Story by Zach Mayne
Photography by Nick Simmo • www.facebook.com/nicksimmophotographer
There is no doubt that the 924 has struggled mightily over the years to earn the respect of Porsche fans. From it's VW/Audi derived roots to its less-than powerful four-cylinder engine, the model just doesn't get the same recognition as other classics from the German manufacturer, in large part because legends like the 911, 356 and 928 cast a long shadow over the 924. Which is a shame, because it's a sportscar that boasts near perfectly balanced handling thanks to its front engine/rear transaxle layout, a smart design that just keeps getting better with age and a low-slung, sporty but comfortable interior. Add a turbocharger to the mix and the model shapes up to be something pretty special.
Matt Chapman, an electrician from the seaside town of Margate, England falls squarely into the category of 924 enthusiast. “I'm going to get shot down for this but I just think it looks cooler than any other 924 or 944, with the exception of the 924 Carrera GT,” he says of the 924’s styling. “Maybe I’m biased, but I dig it.” We dig it too, and we really dig what he's done to his own example, which is 1980 Series I 924 Turbo. He acquired it after a long string of other cars that he's owned, including five VW Beetles and a variety of others, from a BMW E30 to various GTIs and other classics. "One of my earliest memories is my dad taking me to see rallycross," he says of his youth. "I must have been maybe 7 years old but I remember it like it was yesterday. I wouldn't say I was Porsche through and through but I am definitely partial to classic and retro cars. You just can't beat the styling, whether it's a 60s Alfa Romeo or a 90s Mercedes, old cars just have a certain something."
Matt first became aware of the 924 two years prior to purchasing it, when he spied it parked at the end of a driveway in what appeared to be an unused state, covered in dust and cobwebs. Even better, it was five minutes from his home. He had always wanted a 924, but at the time his resources were devoted to a VW Beetle. A number of years later though he sold the Beetle and began hunting for the perfect 924. “I thought I would swing by where I saw that 924 a few years ago,” he says. “I was amazed to find to find it still there and even better it was a Turbo. It was exactly what I was looking for.” No one was home, so Matt slipped a note with his number under the door in the hopes that the owner would get back to him. “The guy called me the next day, which seemed like the longest wait of my life,” he says.
When he arrived at the house to take a closer look at the 924, the owner showed up driving a Jaguar E-Type. “He explained that he bought the 924 for his wife around ten years ago but she never got on with the dog-leg gearbox and it was time it had a new home,” recalls Matt. In the meantime the E-Type had taken pride of place in the garage, leaving the 924 parked sadly on the side of the house. Despite having sat dormant for years, the owner said it still ran, so Matt finalized the deal and a few days later came back to collect his new-to-him Porsche 924 Turbo.
With the help of a new battery, the old 924 fired to life just like the seller said it would. Once he pumped up the tires with some air and rinsed off the dirt with some water, it was ready for the drive home. “The dogleg box felt awful when I picked it up,” he admits. “The bushes were knackered and it was a struggle finding any gear.” Overall though the car was in nice shape underneath the dust. Even the Dolomite Grey Metallic paint looked nice. “It was actually in really good condition,” he says of the Porsche. “It had a full bare metal respray 15 years ago and only covered a few thousand miles since then. It’s an ex-concourse car so the restoration was done right, with all the correct stickers and labels in the right places.”
Once the 924 was safely in his garage, Matt took stock of what he had and formulated a direction he wanted to go with the project. He elected to keep the modifications to a minimum, with an emphasis on rebuilding the mechanical components of the 924 to stock spec, with a few upgrades thrown in here and there. A compression check revealed that all four cylinders were down on compression, so with the help of his friend Stevo, the Porsche’s engine was removed so it could be fully rebuilt. When the 924 Turbo (internally referred to as the 931) was introduced in 1978 it used the same Type 831 block of the normally aspirated 924. But it was topped with a new cylinder head and different pistons that lowered the compression ratio to a more turbo friendly 7.5:1. There was also now an oil cooler and of course the single KKK turbocharger that provided up to 10-psi of boost. The result was 170-hp and 184 lbs/ft or torque. It was a good step towards dealing with one of the biggest complaints leveled at the 924 when it came out, which was that it just wasn't very quick. In turbocharged form the 924 became a genuinely entertaining car to drive.
With the engine out of the car, Matt set to work rebuilding it. “The engine was completely stripped, the bores were checked for tolerances and honed and everything was cleaned in the ultrasonic tank at a mates machine shop,” says Matt. The engine along with the turbo were completely rebuilt and resealed. “Most parts were direct from the Porsche parts department,” he adds. “The PET files on their site give you an exploded diagram of pretty much every moving part and part numbers, which is awesome when the car is 36 years old.”
Matt has also installed a larger throttle body, a better flowing intake manifold and a stainless steel exhaust for a slight boost in power. So far, he’s pretty happy with the 924’s driving experience, though down the line he plans on increasing the boost and adding a front mounted intercooler. “It pulls really well for a stock engine and it still puts a smile on your face,” he says of the Porsche’s performance. “The whistle from the turbo is addictive.” In addition to the engine rebuild, Matt overhauled the Porsche's aging electrics, rebuilt the brakes and shift linkage and renewed the fuel system, as everything was deteriorating from age.
The worn out stock suspension was replaced with a set of adjustable GAZ Gold coilovers, which made a night and day difference in the car’s handling. Though initially he installed a set of BBS wheels, those were recently swapped for a set of refinished Fondmetal mesh alloys that measure 16x7-inches at the front and 16x8-inches at the rear, which in our opinion look just right on the car. Tires are 195/40-16 front and 195/45-16 rear Michelin Sport Contact II tires. The payoff from the upgraded suspension and stickier tires was significant. “There isn't much that can keep with it around corners, it just sticks,” says Matt of the 924's cornering prowess.
The 924’s interior was in nice shape when he found it, so the only changes here were the installation of a Magnus Walker Edition Momo Prototipo steering wheel, which features a distressed look inspired by Walker's unique take on Outlaw Porsches. The only other change inside was the installation of a TIM boost gauge to monitor the turbo. The exterior of the 924 remains pretty much stock, which is certainly not a bad thing. The 924's simple styling and unique but subtle NACA duct on the hood and cooling slats on the nose all come together in a great looking package. 924s are becoming more classic by the day, which hopefully means we'll be seeing more examples like Matt's coming out of the woodwork.