood (or, adulthood) heroes get priced out of sensibility for weekend warrior on a budget status, there are still some bastions of hope for the shoestring enthusiast. One of the best must undoubtedly be the underrated Porsche 924. As Sciroccos, GTIs, 944 Turbos, Quattros and the like take off in value, here lies a plethora of well-cared for, well-built and fun-to-drive cars that have good parts accessibility, reasonable repair costs and surprising amounts of practicality. Sure, it’s ‘just’ a 924, and Porschephiles will probably poo-poo your choice. So, too, will most of the rest of the automotive world. Their loss is your gain. Try as they might, outside of some very special 924 Carreras, these models that helped to keep Porsche afloat in the 1970s and 1980s still haven’t caught on with collectors.
So today I have two special 924s to consider once again. The first is a lofty Turbo model; finicky even in period, they’ve developed a reputation for lack of reliability and expensive repairs, but then have you ever seen the bill on a proper flat-6 rebuild? I’m going to compare it to the end-of-the-run 924S, and this one is the lightweight Special Edition model, too. Both are quite affordable and both appear to be in great condition, so which one is the winner?
There aren’t too many period-correct tuned Volkswagens that we get to see. Those that do turn up are usually home-brewed, and consequently usually aren’t built to a high standard.
Today’s is something special, though.
Finding a clean first generation Scirocco is difficult enough. This one also happens to be one of the limited Champagne Edition cars, though you’d not know it unless I told you so, because so little of the original outside of the silhouette remains. From top to bottom, this Scirocco has been through a whirlwind of changes. But this car is far from a garage project, as some of the more legendary VW tuners in the U.S. had their hands on it since it was close to new. This car was the original test bed for the Santa Clara speed shop New Dimensions, and features some of the best items you could source. New Dimensions bought the production rights and experience of Callaway Turbo Systems in the mid 1980s, and continued to offer turbocharging for Volkswagens into the early 2000s. The result, after a painstaking period of rebuilding it, is a nearly flawless execution and one of the best tuned VW 2-doors out there:
Edit 9/30/2017 – The asking price has dropped to $11,995.
Back in June and into early July, I spent some time covering the various iterations of the 924. In each case, there was something unique or interesting about each variation of the model generally overlooked in Porsche history, but nonetheless important to the survival and success of Porsche as a company. Paving the way for the 944 model, the 924 was an efficient, reliable and (reasonably) affordable premium sports car that lived through an economic and resource crisis period. Without it and the subsequent 944/968, Porsche may well have been forced to close its doors a few times.
I looked at a 924 Turbo a little over a month ago. 931s are broken into two periods – Series 1 (launch in ’79 -late ’80) and Series 2 (’81-’82). Series 2 cars all had the 5-lug, 4-wheel disc upgrade that only some of the Series 1 were equipped with. Additionally, they had a revised ignition system, improved intake, higher compression pistons but a smaller turbocharger. The transmission was shared with the B2 Audi inline-5s. They were mostly loaded examples, so like this one they have power windows, locks, mirrors, air conditioning, rear wiper and sunroof. Outside of the wheels, these changes were mostly invisible to the eye, and generally speaking don’t make a difference in the value of the vehicle. What does is condition, and when you’re looking at a 924 Turbo you want to buy the best one that you can afford. Is this the one?
Update 1/17/2019: the seller of this clean 924 apparently hasn’t had any luck selling it, and it’s back on eBay with a $4,500 asking price today.
Update 8/11/2017 – the Buy It Now has been lowered to $6,500.
Another 924? Sure, but there were so many special models during the production run that popped up that they could occupy most of a week alone! Recently, I’ve looked at a ’87 924S, a modded ’78, a Carrera GT replica and a clean ’80 Turbo.
Today is one that’s slightly different in that, at least on the surface, it’s not a special edition. However, what is interesting about this car is that it appears to have several of the items from the ’81 Weissach Commemorative Edition. One of the 2,100 1981 924s imported, the Platinum color, mudflaps and two-tone ATS wheels seem to match the limited model. Is it one, after all?
I’m going to continue my string of 924s with an interesting 1978 today. This car represents the early run of the original design. It was a simple, no-frills, lightweight sports car – in essence, what Porsche was all about. However, Porsche’s headlining cars had moved on to powerful 6- and 8-cylinder designs, and turbocharging ruled the roost in performance options – so the EA827 derivative normally aspirated 4-cylinder from corporate partners Volkswagen and Audi was selected. That relegated the 924 to only about 100 horsepower, but with good handling and excellent aerodynamics they were still entertaining – albeit relatively slow – drives.
And, at less than $10,000 new, they were an affordable sports car with good build quality and a name established in winning prestigious races around the world. Yet, as Porsche does, sales success didn’t stop them from launching marketing-targeted limited production models nearly every single year – and charging a lot more money for them with options (up to around $15,000!). Today, if you want to collect an early 924, they’re generally the ones to grab. 1976-7 saw the Martini World Championship cars, while in 1978 you could have the Limited Edition model, and in 1979 the Sebring model. There was a 1980 Le Mans edition and further specials that we’ve seen, too. Along with the addition of the Turbo to the lineup in 1980, then, there generally isn’t much of a call to look at a non special edition early 924. But, this is one that might buck that trend….
It’s always a little interesting to find something rare in the German world. The 924 Turbo does qualify as a bit rare; only about 6,800 of the early turbocharged models made it to the U.S., and the 1980 model year represents about half of that total. But teething problems, low residual values, higher cost of ownership and maintenance and the some 36 years that have passed since this car was produced mean there aren’t a huge glut of nice 924 models out there. But this car has something a little more unique than the already unusual 931. This particular car appears to have been modified in period utilizing Al Holbert’s D-Production body kit and magnesium BBS wheels. Rare? You betcha.
First year model. Undiluted European specification. Rare non-sunroof. Rare air condition delete as well. Paint to sample. Pascha interior. Clean history. Under 100,000 miles. Overall great condition. Were these the statistics for a model named “911”, the price would be through the roof already. Yet while enthusiasts bemoan the increasingly unreachable air-cooled variety of Porsches, their water-cooled brethren remain steadfastly affordable – at least, for the time being. Let’s take a look at this 1982 European-specification 944: