In this case, the requisite number was 400 cars to qualify for the FIA’s Group 4 category. From the outside, it was apparent that this was no ordinary 924 Turbo. The cooling slots cut in the nose for added air cooling were like those on the standard Turbo, but the front fenders were widened and add-on caps were applied to the rear flanks to accommodate larger and wider (16×7 front, 16×8 rear) wheels. An air scoop atop the hood was added as well, along with a larger rear spoiler. Not so noticeable was the windshield, bonded for aerodynamic and structural reasons.
But the real news was under the skin. Placing an intercooler between turbo and intake allowed increases in compression ratio and boost, bringing output to 210 bhp. To cope with the added power, which reduced the 0–60 mph time from 7.7 seconds to under 5.9 and raised maximum speed to 150 mph (18 mph over the street Turbo), the suspension was stiffened. Surprisingly, the brakes were largely left alone.
Orders had been placed for all 400 examples before the production run was complete. Focus soon shifted to the “evolution” version, the GTS, built in a series of 50 in street-legal form but ready for competition. The engine remained largely the same (though some say the power was bumped again, this time to 245 bhp, but still well short of the 375 bhp in the factory Le Mans entries), but the interior was gutted and an aluminum roll cage that provided both protection and more structural rigidity was installed. The 924’s retractable round headlights were replaced by fixed rectangular lights under transparent covers. This time, the need for better brakes was felt —and parts borrowed from the 911 Turbo would fit the bill.
Porsche’s trio of 924 GTRs did well enough at Le Mans in 1980, finishing 6th, 12th, and 13th overall in their first appearance despite serious engine problems that forced their drivers to adopt a slower pace. The next year saw a 924 GTR take seventh overall at the 24-hour race, though this time there was a difference: the car was powered by a development version of the upcoming 944 engine which, with a turbocharger, churned out a healthy 420 bhp.
Almost as quickly as it had appeared, the 924 GT/GTS was history, overtaken by the 944. Though the new car had much of the visual flair of the GT/GTS — and was a welcome change from the clean but largely featureless 924 — the news was, once again, under the hood. The VW-Audi four had been supplanted by a new engine that was, in essence, half of the 928 V8. Equipped with a pair of balance shafts, it was smoother, quieter, and, in normally-aspirated form, a match for the 924 Turbo in output.
This, at last, was the “real” Porsche that buyers had been waiting for. What’s more, it was offered at a lower price than the 924 Turbo, which it replaced in the U.S. Published road tests were effusive, almost free of caveats and complaints. Long lines at dealers ensued. While this became the entry-level Porsche, part of a line that would eventually include expensive turbocharged and open-top models, Porsche focused its racing efforts elsewhere — notably the 956 and 962. When the end came for Porsche’s front-engined cars in 1995, the company was still building 911s.
Opportunities to drive a 924 Carrera GTS don’t come along very often, so when Henry Camisaca offered his (number 20 of 50 built) for a run, I wasn’t going to say no. Camisaca has owned the car for two years since purchasing it from the estate of the original owner, who took delivery from the factory in August, 1981. According to the factory invoice, 110,000 DM was paid for the privilege. Now showing a mere 36,000 kilometers on the odometer, the GTS is remarkably original and is kept in pristine condition.
For comparative purposes, we brought along as original a 944 as you’re likely to see today. John Clinard, who labors for Ford Motor Company’s Public Affairs division during the day and seems to spend the rest of his time enjoying great cars of all kinds, bought the 1985 944 some years ago for his son Jeff as a first car! At the time, it had rolled up a mere 7,500 miles. It was later sold and eventually bought back. By the time we matched it up with the GTS, it had been run for a total of 50,000 miles but felt as tight and new as it had during my first drive in it more than a decade ago. A deeper rear valance and 16-inch Fuchs wheels are the only “major” changes.
But it was the India Red GTS and not the bronze 944 that caught my eye. I have to admit some ignorance of its story beforehand; all I knew for sure was that the GTS was a kind of factory hot rod intended for racing but endowed with some civility, much as the earlier 911 Carrera RS had been. I was more familiar with 944s and was curious to see what this proto-944 with racing credentials was all about.