Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Unloved, The Porsche 924

Almost gone and mostly forgotten is the 924, the unloved bastard child of Porsche and VW.  If it were human it would have serious mommy issues and require years of Jungian psychotherapy to sort out all its feelings of abandonment and neglect.

The Porsche aficionados, those that turn up their collective noses if you do not pronounce the marque as "Porsch-ah," would prefer the car to just go away.  They argue that it has too many VW parts, the engine was used in the AMC Gremlin, and the transmission was from a VW Bus.  All true, but what they won't admit, ye, what they cannot admit, even in the darkest places of their cold beating Teutonic hearts, is that the 924 is a better car than the 912, 914, and the VW Beetle derived 356. 

The 924 was originally developed by Porsche as a flagship sports car for VW.  To cut costs, it used a number of off the shelf parts from the VW stockpile.  This included the 2.0 liter engine used in the VW Dasher, various Audis, and the AMC Gremlin.  The transmission was from a VW bus, which gave it two advantages--it was strong and reliable, and it could be mounted in the rear, giving the car a perfect 50/50 weight distribution.  

Think about that for a moment...  In the 1970s, the only other front engine cars with rear mounted transmissions were the Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona and Porsche's own 928--both good company.  The Chevrolet Corvette wouldn't utilize this configuration for another 20 years. 

The design was so good, that when VW dropped production in favor of the Rabbit based Scirocco, Porsche picked it up and marketed it as their entry level sports car.  It sold very well, becoming Porsche's highest volume production car until the Porsche Cayenne.  The basic design morphed into the 924 Turbo, 944, and eventually the 968, which was built into the mid-1990s.  It got a proper Porsche built engine and serious power upgrades, more creature comforts, but underneath, it was still the same tenacious handling bastard.  

Not convinced?  Just ask the man who owns one, as the old Packard add says. 

For a period of two and a half years, I owned a copper colored 1978 Porsche 924 that my wife affectionately referred to as "the turd".  It was ugly, beat up, but gleefully fun to carve up the back roads that snake along the Missouri River.  Unlike British cars or other products of the 1970s, it was also dead reliable.  It always started, never left me stranded, and on warm, sunny days, with the Foo Fighters blasting, it was everything I love about cars.    

I won't argue with the Porscheophiles, because they are missing the point.  Yes, it can be argued the 924 is not a true blood.  Yes, it doesn't have the power of a 911.  And yes, you won't see one parked on the green at Pebble Beach or Amelia Island.  

The Porsche 924 is a mutt terrier, a pound puppy.  It is a unique hybrid creation that has loads of personality and is always ready to play.  

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