Book Review: The Porsche 924 Carrera
The book: The Porsche 924 Carrera: Evolution to Excellence
Author: Roy P. Smith
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For those who remember, the Porsche 924 was the company’s entry-level sports car for a time, and was produced from 1976 through 1988. Originated as a contract design by Porsche for Volkswagen, the 924 was based mainly on parts from the VW parts bin, and while the car was initially praised for its styling, handling, and reliability, it was savaged by the automotive press of the time for its poor performance, especially US-spec cars that had to get by with even less horsepower than their European counterparts. Producing only about 95-110 hp, acceleration was leisurely to say the least and disappointed the high expectations associated with the Porsche brand.
Things did improve with the later cars, the 924S and Turbo. However today, as with yesteryear, the car is maligned as a fake Porsche by some, with the engine pumping water, and being at the “wrong” end. Never mind that the model’s sales success, performance not withstanding, helped the company navigate difficult financial straits. The same is true, and perhaps even more unfairly, of the rare, but somewhat obscure and misunderstood, 924 Carreras. While some merely believe it was the 944’s precursor, the 924 Carrera was a Porsche meant for racing, a true homologation “special”. It has been overshadowed and obscured by the legendary 911 models, but Roy Smith’s book, The Porsche 924 Carrera: Evolution to Excellence seeks to dispel that notion.
Smith’s book takes us from the earliest origin of the 924 Carrera species: in 1979 Porsche showcased a styling exercise at the Frankfurt Motor Show to introduce ideas that would indeed shape the look of the forthcoming 944. The 924 Carrera would foreshadow its successor with a wide front end to cover the wider track, the rear width increased through the use of small add-on flares, but after Porsche entered the 924 at Le Mans, it needed to homologate a racecar to meet Group 4 racing rules. The homologation version was called the 924 Carrera GT, and only 406 of these were made, and none were officially imported to the USA, though a handful made it in through grey market importers.
A step up from the 924 Carrera GT, was the GTS. More powerful than the 924 Carrera GT thanks to running increased boost, these models are told apart from their lesser brethren by Perspex headlamp covers replacing the pop-up headlights on the GT, and an intercooler in front of the engine rather than on top of it. Fifty-nine were made in the Stuttgart factory. Last, and certainly not least was the GTR which was the ultimate evolution of the 924 Carrera line. Strictly for racing, and with output of over 320 horsepower depending on application, nineteen were produced, of which nine either raced or qualified at Le Mans.
Regardless, these unsung heroes had favorable weight distribution, handled well, and were reliable. With their additional racing pedigree, it is a mystery why the model has never gotten its due, and Smith alleges pressure from inside the company may have been responsible for killing off the concept. Based on extensive research, including from Porsche’s own archives, Smith’s book leaves almost no stone unturned–the author takes the reader inside the world of designers, mechanics, executives, and drivers by including all types of interviews, road tests, internal documents and notes. The author covers the 924 Carrera’s racing history from the SCCA production D racers to the GTO and Trans Am class 924 GTRs of the mid-1980s.
Smith’s book is extremely well made, with lots of factory blueprints, images, and documentation, some previously unseen, and information about specific race cars. In 1981, a respected car magazine noted that the 924 Carrera GT was “a true road-going racing car. Make no mistake; this is a very serious motor car for serious drivers, truly reflecting its racing parentage”. A read of Smith’s book might convince you that the 924 Carreras are forgotten stars.
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