PORSCHE 924 MODDER’S GUIDE…
Porsche’s runt of the litter has finally stood up to its bigger brothers and is now being taken seriously. But it still can’t escape the inevitable… it’s not that quick. Fear not though, help is at hand. Words: Andy Hinks images: Jackie Skelton.
Why would you modify a #Porsche-924
? It already boasts more desirability than most cars dare-dream of. It is a Porsche after all.
A ‘proper’ rear-wheel drive sports car, and perhaps most importantly, it has pop-up headlights! That said, it’s not really a proper #Porsche
; the engine is in the ‘wrong’ place for starters, and in standard from they’re a bit tame to be honest. Not something you’d attribute to say a #911
, but you probably wouldn’t buy one of them to start modifying it (I would, but I’m broken – I doubt a car exists that I’d leave alone). The good news is, as Porsches go, a 924 represents really rather excellent value.
I’m going to start with aesthetics, because that’s likely where most of you will too. Despite my somewhat mean introduction, a decent condition #924
will perform and handle pretty well for what it is. Unfortunately ‘what it is’ is now quite old (both chronologically and in terms of the technology) so it probably handles as well as your mum’s new Astra diesel. The good news is there is absolutely nothing you can do to make a new Astra look anything but horrible, unlike what we’re charged with here.
If I had a 924 I’d make it look like it was in California in #1975
. That may sound crazy (or more likely you have no idea what I’m talking about) but most people will expect or even demand that you make it resemble an ‘80s race car, and that would be rubbish. I love a race car for the road as much as the next guy, and sure, you could put wide fibreglass arches on it (like the #1980 #Porsche-924-Carrera-GT #Le-Mans
car for example) and some big spoilers (think ‘80s Can-Am perhaps?) – all common possibilities are available, though often not cheaply. But I can’t help but see that as too easy or obvious, and a 924 is never actually going to be a convincing race car is it? Porsche themselves barely raced them; that’s what 911s are for.
So what would my plan include, well it would involve imagining an air-cooled Volkswagen on Huntington Beach Boulevard in the ‘70s, and applying that classic ‘Cal-look’ to a 924. In a nutshell: stock but immaculate bodywork, in a single flat colour (no metallics or two-tones), no aftermarket additions or bodykits (save perhaps for a carefully chosen period accessory or two), period correct wheels (which we’ll discuss shortly) tucked up in the arches, and sitting low. Preferably very low. Performance & handling modifications don’t really come into it; not to say that you can’t, but it’s not the priority. The focus is firmly on the look and it’s a very cool one at that.
Whether you want to keep things sporty or agree that a Low-Cal, air-cooled VW-influenced 924 would be amazing, you’re going to want to change the wheels. The issue with this is that all bar the fancy ‘S’ and Turbo models are a fourstud by 108mm PCD fitment, which broadly means either a poor choice of uninteresting wheels (95 per cent of people who own cool old cars that take 4x108 wheels fi t 13x7 Minilite replicas) or expensive custom-made options (or adaptors, but they steal space for dish and therefore ruin your life). The best solution is to convert the car to take five-stud wheels, which fortunately can be done very simply and quite inexpensively with the right combination of parts from other Porsches.
The most obtainable (I suspect) are parts from a pre-1985 #944
(later ones have differences), from which you will require the following: front knuckles and hubs, with the complete brake setup, and the rear trailing arms and the hubs with the complete brake assembly from the back. Brilliantly that all bolts straight on and depending on what spec 924 you have may also be a bonus brake upgrade (most are rear-drums, for example).
Post-’85 components can be made to fi t if you happen across some, but with a bit more fiddling it would make more substantial brake upgrades possible as some came with big Brembo setups. Another top tip here is that the front and rear anti-roll bars from all 944s are a direct fi t so now would be an ideal opportunity to make that upgrade too, especially if ‘sporty’ is your chosen path. With that done, the world is your oyster – Porsches are massively supported in the aftermarket and there are a wealth of wheels from later models, (OEM+ style) to set your retro motor off a treat. For my look, period correct wheels are massively important - I’d be going for the classic Fuchs, replicas of which are now available in more ‘modern’ sizes. Something like 17” with a significant stagger (fronts much narrower than the rears) to allow the fronts to really tuck inside the arches once it’s lowered.
That segues us nicely into the topic of suspension and achieving the all-important lowness. For this section I’m going to ignore which style of car you’re looking to build, as the answers are all the same. The rear will cost you only your time: 924s are torsion bar suspended, so take everything to bits turn it round however many spines you require and put it back together. This is called re-indexing and in popular 924 wisdom one spline will equal around 40mm of drop. Sounds easy, but can actually be a total pain because they’ll very likely be well and truly stuck. You’ll need an assistant with plenty of tea and elbow grease. Ideally do it when you’ve got the rear trailing arms and hubs removed to do the previously mentioned five-stud conversion.
For extreme lowness some shorter rear shocks might be required to stop them bottoming out, or if you’re feeling flush, coilovers are available off the shelf to ditch the torsion bars altogether and go fully adjustable - 40mm increments leave no scope at all for fi ne-tuning your stance. Front suspension is of a very conventional MacPherson strut, single wishbone design, and so is very easy to lower. Either fi t shorter and stiffer springs or convert to coilovers (readily available to suit most budgets and intended uses, or if you can weld/ fabricate a bit, kits are available to convert your existing struts to coilovers).
So it looks and sits how we want it. Some would call that done, but some of you might understandably find yourself thinking about making it go a bit better. Performance figures for 924s are hardly scintillating by the standards of the marque. Your options are a 2-litre 4-cylinder at 125bhp, or the same but with a turbo at around 175bhp. Towards the end of its production life (86-88) Porsche made the 924 available with a detuned version of its 2.5 4-pot from the 944, making around 160bhp. Due to the normal ‘parts bin’ approach of the Volkswagen Audi Group, and the fact that the 924 was originally designed and developed as a Audi/ VW (before the oil crisis led them to opt for the lower budget Scirocco instead) the aforementioned is actually an Audi engine. This is brilliant news for us, as there are some fantastic Audi engines, which will bolt to the existing 924 gearbox.
Since we were talking about wheel fitment earlier and we said that four is not enough and five is better, why stop there? Five-cylinder engines sound amazing and Audi units are available in various specifications (10v singlecam or 20v twin-cam, N/A or turbo) to suit your budget and performance requirements. The list of where to obtain one is endless, Audi put them in all sorts and as I’ve said in other articles in this series, starting with a complete donor vehicle will always make your life easier. I’ll focus on the 2.2-litre 20v Turbo because more is more, but the principals apply equally to the naturally aspirated and single cam variants. For installing one in a 924, handily the inlet and exhaust manifolds are on opposite sides of the engine, which is great for fitting it all in, especially where turbos are concerned. Also the inlet and throttle are on the same side as standard, so you won’t even need to re-route the accelerator cable.
There are no OE engine mounts to put a five-cylinder Audi engine in a 924, so these will need to be fabricated – a fairly simple job of lining up the engine in the bay and making card/hardboard templates before transferring onto steel plate. Even if you can’t weld yourself, having a pair of mounts made up from a decent template would not be an expensive thing to commission. The only real complicated work will come in modifying the sump and the exhaust manifold to clear everything. The 20v sumps are aluminium, which is more of a specialist welding job so if you can’t do that, then a steel 10v item can be utilised.
The OE exhaust manifolds have proved tricky to those that have done this conversion and while they look like they should work, everyone I’ve seen has ended up making one/having one fabricated. Again, if welding and fabrication isn’t for you, there are people out there that specialise in this kind of thing and I wouldn’t expect to pay more than a few hundred pounds for an exhaust manifold. All bar one more small part, and probably the need to route coolant and intercooler pipes, can then be used from the stock donor engine (loom, ECU, inlet manifold, throttle body, clutch, flywheel, all ancillaries, etc.). There is one small part I need to mention which is actually something you’ll probably need to order from your local VW main dealer: the clutch and flywheel for the 5-cylinder engine will not fi t in your 924 bell-housing. VW themselves actually used a spacer plate for certain applications to get around this and the item you need is from an Audi RS4 with the bi-turbo V6. This spacer bolts between your new engine and existing gearbox and sorts this issue out entirely. Don’t forget to bolt this in place before you mock your engine up in the ‘bay and fabricate your engine mounts!
One final point of note on the engine front is that we are not talking about the common #VAG
family of bell-housing pattern here, that’s actually a different fitment – so the regular favourites in terms of engine conversions, like the 4-cylinder 20vT, superchanged G60, or VR6 are not really options. At least not without bespoke fabrication and with the other options available there is really no point. Theoretically the 2.7t and even the Audi 4.2 V8 would bolt up, IF you could fi t it all in (and account for the weight) – I’ve seen at least two that I can recall that have been converted to small block Chevy V8 power, so it’s definitely possible if you’re skilled/brave/rich enough.
Throughout this piece I’ve found myself saying “here are some good ideas…” shortly followed by, “but here is what I would do… (something daft).” Well in the engine department I would genuinely be looking at a big smoky diesel, with a silly great turbo. I love diesels and Cal-Look VWs with smoky motors with that distinctive note and aroma, suits the theme in my opinion. I wouldn’t even run an exhaust to the rear, but have it exit via the front wing giving more clearance underneath for lowering. Options include, but are by no means limited to, the whole range of 1.9 TDis (AAZ, 1Z, AFN) and even a 5-cylinder diesel from an #Audi
100 or early #Volvo
V70 . With what I imagine to be a very low drag coefficient and a frugal yet torquey tuned TDi, my imaginary modified 924 has all the practicality and daily usability (assuming all the roads you frequent are flat) to match the fantastic Low-Cal look. I’ve almost talked myself into doing it…