As a top-secret project, the Porsche Museum workshop and the Porsche Heritage department worked on a special front-engined sports car from 1981. 40 years ago, starting on May 15, this car competed in the Deutsche Rallye-Meisterschaft (German Rally Championship). Behind the wheel was non other than Walter Röhrl, with Christian Geistdörfer next to him. At that time, the two were freshly crowned rally world champions – and unemployed. The reason for this was that Röhrl had signed with Mercedes-Benz. After relatively successful winter tests, however, the fundamentally honest man from Regensburg couldn’t conceal the fact that a victory in the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally would be tantamount to winning the lottery. As a result, the Swabians promptly closed their rally division and Röhrl only just escaped a boring office job. He received his full annual salary and was left without a competitive rally car.
FROM THE 924 TURBO TO THE 924 CARRERA GTR
There are only a few well-kept secrets in the automotive industry. The Mercedes withdrawal from the World Rally Championship wasn’t one of them. A few days after Röhrl had his contract terminated, the phone rang. On the other end of the line was the Porsche development director with the words: “Now we can afford you. You get the money from Mercedes and the car from us.” The car in question was the fifth of nine Porsche 924 Carrera GTS pre-production cars. At the time, the production version was the most expensive Porsche street car ever, with a base price of DM 110,000. It was based on the 924 Turbo (Type 931, 124 kW/170 hp), which was further developed into the 924 Carrera GT (Type 937, 154 kW/210 hp) in 1980. This variant was produced as a Group 4 homologation model. Building on this, the 924 Carrera GTS (Type 939) was developed with 177 kW/240 hp or as a Clubsport with 202 kW/275 hp. This was joined by the 924 Carrera GTR racing version with 276 kW/375 hp.
924 CARRERA GTS REMAINED RARE, RED AND LEFT-HAND DRIVE
The 924 Carrera GTS was produced in a run of just 59 units (nine prototypes and 50 customer cars). All were left-hand drive and differed from the the 924 Carrera GT by the use of clear glass headlamps instead of pop-up lights. There was not much choice in paint, as Porsche only offered the color ‘Guards Red’. Compared to the 924 Carrera GT, the kerb weight had been reduced by 50 kilograms. With the optional Clubsport package, the weight was reduced by a further 60 kilograms. The increase in power was achieved by raising the boost pressure to 1.1 bar. The two-liter four-cylinder engine transmitted its power to the rear axle via a manual five-speed gearbox. Porsche stated a topspeed of 155 mph (Clubsport: 161.56 mph).
FOUR VICTORIES IN SEVEN RALLIES
Porsche extensively rebuilt the fifth pre-production car in Weissach for Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer. This car was originally registered for the time on December 12, 1980. With an adjustable rally suspension, rollcage, bucket seats and red six-point harnesses, the result was a competitive rally version for the German championship. To reduce the cost of entry, a sponsorship deal with cognac manufacturer Monnet ensured an eye-catching two-tone paint scheme in gold and black. On May 15, 1981, Röhrl and Geistdörfer rolled the 924 across the starting ramp of the International ADAC Metz Rallye. Minor defects prevented a premiere victory. Nevertheless, they managed second place. Victories followed at the Hessen Rallye, the Serengeti Safari Rallye, the Rallye Vorderpfalz and the Baltic Rally. The following year, Röhrl and Geistdörfer switched to Opel and again became world champions.
AFTER RÖHRL, ICKX GOT BEHIND THE WHEEL
The Porsche 924 Carrera GTS was then used for the Boucles de Spa Rally in Belgium in February 1982. For this event, the car was repainted blue and fitted with sponsor logos of the cigarette brand Gitanes. At the wheel this time was none other than Jacky Ickx. Although further rally events were originally considered, these plans were abandoned and the car was handed over to the Porsche Museum on August 27, 1982. There, the gold and black paintwork of the previous year was restored and the car was put into storage. After 40 years, it was now decided to carry out a careful restoration in which traces of the past were deliberately preserved. This work took place where this 924 Carrera GTS once was converted from road car to rally car – in Weissach. Wear parts on the engine, transmission and fuel supply were replaced, as were some chassis components. Otherwise, they limited themselves to overhauling and revising original parts.
LOVINGLY RESTORED AS A SURPRISE FOR RÖHRL
While the engine and KKK turbocharger were checked for (non-existent) damage using an endoscope, the transmission was disassembled. Only a new racing clutch was due after all these years. Pirelli also supplied a set of 255/55 R 15 tires with a matching tread. For all the work, the team was able to draw on the expertise of the engineers and staff who had prepared the car for the German Rally Championship 40 years ago in just two months. Among them was Roland Kussmaul, who now personally drove the 924 to Walter Röhrl’s yard after its completion – just in time for Röhrl’s 74th birthday. Although Röhrl only competed for Porsche as a works driver for one year, he still has many ties with the brand today. It’s all the more amazing, that everyone involved kept their mouth shut and that the restored 924 Carrera GTS turned out to be a real surprise for him.