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924 vs. 924S vs. 944: What’s the Difference?

This article was originally published in March of 2018.  It has shown to be one of our most popular articles, so we are editing it a bit and republishing it.

In amongst the 944 series you find the 87-88 924S.  The 924S isn’t rare, isn’t a classic (yet) and isn’t all that popular.  The 944 fender flares – “hips” –  give it a more aggressive look and the slightly wider track makes it seem more desirable.  I have had a lot of people say, “I just don’t like the body on the 924S…I like the 944 so much better.”

Understanding the history of the model helps you to understand the evolution of the model.  The early 924 came to America in 1977 and stayed through the 1982 model year.  In 1983, America got the new 944.  However, the 924 remained popular in Europe and in other areas around the world, but the 2.0 Liter 924 was finished in the U.S.  With sales of the 2.0 924 continuing, Porsche continued to make the car for sale outside America.  However, the Audi/VW 2.0 Liter engine block was discontinued after the 1986 model year, so Porsche had to decide whether to kill the model or do something different.  They then decided to re-engineer the driveline of the 2.0 924 to take the 944 driveline, and the 924S was born as a 1987 model, then brought to America as an entry-level Porsche.  That explains why the 924S does not have the dashboard/interior, steel gas tank, trans mounting and front suspension upgrades that are found in the same year 944.  

So other than the wider fenders, what are the differences in the two models?  Is there more to it than just fenders and track?  Of course there are other differences, but What are they?

Image result for porsche 924The early 924 is “the same thing, only different.”  Those without experience with the different models often ask, “can I put a 944 engine in an early 924?” or such questions about drive train.  As far as engines go, the short answer (and the long answer) is basically “no.”  You can transplant any engine into anything with the proper application of engineering prowess and cubic dollars, but as far as a bolt-in, they are just not compatible.  The front crossmember, steering, sway bar setup and engine mounts are just different and making the change doesn’t make sense.  (We have never been asked about putting an early 2.0 Audi 924 engine in a 944…wonder why?)

Image result for porsche 924 snailshell trans
’79 924 “Snailshell” 5-speed transaxle

The early 924 used a version of the Audi transaxle in all cars except the 1979 model year. Prior to 1979, the 924 used a 20mm input shaft instead of the later 25mm input shaft, so the drive tube on the 924 NA cars is the smaller shaft that is incompatible with later 944 and 924S transaxles.  The 931 (924 Turbo) used the 25mm drive shaft, so transaxles in them share with the 061 transaxles of the early 944.

In 1979, the 924 got the “snailshell” transaxle with a different drive tube, different shift mechanism and different rear suspension.  These transaxles were not great, not well received and therefore discontinued after the 1979 model year, opting to go back to the Audi unit design.  This was carried forward to the early 944.

Image result for porsche 944 1984When Porsche debuted the 944 in 1982 (1983 model year), it was met with rave reviews.  People lined up at the dealerships to buy them.  The flared fenders, 2.5L normally-aspirated engine and sleek lines made it a hit.  The obvious fender flares gave it a more racy look than the previous 924, and the Porsche-designed 2.5L 4-cylinder engine replaced the underpowered 2.0L from the 924.  At about 150 HP, the new engine provided adequate power for the day, but the 50-50 weight distribution and four-wheel disc brakes were just what the doctor ordered.

The suspension and brakes were carried over from the 931.  The rear suspension used steel trailing arms and “banana arms” and used a different rear shock than later models.  The banana arms were redesigned in aluminum for the Series II redesign released in the middle of the 1985 model year and remained through the end of the series, including the 924S.

Image result for porsche 944S dashboardThe first major redesign in 1985 – designated as “Series II” cars – are typically called “eighty-five-and-a-half” cars.  These are easily identified by the new dashboard and console featuring an oval gauge cluster.  One of the major differences in the Series II cars is the transaxle mounting – the transaxle is held in by a single top-center mounting instead of the older double-side mountings from the earlier cars.  Changing transaxles between early and late model years can be a challenge, but that is for another day.  The fuel tank in the Series II cars is larger and made of plastic, and the front control arms went from steel to aluminum with much more expensive ball joint replacement costs.

Even though the 924S was produced between 1987 and 1988, it kept the older style interior, dashboard and console.  The transaxle also retained the double-side mounting and steel gas tank from the earlier cars, as well as the steel front control arms and VW Rabbit lower bar joints.

Image result for porsche 944S engineAs the 944 Turbo (951), 944S with its dual-overhead-cam design, the 1989 2.7L engine and the 944S2 3.0L engines evolved, the models became more sophisticated and more expensive.  Limited slip differentials were offered in all models, although there was some mild gearing changes in the various model transmissions.  Cruise control, power door locks and other options were added over the years.

As with most Porsche models, the option list and differences increased as the model matured.  In fact, the 968 was originally going to be the 944S3, but when designers and engineers figured out that the new car would be vastly different, the designation “968” was assigned.  It was produced between 1993 and 1995.

While all three models produced between 1976 and 1995 share many parts, it is best to double check to be sure that there is compatibility between years.  As a side note, our 924S944.com 1982 924 race car has a 924S rear suspension, 924S front suspension with reinforced steel control arms, 944 transaxle with the 25mm input shaft and drive tube mated to a 924 2.0L engine and a 931 clutch – all legal, by the way.  Brakes are from a 924S with all brake line rerouted for the front-rear 944/924S braking system.

That is another difference between the early car and the 944/924S models – the brake system.  Dual brake systems were actually a new idea in the late sixties and early seventies, and the conventional thinking during the engineering of the early 924 in the early 70’s was to have a diagonal braking system.  This means that instead of a front-rear dual system, the brakes were divided between Left Front/Right Rear and Right Front/Left Rear, so that if you lost one circuit, you would have one front brake and one rear brake.  While this made sense with the front disk/rear drum systems of the day, things changed as the braking systems matured and four-wheel disk brakes were introduced.  Engineers found that by varying the chamber sizes in the master cylinder as well as the individual piston sizes front and rear, better calibration of the front/rear bias could be attained.  So just slapping later model brakes on an early 924 may not work as desired.

Questions?  Just ask.

 

 

 

 

Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek View All

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.

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