Besides Porsche’s cars having a deserved reputation as premium high-performance vehicles, many of the company’s products also have an extensive off-road history. The 959 supercar was partially developed for rallying, and the Cayenne SUV competed in a few. So has the 911, and even now, valuable air-cooled 911s are regularly converted into dirt-drifting Safari builds. But you don’t need a high-power, expensive car to base your build on. Although many dismiss it, a Porsche 924 can also tear it up in the mud.
David Zu Elfe’s off-road Porsche 924
Before he converted his Porsche 924 into an off-road rally car, German photographer and filmmaker David Zu Elfe used it as his daily driver, he tells Classic Driver. In fact, it’s the 3rd one he’s owned so far. However, he had to temporarily store it in 2019 while he traveled for work in a modified classic Range Rover.
When he returned, though, he was inspired via an Instagram post to take part in the winter Baltic Sea Circle Rally. It’s a roughly 5000-mile race that winds through the heart of Europe and Scandinavia, crossing through Russia and the Arctic Circle. It’s done with no GPS, and at times temperatures can drop to -22° F, Automobile Magazine reports.
So why did Zu Elfe and his brother-in-law decide to do it in a 1978 2-door Porsche 924? “Largely,” Zu Elfe said, “because we already had the car.” But, as with the various Miata off-road builds, also because it was enormously silly.
To be sure, the duo did properly prep the Porsche 924 for the rally. The car was lifted about 1.6”, and equipped with Nokian R3 snow tires and mud flaps. A custom roof rack was installed to hold a spare tire, gas can, ax, and 4 Comet 500 rally lights. The 924’s original engine failed shortly before the rally, so a new 125-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder was fitted.
Because Zu Elfe and his brother-in-law were going to be sleeping in the 924, the interior was also modified. The car got a new battery with a kill switch, Bluetooth, and a CB radio. Once the rear bench seats are lowered, 2 people can sleep in the Porsche 924 on the installed mattress. The rear hatch now turns into an erstwhile pop-up tent, and there’s a heater in the former spare-wheel well.
The Porsche 924 has gone off-road before
Despite its relative impracticality—especially compared to some of the competitors, which included a Unimog—the Porsche 924 performed solidly over the 16-day rally. The only real issue, Zu Elfe tells Classic Driver, is the car’s open differential. Next time, he wants to give it a limited-slip differential. However, even before Zu Elfe went to the Baltic Sea Circle Rally, Porsche 924s competed in off-road races.
For example, the 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTS Rallye was the first turbocharged rally car. It was based on the 924 Carrera GT, Silodrome reports, which was a genuine racing homologation special. It had wider tires, weighed 330 pounds less, and came with a 210-hp turbocharged version of the standard 2.0-liter engine.
The Porsche 924 Carrera GTS, though, took all these modifications a step further, RM Sotheby’s reports. It weighed 130 pounds less than the Carrera GT and developed 245 hp. It also had a limited-slip differential, Bilstein coil-overs, the 911 Turbo’s vented and cross-drilled disc brakes, an alloy roll cage, and a 32-gallon racing fuel tank.
Other Porsche 924 owners have also turned their cars into off-roaders, Petrolicious reports. The example above even competed in the 2019 Baja XL and Coastal Range Rewind races, Bring a Trailer reports. Starting with a 150-hp 1987 924S, the owners added a custom roof rack, skid plate, limited-slip differential, and lifted the car about 2”. It also got 15” Braid wheels with BFG KO2 off-road tires, a Warn winch, rally lights, a CB radio, GPS, and a Porsche Classic radio.
Building your own
The Porsche 924 hasn’t enjoyed a good reputation with ‘traditional’ Porsche fans, especially with its water-cooled engine and status as an ‘entry-level’ Porsche. However, Hagerty reports the 924’s handling makes it an excellent sports car. Plus, apart from extremely-limited models like the Carrera GTS Clubsport, they’re still affordable.
The 924 was in production from 1976-1988, receiving a 150-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder in 1984, which was bumped up to 160 hp for 1988. There was also a 924 Turbo made from 1980-1983, which put out 153 hp. But even the Turbo cars aren’t necessarily particularly valuable. You can get a Porsche 924 for around $10,000 on BaT. And Hagerty reports even the best-condition 924 won’t go for more than $30,000-$40,000.
So go on—make a silly off-road Porsche racer.
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.