924s are GT (Grand Tourer) cars. They are designed to cross continents with 2+2 in relative comfort with a boot full of luggage and at the same time handle well. Even by modern standards. They are practical, simple and, despite the Porsche badge very affordable to purchase and run. The perfect practical classic! A well maintained 924 will last indefinitely and will always be comfortable and practical. The youngest 924 is now 25 years old so they cannot be ignored like modern cars, however they don't need to be expensively pampered either. By keeping on top of the faults and niggles as they occur, the maintenance will be painless as sudden major component failure is very rare. Generally after 20+ years parts don't fail they just wear out!
There are 3 major types of 924; the 924 n/a, the 924 Turbo, and the 924 S. All are related and share many components but have very different engines.
For a practical, cheap starter classic with relatively basic mechanics the 924 2.0 litre N/A (normally aspirated) is a simple machine but still delivers the "grin factor" in bucket loads!
Not that quick by modern standards but will hold its own in today's traffic. They can be maintained by the DIY motorist with very few tools and little knowledge of the model. Access to parts is generally good and there isn't anything the determined well equipped amateur can't do on these cars.
Also suitable for the track-day lovers as they are rear wheel drive and even the basic car can shame modern machines as long as there are enough corners to l enable you catch up!
924 S 2.5 litre is a more modern classic (as the S didn't enter production until 1985 after N/A production ended) has a more sophisticated engine with modern performance. Swift continent crossing in comfort made easy and affordable! While less forgiving of neanderthal repair techniques than the N/A, the 944-based engine produced in large quantities means parts are plentiful and help is never far away. This is also the only model with power steering.
For the real enthusiast there is the 924 Turbo - Less refined than the S and some have been prone to the occasional dramatic problem (due in no small part to the spirited use and abuse of "80s man"!) but goes like a 1980's sports car should. Harder to work on and definitely more challenging all round but you can't beat the whistle of the turbo a couple of seconds before the boost catches up...! Hold tight!
The N/A is probably the cheapest Porsche to buy here in the UK.
Under £400 will get you a parts car. Cars at the top of this range ought to run well but will need time and money to gain an MOT. Cars at the bottom end of this range are probably best as spares cars.
£400 - £800 would get you a car that runs, and may have an MOT but is probably past its peak and will soon require considerable work to the body or engine. Be diligent though. Some good examples can pop up in this price range as the 924 has a tendency to be underpriced by those that don't understand them.
Expect to pay £800 - £1500 for a good car capable of everyday use. It will need some work to bring it up to scratch but is a good solid proposition.
Over £1500 should get you a very good 924 with extensive service history.
Over £2000 should buy you an excellent example of the 924.
The S, Turbo and Special Editions would obviously command higher prices but should be assessed on their individual merits. Actual prices can fluctuate according to trends.
For this guide we'll assume you'll be considering a 2.0litre N/A in the £800 - £1500 price range.
When you first drive a 924 you will feel like you are sitting on the floor. It may seem strange and your view of the road and surroundings may be unusual but you will get used to it. The handbrake is on the right, between the drivers seat and the door. The gear lever may seem stiff, especially when engaging first or reverse; this does not necessarily indicate a fault. The gearbox is located at the rear of the car, has a long linkage and, combined with a short shifter, can require quite a lot of force to get into gear.
As with most modern cars, the 924 has a unitary construction. No separate chassis. Therefore the body must be in good condition as localized rust or damage will affect the strength of the whole car and will lead to MOT failure in the critical areas.
All 924s were galvanized from new to protect the body from rust but the early 924s (pre-1980) only had the lower half of the body galvanized, whereas post 1980 cars are fully galvanized. As the body of later cars is fully protected, rust should not be a major problem - but if the car has been involved in an accident, the repair can rust within a few years if not carried out to a high standard.
Look for evidence of repairs to the body. Check to make sure that all body panels line up correctly and that there is a consistent spacing between all of them. Look for signs of over spray on the underside of the car or in the engine bay, and look for differing texture in the paint surface. On early cars the gutters on the roof can rust so check these. The floor pan and sills don't tend to corrode thanks to the rust protection but they still can so check them carefully. If possible jack up the car and inspect the underside. Push the inner sills and floor to ensure the metal is sound.
924s can also suffer problems with leaks. Check for water stains and rusting of exposed metal parts.
Leaks from the sunroof are usually caused by blocked up drain hoses. The hoses allow the water that sits in the drain canal around the sunroof to overflow into the cabin. Cleaning to ensure there is no debris in the tubes will normally solve the problem.
Hatch leaks are usually caused by a worn out hatch seal, blocked up spoiler drains or a combination of the two. The spoiler drains are the two small rectangular holes on each corner of the spoiler. These become clogged up, allowing water to build up & spill over the hatch seal. Replacement of the hatch seal and cleaning the drains will solve these leaks.
Water leaking into the passenger foot well can potentially be more serious. The problem occurs when the battery leaks acid onto the battery tray (located directly above the passenger foot well in the engine compartment) and it rusts out. Eventually, the tray rusts completely through & allows water to enter the passenger cabin. This is a "worst-case scenario". Vigilance is the key!
The N/A has a straight forward 2 litre water-cooled in-line four cylinder engine sharing some common parts with the Audi 100. The unit has been adapted for the 924 to connect to different engine mounts and a transaxle at the rear of the car. A reconditioned engine could cost more than you paid for the car so it is best to find a good one.
These cars may well have been worked hard in a previous life by "80s Man" so basic checks for engine condition should be carried out. Don't let this put you off buying a 924 though. The engines were a well designed, strong over-engineered unit and it is not unusual to find examples in good order that have covered 160,000+ miles!
The 924 engine does not use oil scraper rings on the pistons so all engines will burn a little oil and emit a small puff of blue smoke on start-up. This smoke should however stop after a few seconds. When the engine is warm, while watching the exhaust, have someone rev the engine. No blue smoke should be emitted. If possible, check the engine for blue smoke while it is under load, e.g. follow the 924 while it is being driven up a hill and again watch for blue smoke. If there is any blue smoke walk away. The engine will need major work soon!
If the oil pressure gauge inside the car is working correctly you can check the pressure. When the engine is cold the oil is thicker. Normally this means when you first start the car the oil pressure will be 5-6 bar at idle. Once warm (typically, it takes approximately twice as long for the oil to reach operating range as your coolant does) it should drop to between 2 and 3 bar at idle. You don't need to worry unless the oil pressure drops to or below 1 bar. (If the oil pressure sender fails, typically the oil pressure will hit 5 bar as soon as you turn the key to the on position.)
During your test drive check for a vibration at idle that disappears around 1200 rpm. This may means one (or both) of the engine mounts are worn out. Not too much of a problem but a bargaining point. The mileage on the odometer is not so crucial. These engines can go on for miles! Most cars would have covered over 100,000 miles by now. Unlike some engines (including the S and the Turbo) if the timing belt on the standard 924 N/A should break no damage to pistons or valves will occur as these do not occupy the same space. (If a high-lift camshaft has been fitted this may not be the case.) The belt is very easy to change, so evidence of belt changes is not really important.
Whilst checking the engine take extra care to check the fuel lines for leaks. It is not unusual for the steel pipes to corrode. Replacement of the main fuel lines running the length of the floor pan means removing the complete rear suspension so flexible/braided fuel grade hoses are normally used as a repair. This is not a problem but check they are fitted correctly. A bigger problem is the fuel tank. New tanks for the N/A are well over £1000 from Porsche dealers (no other supply is available) so if a fuel tank leaks it must be professionally restored.
The Porsche 924s Achilles heel! Can have many electrical faults, so check this system carefully! The most important part is the heavy wire between the battery and starter. It passes very close to the exhaust and it is very common for the insulation to melt. This can be dangerous as the heavy cable could short out on the exhaust. Also if the insulation on the small gauge wire that goes to the dashboard battery light running parallel to the heavy cable is also damaged they could make contact. This would cause the light to be illuminated all the time, and drain the battery.
The headlamp lifting motor is prone to problems as it contains switches that can fail. The switches mark the open and closed position of the lights and are totally enclosed and not serviceable. A replacement motor is required if they fail. There is also a relay mounted on the motor that is replaceable. If the headlamps do not raise when the switch is put into the DIP/MAIN position or lower when put in the OFF position try substituting the relay for a known good one and spraying WD40 on the connector. If this doesn't work and the fuse in the box is OK expect to replace the motor.
Another possible electrical problem is with the fuse box located in the passenger foot well. If the battery tray corrodes (as mentioned earlier) water will come straight into the fuse box below! This can affect almost all electrical items on the car and it is necessary to remove the fuse box to effect a proper repair.
If the car is fitted with electric windows check these work properly and the window channels look OK. If the channels become dirty or warped the window motors may be over worked and eventually burn out. If the motor sounds like it is straining or makes grinding noises it may need to be replaced in the near future. Cleaning the channels and making sure the windows are properly aligned will prevent damage.
Check the operation of all other electrical items including the electric mirrors, aerial, heated rear window, rear wiper and headlamp washers as these are often overlooked.
The 924 sits very low to the ground. Stones can easily get thrown up into the radiator. Check the radiator for signs of damage.
The heater matrix valve is located just above the clutch housing and is operated by a cable from inside the car. Check for signs of coolant leaking from this valve. If it has been leaking the clutch may have been contaminated and require replacement soon. Also make sure the valve actually works and the heater can be turned on and off.
Age and high temperature combine to make the coolant overflow tank swell and eventually fail. Check this for leaks. They usually fail around the seams.
924s are typical 80s cars and so the interior is, in most cases, likely to be a worn. The front seats often split along the seams if they are of the vinyl and velour type, but this can usually be repaired for a reasonable cost. The worst part is the top of the dashboard which is made out of a material that cracks in the heat of the sun. If it is not cracked yet you are lucky! Replacement dashboards are not in abundance and new ones are rare and very expensive. Replacement is a fairly lengthy process. Although not ideal, dash covers are a fairly popular solution.
Hold the steering wheel on each side and try to wobble it from side to side. This will show if the metal frame under the plastic rim is broken. As this is a safety related item it must be replaced if you buy the car.
Of course, you should also check and double check the car as you would any other used car. Signs of accident damage, body repair, worn components etc should all be considered.
If after all these checks you have not been scared off your prospective purchase go ahead and strike a deal. If you are at all unsure, walk away. There are still a number of 924s on the market to choose from although they are becoming rarer as more are being broken for spares. Of course this means second hand spares availability is quite good but also means prices are gradually rising!