Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Porsche 924, part 2

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, who 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, previously used in the Audi 100 and Volkswagen LT van and producing 95 hp (71 kW) in North American trim. This was brought up to 110hp (87kw) 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. 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".

technorati tags:porsche ,ferrari ,jaguar ,lamborghini ,lotus ,bugatti ,aston martin,maserati ,alfa romeo,cars,sports cars, exotic cars

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