We were cleaning out some old stuff at the shop the other day and came across four issues of the Porsche Panorama – the magazine for the Porsche Club of America – and discovered four issues between October 1980 and June 1982 that featured the 924 in race trim on the cover. In this four-part series, we will detail each of these issues as it pertains to the front engine water cooled Porsches.
In Part Two, we see racing history being made in the 924 and the 924 D-Production, as well as the evolution of the design of the “new” 944 engine. (See Part One Here.)
The December 1981 issue of the Porsche Panorama featured a photo of a 924 D-Production car at speed in the rain at Road Atlanta – the Herman Miller #54 driven by Tom Brennan. He won the D-Production class over defending champion Doc Bundy in another 924. The weekend was the Champion Spark Plug Road Racing Classic of 1981,
Not only was the 924 present in D-Production, but also in Showroom Stock. While the SS race was won by a Mustang, places second, third and fourth were occupied by 924s.
Buried in the back of the issue is an article entitled The 944 Engine: Why Four Cylinders? It is quite the interesting read, written by Helmuth both, Board Member for Development, Porsche AG.
As the 944 was nearing completion and introduction in late 1981, this article talked about the requirements that the new 2.5L engine was supposed to fill. First and foremost, the new engine was to be developed using the 928 V8 engine. Cylinder head design, valve drive and crankcase construction would be based on the 928 engine. The new engine had to fit in the space already available with better performance and, at the least, the same fuel economy. The engine had to be adaptable to performance enhancements later on, including forced induction.
There were actually two engine designs on the table – a 3.5L V6, which was essentially a 928 engine with two cylinders missing, or an inline four cylinder, half of a 928 engine. To help make the decision, a 924 was fitted with a 2.7L 90-degree V6 Europa engine for testing and evaluation. It didn’t go well. The V6 would have required extensive alterations to the front structure, and the only way to install the engine into the car on the assembly line would be from the top – eliminating the possibility of assembling the entire driveline from underneath as was done with the 924. Excessive vibration and poor fuel economy, when compared to the inline four also were seen as disadvantages.
The 944 balance shafts are the key to reducing four-cylinder vibration, especially when the displacement is well above two liters. Originally called the Lanchester balance shaft arrangement, Porsche entered into an agreement with Mitsubishi Motors to use the technology on its new engine.
After extensive testing, the LeMans race in June of 1981 seemed like a great place to test the new design. The 944 engine, complete with balance shafts and producing 420 HP, was fitted into a GT car and entered into the race. It did well, finishing seventh overall.
The marketplace in the back of the issue featured a 1972 911S Coupe with 31K miles for just under $20,000. A 1964 356 Coupe with 47,000 documented miles could have been yours for just $12,500, and a 1976 912E with rebuilt air conditioning would only have cost you $14,500. Not bad.
On Page 51, Holbert Racing would sell you the bodywork to change your 924 Turbo into a 924 Carrera GT look-alike. The complete kit included front fenders, front spoiler bumper, rear flares, real spoiler and hood scoop – no price was given, but you could send $2 to Bob Russo at Holbert Racing for a complete catalog!
Next Up – June 1982!
Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.