The 924 story is interesting: it came to the market with lots of potential, but with a confused identity. Developed as project EA425 it was to be the replacement for the commercially disappointing joint VW/Porsche 914 venture, but this model was to be sold solely within the VW/Audi model range. Porsche did a lot of research and development work for VW/Audi before the 1970s so it was natural that VW would commission Porsche to design a groundbreaking high end sports coupe based around their current 2 litre engine and utilising existing parts where possible.
Porsche were developing their own 928 at the time and there are many design and engineering parallels between the two projects, which enabled Porsche to come up with an interesting sports coupe for VW/Audi, but as the project neared completion a change of management at VW/Audi and a review of company strategy in light of the 1973 fuel crisis lead them to back out of the project. Porsche saw an opportunity to sell the car as their own, snapped up the rights to the project at a bargain price and promptly put it on the market in early 1976 as an entry model in their range, the Porsche 924.
1970s and 80s legend tells us that Porsche enthusiasts wholeheartedly disapproved. The 924 was the Porsche that apparently didn't deserve to be one, the Porsche that never quite was a Porsche in the eyes of those that loved Porsches. It was a VW/Audi with a Porsche badge on it. It was slow, unrefined, the engine was at the wrong end and it was of all things, water cooled!
Certainly the US market Porsche 924 was more expensive, a bit heavier and a lot less powerful (95bhp) than the European version, which did the early reputation of the car no favours at all. The views of a vocal minority influenced what many thought without them really understanding or caring what the 924 was trying to be. They criticised it's performance, (interestingly at about the same time the VW Golf GTI was winning universal praise for its performance with pretty much the same 0-60 time and max speed as the Porsche 924).
At launch the 924 was almost universally praised for its fuel economy, handling, (thanks to almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution) and it’s styling which suggests that Porsche knew exactly what they were doing with the 924, and that they were looking to the future, and not to their past. The 924 opened up a new market for Porsche, where practicality, built quality, economy and reliability were more important than outright performance. Fortunately there were enough people who didn't care what the traditional Porsche enthusiasts thought and these people bought and loved the 924.
Porsche unashamedly marketed the car at female customers, perhaps feeling that the more subtle virtues of the 924 might find favour with those drivers who were less hung up about performance figures and the bragging rights they provided. Either way the 924 found its market and became highly successful for Porsche, selling about 125,000 over about a decade of production.
It was a vital and inspired model for Porsche. It kept Porsche alive when the 911 wasn't profitable enough to do so, it provided a basis for the well respected 944 and 968, it gave those who didn't want a Porsche 911 the opportunity to own a Porsche, and for those who only cared for the 911, it provided the funds to develop the next generation of that model.
40 years after its introduction, and with Porsche now making more SUVs than Sports cars, the 924 is finally being recognised as an essential, fundamental model in Porsche history. 40 years ago it was disliked because of what it wasn't, now it is appreciated and enjoyed because of what it is.
The 924 has always had a loyal following, but it's been a quiet, contented following, happy to buck trends and ignore the opinions of ‘motoring experts’ and still today we enjoy owning and driving our 924s without needing to justify our choice to anyone. Now, with the oldest 924s being an unbelievable 40 years, it's becoming clear to those Porsche 924 doubters and to car enthusiasts in general, just what an outstandingly complete and competent car the 924 is.
The Porsche 924 range