It’s the Porsche everyone loves to hate. By what’s been said and written about the original Porsche 924, one would think it had square wheels, power by Vegematic and styling only a commissar could love.
Admittedly, it has a proletarian heritage. The 924 was originally a project to be a solely Volkswagen successor to the similarly maligned Porsche 914. However, new management at VW nixed the VW sports car project, but it was promptly taken up by Porsche for itself. The VW connection, of course, explains a lot of things, things like the MacPherson struts from the Volkswagen Super Beetle and VW Rabbit lower A-arms for the front suspension, and Beetle semi-trailing arms, complete with torsion bars and VW 181 (the Thing) halfshafts at the rear.
More things like an 1800cc four from the Audi 100 (sold here as the Audi Fox) bored out to 2.0-liters, fitted with a sohc head and used in the VW LT Transporter and eventually AMC’s Pacer and Spirit. Things like the Audi’s four-speed standard transmission, nominally for front-drive applications, moved to the rear to serve as a transaxle, and Audi 100 front disc calipers and Beetle rear drum brakes. Has there ever been, on paper, a vehicle more unlikely to be successful than this, what one observer called a “factory kit car.”
Then again, this was Porsche. And weren’t the first Porsches, those now fabled in song and story, merely hot-rodded VW Beetles?
Consider also the unorthodox drivetrain layout. Porsche preferred front engine/rear drive for balance, discarding rear-engine or front-drive configurations. Mounting the transaxle at the rear better balanced the car, with a slight bias towards the rear without passengers. But Porsche mounted the clutch at the front (leaving the stock Audi transmission’s bellhousing oddly empty at the rear). With the driveshaft not having to spin with the clutch disengaged, inertia effects on the engine were reduced—though gearbox synchronizers had to work harder.
The driveshaft itself was a mere 0.79 inches in diameter, running in a 3.3-inch closed tube rigidly attached to the engine and transaxle, and having no universal joints. Collateral benefits claimed at the time by Porsche were increased crash safety (all of the drivetrain mountings absorbing the impact), better isolation of exhaust noise from the body (the exhaust system being hung from the tube), and finally, flex in the skinny driveshaft would help absorb throttle surge, characteristic of emission-controlled engines in the mid-‘70s.
The engine was essentially sound, the iron block basically and over-bored Audi 100 with a new aluminum head. A cross-flow design, it was Heron type with the combustion chamber formed in the piston crown, the valves set vertically in a flat head surface. The belt-driven single overhead camshaft directly actuated eight inline valves.
Though the European version developed a reasonable 125 horsepower (this was 1976), the smog-strangled Stateside motor produced a meager 95 horses at 5500 rpm running on 91-octane unleaded. Tested by Road & Track, the 1976 Porsche 924 turned the quarter mile in 18.3 seconds and did 0-60 mph in 11.9 seconds. (For comparison, the Alfetta GT and Datsun 280Z tested with the Porsche 924 did 18.4 and 17.3, respectively, in the quarter, and 12.0 and 9.4 for 0-60 mph).