Until the late 1970s, Porsche had used two layouts for their vehicles, and every car had its engine in the rear or the middle. Beyond the placement of the power plant, these had always been cooled by God's good air.

This all changed when the Porsche 924 first hit the market in 1976 as a 1977 model in the U.S. The 924 had a water-cooled inline four-cylinder engine sitting up front with a transaxle in the rear for near-perfect weight distribution.

The much more expensive 928 was designed first, but the 924 was the first front-engine Porsche to go on sale. To purists who resisted the idea of a car from the German performance car maker having a water-cooled engine in the front, that 924 was a sacrilege. And things went from bad to worse when those same purists discovered the 924 had an Audi/Volkswagen sourced engine.

The reason for the use of the Audi/VW motor was due to the 924's beginnings. The sports car was originally planned to be a joint venture between Porsche and Volkswagen, much like the 914.

Porsche designed the 924, but VW later backed out of the project to instead build the Golf-based Scirocco. Porsche and Volkswagen then struck a deal to allow Porsche to purchase the design back. Since an Audi/VW engine and transmission was part of the design, they were used in the production 924.

This was the start of the 924's woes. It may have been a great-handling car, but many said it was really just a fancy-looking Volkswagen. It also didn't help that U.S. emissions regulations strangled the power down to just 95 horsepower in the earliest cars. While not terrible for a family cruiser of the time, this was a Porsche — performance was vital.

Over the years, the power output slowly went up, and the 924 Turbo allowed for more expected levels of performance. The 924 Carrera GT and the racing variants that followed showed the potential of the 924, but they also hinted at the coming 944.

Porsche 924 Turbo. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Porsche 944 had an engine designed by Porsche and had better styling with its fender flairs, but the layout and handling were just as good. And thanks to some additional power, it held up to the expectations of its driver.

But the 924 still had one more trick left in it.

The Porsche 924 S had the styling of the 924, but the engine of the 944. Because the 924 shape was slightly more aerodynamic, it was slightly quicker than the early 944. However, the styling of the 944 was more appealing at the time and the 924 S was not around long.

The 924 has since become a distant memory and one that isn't spoken of often by Porsche enthusiasts — although the 924 Carrera GT is a prized item because of its rarity and importance to Porsche's history.

Porsche 924 Carrera GTR. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

However, the 924, 924 Turbo and 924 S are all important to the company that Porsche has become. The 944 and 968 certainly need to thank the 924 for its importance in leading the way for the four-cylinder, front-engine Porsche. Lessons learned from all the front-engine Porsches of the '70s through '90s have been important to the modern front-engine cars wearing a Porsche badge.

We must save the 924, but finding a 924 in good condition is extremely difficult. They have been abused for many years and may become rare just because few people are restoring them. It would be a shame to have such an important model lost for future generations.

The cost of a 924 is relatively cheap, with cars in good condition currently worth about $5,000 (a bit more for the Turbo and S models). But finding cars in good condition can be difficult as not many have been well maintained or restored. You'll mainly find cars with needs for under $3,500 (I recently found a few examples in my area for less than $1,500).

My first Porsche was a 924 project, and I paid only $200 for the running example, but it had plenty of needs, and this was about seven years ago. Over the past 10 years, 924 values have stayed mainly flat with the exception of Concours-quality cars, which have been on a steady climb thanks to their rarity.

No matter what type of Porsche you currently drive, consider adding a 924 to your collection if you have an extra space in your garage. They won't cost as much as many other Porsche restoration projects, and you just may help save the 924 from extinction.