Tire Kicking: 1977 Porsche 924

1977 Porsche 924

I have been scheming a way to gain Porsche club membership on the cheap for a while now. Our local chapter does a lot of fun driving events during the year and I know that as long as I can prove that a Porsche resides in my garage that they have to let me tag along. 356s and vintage 911s have officially become out of reach, so I have focused my attention on the lesser models. 914s, 944s, and yes, even the lowly 924. So, when this one showed up craigslist for $1k, I wasted no time before contacting the seller!

924 side

The young lady that owns it told me that it was purchased by her parents but that she hadn’t been driving it much lately. It was too dark to get a good look at the car in the apartment parking lot so I asked if I could take it for a spin. She was worried that it might run out of gas, so I offered to put a gallon or two in the tank in return for her time. She obliged so after fiddling with the keys in the dark cockpit of the Porsche, I was on my way.

924 interior

People always discount these cars because the engine sits in the front instead of out back where it should be in a proper Porsche. That may be true, but I appreciate them for what they are. They are a well balanced sports car with a P-car badge on the hood and a low price tag. The “real” Porsches may get you more respect, but that is mainly because they cost so much. This car may not deliver the full experience, but it is still surprisingly fun to drive. They handle well and although some people have complained about the power, I thought it was quite peppy. I suppose your perspective is always better when you go into something not expecting much.

924 gauges

The brakes did give me a little bit of a fright on first use though as the pedal went fairly low to the floor. After being sure that there was some brake there, I headed to the gas station. All the dash lights were burnt out and one of the headlights appeared to be too. It was a dark night, so I was looking forward to the bright lights of the gas station. I jumped out to take a look at the body as soon as I arrived since rust is always my main concern. The body looked surprisingly good though. A few dings and nicks here and there, but no cancerous rust that I could find.

Audi inline 4

That gave me hope, so I went ahead and popped the hood. The Audi sourced engine looked good. Well, it looked complicated when compared to what I have been driving lately, but I figured that if it was running well now that it could be made to continue to do so. I started to check the fluids to try to determine the condition of the internals. I was shocked when I pulled the oil dipstick though. Where one would expect to find golden yellow clear stuff or even dirty black stuff, I was looking at a creamy yellow substance. Hmm. Strange.

Creamy oil

My first thought was – bad head gasket. Then that terrible theory was confirmed when I checked the coolant tank. More of the creamy yellow stuff. A leaky head gasket was obviously letting the two mix and that is never a good thing. When water gets in the oil it looses it ability to lubricate and will eventually ruin the engine. Well, that is if it doesn’t overheat first. Right then, I felt very grateful for the fact that I know how to do simple things like check the oil because this could have been an expensive mistake. I quickly jumped into the car and headed back to the seller’s place to deliver the bad news.

924 rear

The seller claimed to not know about the issue and I felt bad for her predicament. She asked what the junkyard would give her for it and I replied that they might give her a couple hundred dollars. What a shame though because the rest of the car wasn’t too bad. I passed on it because it was a smoker car and I didn’t want to deal with that head gasket right now. Maybe I shouldn’t have though. Josh and I were just joking that perhaps I should have paid her $400 and stuck it in a storage unit. I would have the required VIN to join the club and then I could just take the wagon or maybe an old Beetle to the driving events. I’m sure all the Porsche guys would have really appreciated that!

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Comments

  1. Tirefriar

    Jesse, this is a tough one… Unloved, you can find a very clean example for about $5k, sometimes even less. As the rising tide floats all boats, so too the P-bubble is affecting all models across the board meaning these are firming up a bit as the least expensive car to carry a P-car factory VIN. I’d go with your plan B and offer her $400, put the car into a nice dry storage spot at the house and continue with life. This price point gives you an option to dabble with repairs at your leisure or if time will not allow that, you can always flip it. This is a good bones car and is certainly worth a grand just in parts alone. Given how rust free cars are not exactly an easy find in your neck of the woods, I just can’t see how you can go wrong with plan B

    • Woodie Man

      its just a head gasket! Give her a couple of hundred dollars and take the flyer.

  2. NOSLEEPATALL

    Not sure how badly you want to join the Porsche club but, I saw a Beetle that would definitely turn heads of the Porsche owners and it has a 930 transaxle in it. So it is part Porsche already :P
    http://nosleepatall.com/best-v8-swap-vw-beetle-ever/

  3. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Probably SHOULD have made an offer. Parts availability is decent and they can be built to give a fair bit more power, especially if emissions aren’t a concern. I had a 77 for 3 years in the early 90’s and it was a fun car.

  4. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    Uh-huh… I agree on the $400, or a bit more..

    But before I stored it, I’d warm it up, drain the oil and water, and refill including top gasket sealer , put a cardboard in front of the radiator, and let it idle for a while …and see what results are you might get lucky in sealing the leak………rather than leave a lot of oil/water mix in the inside of the engine, because it eventually will separate from the oil and rust the inside of everything. If you can’t stop the leak, run pure antifreeze for a while and get it warm/hot, then drain it, and the rust inhibitor will help stop rust while it’s in storage.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      +1 on the freshen fluids before storage… AFTER checking on the cooler thing.

      Some smart guys here…. Good advice all.

  5. tom999p

    It looks similar to the Martini & Rossi of the same year. Coincidentally, two years ago, there were three M&R cars for sale in my area at the same time….

  6. Fred

    My one experience with the P club some 30 years ago in a krappy 1964 356 with VW power is that they are cliquey (is that a word?) It was kind of an “outlaw” car before that was a thing. They also made an extra effort to deride my driving skills, which may be true, but it seemed more of an effort to keep the riff raff away, which it did.

    Still for $400, pull the engine, get rid of all that smog stuff, you might have a pretty nice car. Just have to keep if for many years before you could recover your money.

  7. Marc Lawrence

    Every “marque” has it’s share of officious a-holes – U just find the cream of the crop in most P clubs – JMO – Why I don’t join clubs. That being said – the 924 was a nice looking and good handling car – with cheap crappy looking interior – and a bit weak in the power dept. Also a bit pricey to repair DIY or shop. Maybe the 924 isn’t as bad being VW/Audi based but my experience with a VW Dasher(?) wagon wasn’t the best. I did have a 411 which was actually pretty cool and a couple hot bugs. I would suggest a Ghia but they are pricey now as well. Being relatively poor and young I opted for a new 72 Z and then a 79ZX and later a couple more. Still have an 85Turbo and also a 91 S13. Find a nice Z or S13 and u will have more fun and less headaches and less a-holes if u find a good club. I like my S13 better than all the Z’s I have owned but I still love my Z’s.

    • Tim H

      Yup I have a 72 240Z and a Miata. I love the people in the Zcar club and I love driving the Miata. It is a great blessing that the Zcar people don’t run me out when I show up in my Miata.

  8. John

    I had owned a 98, 944 Turbo up until a couple of years ago. Inline with this one, I agree, an offer should have been made, repairs/restoration when you can afford it, keeping all receipts. They have other issues too, the serpentine belt will end engine life sooner then a leaking head gasket. They are expensive to have done, then after a few hundred miles, it needs to be rechecked for adjusting. Suspension, joints, breaks, etc. Once they are road worthy, slip it into 5th gear, feel the car hunker down to the road and your off to the races. My next Porsche will be the 928 and will probably pick up another 944.

  9. Robert J.

    I’m still seeing 914’s in the $2,000 range.
    The Porsche Club can do what they like and I could care less.
    924’s look worthwhile to me, however I am surprised at how many running 944’s I see in the SF Bay Area. I think they are the car to get as you will have both balance and power. Bigger headache under the hood yes, that as well.

  10. Maestro1 Member

    Jesse, i agree, this is a tough call. I think your idea of offering $400 and seeing if you are an owner at that figure would of bought you a ton of engineering and fun, as well as about $2000. in engine work (a head figure; I have no idea of it’s real but at $400 what have you got to lose?) So I would buy it anyway. I wonder if 911s for example are realistic in these times of congestion and what will sure to be escalating fuel costs in future if for no other reason than greed. And 924s are cheaper to fix.

    Regarding Car Clubs: There’s no reason for hostility. I am a member of the clubs whose marques I own and Hemmings because they are all great for parts and advice. I don’t participate in events because business even at my age keeps me away but even if I was retired I would not. That’s not the point. I have a lot of acquaintances in the hobby through the Clubs who are very willing to help when something goes South and nobody can figure it out (Italian wiring, British leaks in the driveline, American refusal to start on a cold or hot engine) So I think they perform a valuable service to those of us who are collectors.

  11. RockabillyJay

    I was looking into a 924/944 for a while..never pulled the trigger, but in my research I seem to remember the oil cooler gaskets being the common reason oil and water mix in these. Look into it..I’d go grab that for $400-$500..

  12. jim s

    the rear window alone is worth the asking price, i think. so there are more then the asking price in parts. go back with cash and buy this. then part it out as a BF project. i wish it was close as the price is just walking around money these days. great find

  13. Ray

    Send me her info……….I’ll buy it!

  14. Dolphin Member

    Rockabilly Jay is right, there has been lots of discussion and advice on the Web about oil cooler seal problems allowing oil/water mixing in these cars. Google something like “Porsche 924 oil in water”.

    If it’s a leaking head gasket, doing a compression test should show 1 or 2 cylinders down. If all cylinders are healthy it’s likely the oil cooler seals are leaking.

    There is a large site for 924 maintenance and troubleshooting that appears to have a 924/944 Haynes manual online. The engine chapter is here [http://www.porsche924-944.nl/manual/Haynes/01_Engine01.htm] and should give you an idea of what’s involved in doing a head gasket or oil cooler R&R. There are also Porsche sites that talk about that.

    The 924 you test drove looks decent in the pics and might be a cheap way into P-car ownership, but people usually report that the engines are not very much fun because they normally run a bit rough/harsh even when new….but that’s a matter of personal taste I guess.

    The good news for the car you test drove is that according to the current SCM Price Guide a ’77-’82 924 in excellent condition is worth $3,000, so there might be a bit of room to fix a good one and not be underwater if the price is cheap and the fix is relatively simple.

    The bad news is that the SCM Guide had these same cars worth from $3,200 – $4,500 four years ago, so they are still going downhill. And they made over 122,000 of them, so they are not likely to appreciate anytime soon.

  15. VeroWing

    You should have bought it. There are very strong odds that the reason oil in engine is “milky” is because of leaking oils cooler seals. It’s a common problem on the 914/924 engines, and is an easily repaired item. The oil cooler is located in passenger side of engine block with a cover over it. It looks sort of like a heater core, with oil flowing through it, and water flowing around it. The repair consists of removing cover and oil cooler, replacing seals on inlet and outlet points, and reinstalling cooler and cover. Flush oil several times, as well as coolant water, and off you go. I’ve personally performed this repair and can tell you it isn’t that difficult nor expensive.

  16. paul

    I almost bought one of these 924 turbo’s years ago, until I called my insurance agent, RIP. I also notice this cars left front wheel/tire to have huge positive camber, so something is up with that as well.Another consideration on these is “P” parts prices, another rip, unless you just using the vin tag to join a mostly snobby club with usually very expensive outings.
    My friend is involved with the mid west Triumph club, it is very active he has clocked nearly 10,000 miles in the last 6 months on tours/ rally’s etc on his very pristine TR6, you can get into that club with a Spitfire.

  17. Darren

    could have had a cracked HEAD too, good job on the pass :)

  18. Rancho Bella

    Jesse………..you made the right decision. I could go on but there would be no point. There is a reason these can be purchased cheap. I don’t care what name is on it.

  19. Jeff S.

    I have an ’83 944 that I like a lot. Sheetmetal on 944 and later models is zinc coated. Rust on these cars indicates the coating was removed during repair. Otherwise, these bodies do not rust. The early 924s are not coated this way. 914s always are rusty and their prices are going up quickly. 944s are cheap to buy but not so cheap to own. Part costs are equivalent to other Porsches.

    If you really want to PO a Porsche-phile there is the 944 with LT1 Chevy swap. Goes like stink and still handles better than an early 911 if set-up correctly.

  20. Clay Bryant

    If you ever need to replace the engine on these,go lookin’ for a American Motors 4 cyl. of the same year.Blocks are the same.(Check out a Hollander parts book for reference)I’ve had three 24s and one 944 over the years and I kinda’ liked driving them.Good road car but not worth a squirt in snow.(Toss in 4 bags of sand in the back end)Who needs “Twit clubs” when you’re just out to enjoy the car.Had a 928 too just to say I had one and wanted to experience it.For God’s sake on them check the timing belt.Lets go and it’s a 3k valve job.They need to be driven periodically as they are one of the cars that can go downhill just sitting.

  21. keith clark Member

    I’m with Ray, send me her info and I’ll buy it. Just have to figure out how to get it to Arkansas.

    • Ray

      Good excuse to check out the states!

  22. Robert J.

    The two assets to consider with any purchase are money and time.
    Money – Will I be upside down after I get this to where I want it?
    Time – Do I really, truly have enough time for this?

    The second, dear friends, is far more precious than the first.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Words to live by. I’ve made this mistake more than once and am still paying for them…

  23. Ray

    Long term project to have fun with,few hondo’s ain’t breakin’ the bank!

  24. Sid Member

    Jesse
    You may consider a 924 as the bottom of the barrel but I have always liked them since the first time I saw one.
    A 924 may not have cost as much new or be worth as much now as a same year 911 but if you had put the difference in price into some Apple or Micron stock you would have been a lot smarter than the guy who bought the new 911 in 1977.
    Probably the same applies to buying a Boxster vs a 911 now too.
    You can use my VIN any time you are ready to join the PCA (Porsche Club of America).
    You would be a welcome addition.
    Like all clubs, there is a mix of many personalities, including a few narrow minded people like the ones that made the comments characterizing members of the Porsche Club.
    Keep up the great work.

    • paul

      Sid, I agree with your statement regarding the mix of personalities, actually I have had some good times at PCA events. I used to belong to the So Fla Alfa Romeo club & every year for 17 years I attended the Sebring 12 hr race, we had a corral around the corner from the PCA. PCA being a much larger better funded group had bleacher seats to view the race & at the start, these seats were crammed with people, by hr 3 it was thinning quite a bit, so with our Alfa shirts on we would try to sit on these bleachers only to be kicked off , by hr 6, they were empty & by the last hour you would see a dozen, maybe, & every year they wouldn’t let a half dozen Alfa guys sit on these bleachers even though some of us would buy PCA shirts.Yesterday the So Fla Corvair club had an air cooled charity car show to raise funds for Alzheimer’s, when we reached out to the PCA to join in , they didn’t return our phone calls. We had 1, 911 show up, 23 Corvairs a dozen VW’s & since we couldn’t get the PCA involved we opened up to other cars.

      • Tirefriar

        The P-clubs sound just as bad the P-forums. Paul, I’m not sure if you are on the AlfaBB. There was more than one comment there from guys who have experienced P-forums and were amazed at how friendly and receptive us Alfa guys were. funny thing is that I just recently sold my 1969 Spider and now have a 944 on my short list of DD cars…hmmm

      • paul

        I had a 66 Duetto for 26 years & 5 other Alfas over 35 years.
        I have moved on to a Corvair turbo spyder, truthfully I don’t really care one way or the other the P club want’s in or not.

  25. Lionel

    Best option would be to let us know her contact information and let one of us purchase it.

  26. Jeric

    I love my 914 2.0 and it will run circles around 911 of same vintage, serous vintage racers will choose 914 over 911, buy what u like and can afford screw the primadonnas

  27. erikj

    old neibors had a 80,s 924-s some kind of euro version. Always liked the look. low miles,garage kept, red and tan int.. I got to drive it once nice driver and had preetygood pickup.never bought one but I liked it. I,m a American iron guy.

  28. Ray

    If it was mine and the motor was bad…………it would be a 383 Stroker in a heartbeat, just sayin’…….

  29. RickyM

    Shame, as the body looks good. Good luck searching !

  30. Chuck Brand

    I’m more of an air cooled VW guy, but is the bolt pattern on the bell housing different than the water cooled VWs? Looks like there’s enough room for any number of interesting swaps. VR6 or, if you have a warped sense of humor, TDI come immediately to mind. I’d pay a substantial portion of the costs for the latter just to see the looks on the faces of the cognoscenti at the first PCA meet…

  31. Joe Howell

    Too bad it’s in Idaho. Euro versions without US smog restriction would give a standard 911 a run for it’s money around a track. Just read a period road test to that effect. For heavens sake buy it if you have the room to store it. Figure out what to do later, fix it, sell it or part it out. But don’t let her take to the junkyard. While they will never be worth a fortune Remember 356s were considered old underpowered rusty junk once too. I own a 1984 944 that I purchased from the original owner with only 22k and an 89 944S2 3 litre version that is nice driver quality with big increase in power and handling. They handle well and are basic fun cars compared to todays gadget filled do it all cars. The 914 is like a go kart, the 924 much more comfortable for road trips. Loads of support groups for them too and cheap parts floating around. Just my 2 cents worth.

  32. Jesse Staff

    I’m surprised by all the feedback on this one! Let me clear up a few things though. I’m not really a car club kind of guy. I get my fair share of meetings and potlucks at church, so honestly the only reason I would be interested in joining any club is to participate in driving events with like-minded enthusiasts. The local PCA chapter has the most active calendar and it is filled with things like hill climbs, autocross, and casual drives. See my motivation? Some have mentioned that they would not want to associate with the fellows in the PCA, but I can say that just like any other group of people there are good and bad. My buddy Sid who contributes here on occasion is a member of the club and he is the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. Everyone else in the club has always been very friendly to me too when he has let me tag along.

    Also, I decided to pass on this car because it needed a lot more than a head gasket. That was just the most obvious major problem and I have enough projects going right now. I would have gladly shared the owner’s contact information to all of you, but we hadn’t come up with this feature idea until after I looked at the car. By the time I contacted her again, she had already sold it to a scrapyard. Shame really, but next time I will be sure to pass on the tip so someone can save anything that’s worth saving. Thanks guys!

  33. Joe Howell

    :(

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