Stop for a moment and consider the plight of the Porsche 924. If ever there was a car that was born on the wrong side of the blanket, the 924 is it.
Coming onto the scene as a 1977 model, the 924 was Porsche’s first attempt at a conventional, water-cooled, inline 4-cylinder car. The 924 was created to replace the 914, which had suffered under the stigma of its Volkswagen heritage — the factory couldn’t even manage to put a Porsche crest on its nose.
The new 924 had the same problem. VW had asked Porsche to design a sports car using an Audi engine, but they then rejected the 924 in favor of their own front-wheel-drive design.
Porsche got the 924 back from Wolfsburg with a rather anemic 95-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine, a 4-speed manual transmission and drum brakes on the back end. For that, Porsche wanted to charge buyers $9,395. For $14,995, you could have a new 911S.
Matters improved a little over the years, with a 5-speed transmission and 110 horsepower starting in 1978, and then a turbo version for 1980 with 143 horsepower. Yet buyers noticed that a Turbo 924 would cost you $20,875 — compared with $27,700 for a new 911SC. For Porsche buyers, that was no contest.
The 924 reborn
Perhaps mercifully, Porsche pulled the plug on the 924 at the end of the 1982 model year, replacing it with the more attractive and powerful 944. But the 924 story wasn’t quite over yet. The model continued to be produced in small numbers for the world market, and in 1986 Porsche upgraded the 924 with the 2.5-liter engine from the 944.
The new combination was known as a 924S, and it arrived in the United States as a 1987 model with 147 SAE net horsepower. In its final year, the 1988 924S was rated at 158 horsepower — thanks to exhaust improvements. Those numbers were the same as the base 944, but the 924S cost $19,900 compared with $25,500 for the 944. Of course, by then buyers could also choose the more powerful 944S at 190 horsepower, or the 944 Turbo with 217 horsepower at commensurately higher prices.
Without its return as the 924S, we could close the book on the 924 as another example of bad corporate decision-making in the 1970s. But 6,947 924S models were imported in 1987, and another 2,190 in 1988. Those cars are both cheaper — and actually a little faster — than the comparable 944. The 924 had always used a rear-mounted transaxle for great balance, and by 1987 it had four-wheel disc brakes as well. If you ever liked the look of a 924, the 924S is the one to have.
Which brings us to a recent sale. The 924 was always more popular in Europe than in America, and H&H sold this exceptionally clean 1988 example in November for £6,160, the equivalent of $9,745. But remember that the British spend a pound the way we spend a dollar, so the amount is really closer to $6,000 in an apples-to-apples comparison.
This means that you can get 944 performance for much less than the comparable 944 price tag if you’re willing to dance with the plain girl.
Fun with a credit-card car
The SCM Pocket Price Guide still lists the 924S as a $3,000 to $3,500 car, and recent online sales activity shows most examples trading in that range or somewhat higher, up to about $5,000.
There’s no reason to think that these prices will change much in the near future, so you can afford to wait for just the right car — and that’s the definition of an affordable classic. ♦