By on October 16, 2015

Porsche 924S

The lure of the cheap “exotic” car can be irresistible for some gearheads. Just open up eBay Motors sometime and type “project” into the search bar. Instantly, dozens of cars, old and new, are there to haunt your bargain-hunting dreams. In a quick glance, I spotted a Viper, a Z32 300ZX, and even a Local Motors Rally Fighter that can all be picked up for a fraction of the cost of a clean one.

The problem with any project, of course, is the time and money required to complete is typically underestimated, often by some unforeseen order of magnitude. Many of these “projects” will likely be listed on eBay in twenty years as “barn finds”, in basically the same state — save for entropy — as today.

Take today’s feature car, the 1987 Porsche 924S.

For a shade under $5000, this is an affordable entry into the Porsche brotherhood. The car appears clean, straight, and reasonably well cared for, though the odometer looks to have rolled over. This car resurrected the 924 moniker for a lower-cost alternative to the fat-fendered 944, and could represent a good bargain for the first-time Porsche owner.

Or not.

I think the book time for a clutch replacement is somewhere in the neighborhood of nine hours. At typical P-car shop rates, your $5,000 bargain has cost another two to three grand in parts and labor. If you can handle the work yourself, can source low-cost replacement bits easily, and be able to tie up a stall in your garage for some time while repairs are done, this might be feasible.

If I had the space in my garage, I’d be tempted by this, as my mechanical skills aren’t that bad. My last clutch job (on the Miata) did require some help, as I’d just had hernia surgery a week prior. I just wasn’t up to the task of benchpressing the transmission.

Like any car, this Porsche will require a pre-purchase inspection to assess what the car needs. If there are good, recent service records, and the inspection comes out clean, this may indeed be a good deal.

Otherwise, at the sign of the first major repair bill, the new owner may start searching for a barn.

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29 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1987 Porsche 924S...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Well, if you really wanted a 924, this is the one to get. The earlier ones are too slow.

    I believe that car has a transaxle, and the clutch job is more than a little involved. Better figure two days for two people if you’re doing it yourself. You also might want to have a new flywheel ready if the existing one is in rough shape.

    If I were going through the trouble of keeping up a 924/944, I’d want a later 944S or 944 S2. The 968 is nice too, but rather rare and kind of expensive for what you get, generally.

  • avatar
    threeer

    For some reason, I have a soft spot in my heart for the “lowly” Porsches…like the 924 and 914. In the right condition, a late model 924 makes a compelling case even against it’s more expensive brother, the 944 (basically owning to BEING a 9/10th 944, I suppose). But the prospect of the *Porsche Multiplier* effect on prices for parts and repair usually makes me pause and reconsider…

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Ahh, the cost of parts. I remember the “Porsche Multiplier” well. When the turn signal stalk broke off on my ’68 912 I went to the local Porsche/VW dealer in Idaho Falls for a new one. A ridiculous price in 1971 dollars for a replacement and I told the parts counterman this as he showed me the box containing the new part. He then pulled out another box with an identical turn signal switch/stalk but marked with VW on the exterior of the box; same mold numbers on the part, same logos molded into the part. Same everything. One-quarter the price of the Porsche part. My 912 continued on with a VW Type 1 turn signal switch installed.

      • 0 avatar
        CountZero

        That is no longer the world we live in. If you’re going to a dealership parts counter, you’re doing it wrong. You can get reasonably priced parts for these old cars due to the proliferation of online parts suppliers who specialize in German cars. The VW vs. Porsche parts bin angle is still a good lesson, though.

      • 0 avatar

        I looked for parts for the VW Dasher on my 924, or even ones for the AMC Hornet…

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Yup – I owned an ’87 924S for a couple years, sold it 3 years ago. Low mileage, nice condition, got a fairly glowing PPI report from a well-respected shop. Gold on tan, rare no sunroof car, lovely to drive.

        And it was far and away THE biggest money pit I have ever owned. The parts that are shared by VW Rabbits are DIRT cheap (as long as you are not at the Porsche parts counter), anything that is bolted to that engine costs a fortune. The “Porsche Tax” is no joke, even in the Internet era. And everything is hard to get to – the engine bay was designed for a little 2.0L Audi lump, not a gigantic 2.5L Porsche motor. The timing belt service is an expensive nightmare every 30-40K miles or so.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I love the 944 and always wanted a 944 vert, I almost bought a 944 s a few years ago but the PPI did not make me move forward, at this point I think you would be better with a used bolster, they are not much more and you get a much newer car. The 924 really does not do it for me but I understand their appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      944 – yes! Especially later S2 version. 928 – always yes!

      This? Meh. I never cared for them. The big reflectors and bumpers ruin it. Rather have one of those little tiny ones (918, or 914?) that you see in orange and black usually.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I wonder if a 1988 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL with 172,000 miles would be an even worse idea than this Porsche. At least the cost of entry on that one is 2k less…

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      I’d pick the Benz, if I’m not mistaken that car is still from when they were built like tanks.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Having owned several old Mercedes, they are not even in the same universe of running costs as a 924S/944. Really beautifully built cars, and the parts are not expensive. There ARE a LOT of parts, but Mercedes still believed in selling individual parts in places where other makers sell assemblies. And by modern standards, they are extremely simple cars. They do require good maintenance practices, but do it and they last forever.

      The biggest issue with the 924S/944 is that the running costs are basically the same as an old 911, but they are not worth nearly as much.

      • 0 avatar
        Grahambo

        Not my experience at all. Have had an 83 944 since 91. It requires a reasonable cash injection every 3-5 years but keeps chugging along and is pure joy to drive. A lot of stuff is manual (eg steering and sunroof) with little in the way of electronics. So relatively little to go wrong – and very little has. By contrast, had a 90 560SEL. Quite a solid tank but lots to go wrong – and lots did. Once the sunroof wouldnt fully close, I’d had enough and sold it cheap. Easily spent more in maintenance and repair in 6 years of ownership than have spent in 24 years of 944 ownership. Granted the 944 is the most basic iteration of the bottom of the 80s Porsche line whereas the 560SEL was at the other end of the MB line but this goes to show that generalizations often are far off base when it comes to individual experiences. Thus YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          At this point all of these cars are individual snowflakes. YOUR 944 has been reliable for likely the same reason my Triumph Spitfire is – one careful owner for decades who has not neglected it, and fixed all the issues over the years. If someone were looking for one, ours are the cars to buy. But we don’t sell them. The majority of the cars that change hands ARE neglected. People sell them because of the issues, current or pending.

          Your very early 944 IS a simpler car. Even my 924S had power steering and most had an electric sunroof (that always breaks). A later 944 has pretty much every single luxury feature a 560SEL has, all of it breaks eventually. The 560SEL does not need a $1000+ timing belt service every four years, nor an expensive clutch job every so often. Especially used as a toy, as most of this age car are now that they are 30 years old, the Mercedes will be MUCH cheaper to keep over time.

  • avatar
    CountZero

    “I think the book time for a clutch replacement is somewhere in the neighborhood of nine hours.”

    No, no, no, you don’t get it. If you buy this car, you are fixing it yourself. There is no “book rate” for anything, there’s just parts. You are the labor component. If you are not equipped to do the work, you don’t buy the car. Period. No middle ground there.

    The old P-cars look cool, but they are a huge disappointment where horsepower is concerned. A BRZ is what you seek.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Bingo! If you have to pay someone to work on one of these, buy something else. Though even as intrepid a DIY’er as I am paid to have the timing belt done on mine. The consequences of getting it wrong are just too dire. And it is too easy to get wrong, considering that technically you need a VERY expensive special tool to set the tension “correctly”.

      Though I did do the clutch on mine. Book time may be nine hours, it took me 15 on a completely rust-free FL car, on a lift, with every tool known to man and a good helper. No fun at all. Stupid rubber-center clutch failed at less than 65K. Friction disk looked like new too.

  • avatar

    I owned a ’78 924. Yeah, it was down on power, but not compared to a 280ZX or RX-7 of the same era. It was probably the best handling car I’ve ever driven. The 50-50 weight distribution (because the transmission was in the rear) made it a beast for autocross and on the back roads.

    Like several people mentioned, the parts were expensive, if you ordered them for a Porsche. Order a engine gasket set for a VW Dasher, and it was half the price of the one for the 924. I rebuilt the engine, brakes, suspension, but when the clutch started going, I sold it because I didn’t want to tackle removing the torque tube and clutch assembly.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Dasher used variants of the EA827 engine while the 924 used an EA831. AMC had a version of the EA831, but I don’t think gaskets for a Dasher would fit a 924 engine.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        ’87 and ’88 924S have the Porsche 2.5L, not the Audi 2.0L. Nothing from a Dasher engine is going to fit this car at all. Whole different world of pain from a ’78 924.

  • avatar
    rockets

    Do not pause. Do not walk. Run, run, run away. I had an ’83 and then an ’85 944 for various points of weakness in my life (i.e. 40 yoa and then 50 yoa.). Great driving experience when running and horrendous parts/labor costs when they were not. Engine seals, water pumps, clutches, mysterious electrical problems on both. The ’83 had 45,000 on it when I bought it and the ’85 90,000. The ‘ 85 has a better interior and some other hidden upgrades, but HVAC and stereo were terrible and another source of issues for both, with consequent brief ownership. So at 55yoa to punish myself further I bought a ’99 Boxster…now gone too. Just can’t get out of my own way. Oh yeah, also had a ’97 BMW 3 series in there as well…No more German cars! (but they drive so well…)

  • avatar
    Syke

    I owned that exact same car for three years, found it to be a wonderful experience, and repeatedly kick myself both for: a. Trading it in, and b. What I traded it in for.

    Bought it back in 2010 with 115k on the clock from a local guy who refurbishes Porsches (mainly air-cooled 911’s) for the grand total of $3500.00. As the car didn’t come with service records, and the seller was honest enough to give me a complete rundown on what he thought could be problematic in the future, I automatically budgeted for a new timing belt, water pump, and ancillery parts done within a week. Cost me a big over a thousand for the complete job at a local independent Euro auto specialist shop that knew the model very well.

    Over the next three years it cost me one trip per year for repairs, usually to the tune of about $500.00. The car was eminently reliable, only breaking down on me once (the relay to the electric fuel pump died), and was easily the most enjoyable car I’ve ever owned. A wonderfully practical sports car, good on gas, comfortable, a practical errand runner, and one hell of a back road bomber.

    So why did I trade it? In 2013, having just buried my wife after a seven year terminal illness, I started thinking that I really shouldn’t be putting off a number of promises I made to myself over the years, because who knew how long I’d have to cash them in. The big one was that I’d never owned a roadster, hell, there hadn’t been a convertible anything in the family driveway(s) since dad’s 1960 Impala. And while the Porsche was damned near perfect, a big part of the impefection was that the roof was fixed.

    Found a 968, unfortunately with Triptronic. Talk about de-balling a wonderful car! There should be a particular circle in hell for people who order cars like that. It came down to a ’06 Miata and an ’06 Solstice. To my surprise, the Solstice hit me better on the test rides (both of which scared the hell out of a couple of salesmen).

    Long term: Within two years the Solstice had been sold. While it was wonderful to drive on an hour by hour basis, it sucked rocks living with it on a month by month basis. I realized that every time I drove it, I was missing the 924S.

    And once I get the new garage built (spring), I’m going back looking for another 924. Or a 944. Or a 968. I want that wonderful drive back.

    Advice to the readership: If you either have the ability to work on one of these by yourself, or have the backup of a good independent shop with experience on them, BUY ONE! You won’t be sorry. Yes, the repairs aren’t cheap, but its a Porsche, not a Chevrolet. You get what you pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You probably bought your car at the right time. At 115K, most of the stupid stuff that goes wrong on these cars had already gone wrong.

      Mine only had 59K on it when I got it, and everything broke. Helped along by the fact that my car probably did a ton of sitting in the FL heat, so when I started driving it, all the seals went. It leaked everywhere. It was too original. I have no doubt that once sorted out it would stay that way, but the cost and time involvement in getting it there led me to get rid of it and buy a new Fiat Abarth. Which actually cost about the same to keep for two years as the old Porsche did, but I did not have to lift a finger other than to send the check in every month! And I put 10X as many miles on it.

      They really are fantastic cars to drive though. The handling is superb, and so is the ride.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    It is very difficult to keep these ’80s German cars on the road without a substantial cash commitment. Their rubber suspension components and fuel and brake lines rot and their obscure sensors, wires, and switches go bad. Even if you’re handy, these electrical glitches can vex even the best of them, including $125 Per Hour Hans at the local German Car Emporium after you give up and have it towed there.

    Here’s your cautionary tale for the day….

    http://bringatrailer.com/listing/1986-5-porsche-928-s/

    Someone paid 9k for it, thinking he could save it. He hasn’t been able to, and it looks like he’s spending a butt ton of money trying to do so.

    http://rennlist.com/forums/928-forum/895511-red-car-still-won-t-start.html

    Honestly, I’d leave the 924 in the gutter where you found it, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      How can they not be? They are 30-odd year old cars now. Effectively, they are restoration projects if you want to actually use them. If you have the time, or the cash to pay someone else they are wonderful cars. Once you get them up to par, they stay that way for a very long time. But getting them there can be expensive in time, money, and often both. Really, the best bet as always is to buy one someone else already restored. Though even then, the running costs of a 944/924S are not cheap, mostly due to the timing belt setup.

      I have owned numerous ’80s European cars, Porsche parts are simply in a different league of expense. I assume mostly due to their very small volume nature. My Alfa GTV-6 was similar to the 924S in that anything that was specific to it cost a bloody fortune, but all the bits shared with other Alfas were very reasonable.

      But at least with the Germans, you can still get all the parts, if sometimes at a price. Good luck restoring anything ’80s and Japanese…

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