14 May 2022

More than an old car #191: Porsche 924 Carrera GT

Does anyone feel that as you grow older, time flows even faster? It's already quite a distance into 2022 and I still can't believe that we are getting older at a faster rate. However, this lovely 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GT in stunning Guards Red still looks timeless today even among its admittedly more powerful descendants.

Originally conceived as a joint project between Volkswagen and Porsche, 'Project 425' was intended to be VW's flagship coupe sports car and Porsche's replacement for the 914. VW had no experience in developing sporty cars and Porsche had been doing this all the while: per a deal that went back to the 1940s, Porsche was contracted to develop a new sporty vehicle with the condition that the vehicle must work with an existing VW / Audi inline-4 engine. 

The 1973 oil crisis and various automobile-related regulatory changes led to the scrapping of the project by VW, but Porsche made a deal to buy it back. It already had a rear-wheel drive layout and a rear-mounted transaxle to help provide 48/52 front/rear weight distribution. Under the aforementioned deal, the car was to be made at the ex-NSU factory at Neckarsulm: Porsche would own the design while VW employees would do the actual production line work. The car was mated to VW's EA831 2-litre engine, variants of which were used in the VW Transporter van; many other parts such as the gearbox and strut arms came from the VW / Audi parts bin, leading to lower costs of production.

Designed by Harm Lagaay, it was fundamentally different from previous Porsche models since the engine was now installed at the front. It was described as designed by someone 'who dreamed of a Ferrari all his life but never got one'. The front end was long and sloped steeply with pop-up headlights, contributing to its relatively low Cd of 0.34. As a 2+2 coupe, the rear seats was only suitable for children or small people due to limited space (which was partly taken up by the large trunk capacity of 370 litres). It adopted various styling elements from other cars, such as its rear window from the Jensen Interceptor and the rear quarter windows from the Honda Civic.

Porsche recognised a need for a higher-performance version of the 924 as the base model was noted to be underpowered. This led to the introduction of the 924 Turbo in 1978, which had a turbocharged engine, a NACA duct and 4 slotted air vents on the badge panel. Just one year later, a concept 924 was submitted at the Frankfurt Motor Show to introduce ideas for the upcoming 944. In 1980, the 924 Carrera GT was released: visual differences included a polyurethane plastic front and rear flared guards, a polyurethane front spoiler, a large top-mounted air scoop for the intercooler and a flush mounted front windscreen. There was also more aggressive versions known as the GTS and the GTR, which had further weight-saving features.

The Carrera GT was powered by a 1984 cc turbocharged VW EA831 inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 240 km/h with an acceleration of 6.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Its power output of 210 bhp due to the additional intercooler was the critical difference that set it apart from its regular siblings. With dimensions of 4200 x 1685 x 1270 mm and weighing in at 1180 kg, it was small yet potent in performance. Its fuel consumption of 9.1 litres / 100 km is representative of its high performance.

Production of the 924 ended in 1988 with more than 150,000 made. Just 406 of them were the Carrera GT, of which 75 were in RHD. It is estimated that only about 42 still remain worldwide and this unit is believed to be 1 of 2 that still exists here: it has been here since 1981 (when it was sold by Ngo Hock Auto Spares Co Pte Ltd, the local Porsche dealer back then) and still carries normal registration! 

924s are increasingly finding favour among enthusiasts and some have been imported recently. However, Carrera GTs remain ultra-exclusive and finding one on the market at a reasonable price is a tall order. Its continued existence is a testament to the past owners' undying passion (and funds spent) to keep this ultimate driving machine on the roads today. With its splendid Guards Red exterior paint, it is an eye-turner despite its age. From my understanding, this unit has been put up for sale: if you are looking for something powerful yet extraordinary, this could be the one for you!

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