40 years of transaxle Porsches

Think about significant car debuts in 1976 and you will probably imagine the Golf GTI, progenitor of the hot hatch. You may not think of the Porsche 924 because, well, it's never really enjoyed the best reputation.

Arches there to house 12-inch wide (!) rear wheels
Arches there to house 12-inch wide (!) rear wheels
The various jibes are part of motoring folklore now but it shouldn't be forgotten how significant - nor indeed how talented - the front-engined, rear-wheel drive Porsches were and remain. Remember that back then the aim was to replace the 911... So to mark 40 years of the transaxle Porsches in 2016, a raft of anniversary events will be taking place, much like the 911's 50th a couple of years back. Which also means if you have one of the four models and have noticed prices creeping up recently, it's surely worth keeping hold of the car for a little longer!

The 40th anniversary was launched last week at Silverstone, with arguably the most exciting project of them all: a restoration of the 924 Carrera GT Le Mans car. Yes, 35 years after it last competed and 33 years after it was put into the Porsche Museum, the #2 924 is to be 'sympathetically restored' by four Porsche Classic Partner Centres. They've allocated six months for the restoration...

As is often the way with racing cars, this 924 has a fascinating history. For the 1980 Le Mans 24-Hour, Porsche AG ran three 924s in the national liveries of Britain, Germany and America. It was in fact the initiative of Michael Cotton, UK PR man at the time, to convince Porsche that it was worth entering cars that wouldn't really have a chance of winning outright against the prototypes.

Front end has seen better days!
Front end has seen better days!
The car itself remains very special though. Under the project code 937 - another product number for the Porsche nerds - the 924 was made into a Le Mans racer under the watch of Norbert Singer. Power was upped to 320hp from the road car's 210, the brakes were from a 917, the titanium driveshafts were off a 935 and the car weighed just 930kg, 250kg less than the road car. Originally set to be driven by Derek Bell, Andy Rouse and Tony Dron, Bell eventually had to race for the American team.

The two remaining drivers were at Silverstone last week to see the car again and share their stories of the race. Rouse took the first stint and was using the tree tops to see where the track was going because the rain was that torrential (!). Dron describes it as a "very underrated car" with "superb" handling, so hopefully we can see him back behind the wheel with the work complete.

The restoration is being shared between the Official Porsche Centres at Glasgow, Hatfield, Leeds and Swindon. The biggest task that appears to face them at present is working out what was done to the car between the end of Le Mans in 1980 and its arrival at the Porsche Museum two years later. It currently has no fuel tank, incorrect wheels and a completely reworked intake system. The drivers will tell you that damage certainly wasn't them either!

Cage, manual, no airbag - proper!
Cage, manual, no airbag - proper!
But what a way to kick off the transaxle Porsche celebration. It's also believed to be the only Porsche factory racing car to have competed with a full Union Jack livery, so it must be worth rescuing purely on that basis. We'll keep you posted as there is more news.

Moreover, there's another restoration competition between the dealers, as there was for the 911 plus the Turbo and Targa models. There are 19 of the 35 dealers signed up, with everything from 924s to 928s with 968 Club Sports, 944 Turbos and plenty more in between. Expect regular updates on their progress as the anniversary year progresses. There's surely plenty of pride at stake...

Though the transaxle cars are unlikely to ever match the 911's heady heights of covetability, this anniversary should serve as a good opportunity to remind ourselves just how good those cars were. Now where can we borrow a 968 CS from?


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (55) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Gecko1978 07 Dec 2015

    Ok I dont own a porsche and have never driven one. yet they are my favorite car of all time. 911 turbo in black oneday please. But also how about a 928 GTS manual in seal gray, or a 968 CS in Riviera blue or a 944 Tbo in white with telephone dial wheels. or a 924 CGTS in Red Loard March style....you just can't say the same about the boxster. Cayman in close but another 968 CS would be amazing but I suspect impossible these days like the Toyota GT86 a FE RWD coupe needs way more than 200bhp to lug about saftey rubbish

  • J4CKO 07 Dec 2015

    I think the 924 and 944 are blighted as a "cheap Porsche" when in fact they are decent cars in their own right, whilst everyone whips themselves into a frenzy over old Escorts and end up paying 15 grand for one because it has a 2 litre Pinto in it, you can have this,#


    For 2 and a half grand, possibly less, ok it isnt an RS Escort but they are faster, better built and drive better, plus they are still cheap, you can still get a 924 for a grand if you look hard enough it has a Porsche badge and is a classic but is largely ignored, Capris are more expensive, even ones with a wheezy 1.6 Pinto.

    What I am saying is they are a bargain classic if you are happy to avoid something without the scene tax.

    968 Club Sports are nice but the boat has sailed on those long ago, 944 Turbos are getting expensive but not when you compare them to a 911 of the same vintage.

  • MarvinTPA 07 Dec 2015

    Many many years ago I owned a 924 turbo. I've never owned anything else since that was able to change direction so quickly, it was a car that I didn't drive, I wore. From just 170 horsepower with a huge turbo lag I could make 100 miles of Cornish or Devonian A roads disappear very quickly. My 924 wasn't in the best of condition either. I happily put up with the door seals that squealed like banshees over 60 mph, the strange well in the rear that could hold a gallon of water unless reglarly emptied, the rear lights that liked to do the same ( I drilled little holes in the lenses in the end ). The front lights that liked to make a show of popping up or down by doing this several times before deciding on where they wanted to be. The windscreen wipers that loved being intermittent even when off sometimes.

    All was forgiven on the next corner, the next overtake.

  • Cheburator mk2 07 Dec 2015

    I own a 928 GTS Manual, a 928 GTS race car and a 944 Turbo S race car. I also own quite a modified 996.1 GT3 CS.

    This coming weekend the 944 and 996 will be at Rockingham. I will be in the 996 kettle, and my co-driver from the CSCC will be in the 944. I am actually genuinely worried that I will have my arse handed to me on a plate by the jumped up RWD VW wink

  • Debaser 07 Dec 2015

    I used to have a 944 turbo SE. I absolutely loved driving it, such good fun to drive fast!

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