Six Picks from the 2016 Werks Reunion

The front-engine, water-cooled Porsches have their day in the sun

Rory Jurneckawriter, photographer

When the first production Porsche 924s rolled off the line in Audi's Neckarsulm, Germany plant in 1976, it was a foregone conclusion that they would be mired in the same controversy as the Porsche 914 that had gone before it. Everyone knew that real Porsches had rear-mounted, air-cooled engines designed and built by Porsche itself. The 924 had not only a water-cooled, VW-designed inline-four, but it was mounted up front as well.

No matter that Porsche philosophy in the mid-'70s saw the new crop of "transaxle" Porsches-a lineup that also included the flagship V-8-powered 928 coupe and later, the 944 and 968-as the future of the brand, the cars Porsche's forward thinking created were largely shunned as something other than the purest expression of the Zuffenhausen-based automaker. That stigma has largely stuck through the years, but at the 2016 Porsche Club of America Werks Reunion, the bastard Porsches finally had their day as the featured models in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 924. These models had a strong showing at the event and roughly 700 Porsches of all types were in attendance.

Here are some of our favorites from this year's event:

1981 Porsche 924 GTS Clubsport

No, it's not a 944 but it is the car that inspired the 944's aggressive stature. As the homologation special for the 924 GTR race car, the 924 GTS was a stripped down, flared-fender track toy with a turbocharged version of the 924's inline-four. Just 59 GTS models were built, with just 15 built to Clubsport specs. With even further weight reduction, a roll cage, and a bump from 245 to 280 horsepower (among other changes), this Clubsport is a road weapon—and one of the rarest Porsches ever made.

1978 Porsche 928

In 1978, the Porsche 928 was the future of the company. Its advanced V-8 engine, sporty but spacious interior, and state of the art chassis design essentially made it an upscale and avant garde German Corvette. With a base price above that of even the 911 SC, the 928 was the brand's flagship model - executive transportation for the wealthy enthusiast. Ultimately, Porsche realized that loyalty to the rear-engined models that had sustained the company thus far was the direction to continue in, but the 928 persevered with a unique demographic into the mid-90s. This car was completely restored after years of neglect and is featured in an eye-catching color combo of Minerva blue and Cork interior.

1952 Glockler-Porsche Special No.3

The Glocker-Porsches came about when early post-war Volkswagen dealer, Walter Glockler, decided to go racing with a Porsche. As the first to do so, Glockler learned a thing or two about what the cars needed to be successful on the track. He teamed up with engineer/mechanic Hermann Ramelow and, in cooperation with Porsche itself, a series of one-off race cars was built. The first two were mid-engined in configuration and would inspire Porsche's own 550 Spyder. This third car was the first to use the standard rear-engine configuration with a trailing arm suspension. Aerodynamic aluminum bodywork was fitted after the standard 356 Cabriolet chassis was lightened and a high-compression Porsche flat-four engine was tuned to 86-hp through high compression and alcohol-based fuel. That may not sound like a lot of power until you understand the Glockler weighs in at just 1,113 lbs.

1974 Porsche 911 Carrera

Just 528 of these 1974 Carrera models were imported to the U.S. and this is number 38. In Europe, the 1974 Carrera used virtually the same engine as the vaunted 1973 Carrera 2.7 RS, giving 210 horsepower through Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, higher compression, and special cams. U.S. spec cars were unable to take advantage of that high-spec engine due to emissions regulations, so in its place was a standard U.S.-spec 2.7 flat-six with Bosch electric fuel injection, good for about 173 hp. Essentially, the Carrera trim Stateside was a cosmetic package at significant extra cost, including the side "Carrera" graphics, "ducktail" rear spoiler, flared rear fenders, thicker anti-roll bars, and a more effective front airdam. Fuchs alloy wheels were standard, but a five-speed transmission cost extra. This car is still owned by its original buyer, who purchased it as a reward after graduating college.

1973 Porsche 914 "Formula 1 Safety Car"

This 914 was the first official Formula 1 safety car, though its tenure was short lived. Introduced for the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, the car was deployed for the first - and last - time after a collision between Francoise Cevert and Jody Scheckter. Unfortunately, in these days of hand-written lap charts and no electronic timing, the safety car was accidentally sent out in front of a backmarker, rather than Jackie Stewart's leading car. Confusion about who was actually leading ensued for the duration of the race. Ultimately, Peter Revson was named the winner, although that conclusion is still debated today. Safety cars were not reintroduced until the 1993 season-some 20 years later.

1989 Porsche 944 S2

The Porsche 944 was launched for the 1983 model year as the successor to the lackluster 924 with bodywork inspired by the race-ready 924 GTS. In place of the 924's Volkswagen-designed engine was an inline-four of Porsche's own design-essentially half of the 928's V-8. The 944 continuously evolved during its nine years in production. This version is the final evolution of the 944, with power coming from a 208-hp, naturally aspirated, 16-valve, 3.0-liter inline-four good-the largest four-cylinder engine in production at the time. Its aerodynamic front bumper, rear underbody spoiler, brakes, wheels, suspension and transmission were all taken from the 944 Turbo. The S2 is also among the rarest of the 944 models with just over 14,000 made worldwide - fewer than even the turbo. Fewer than 2,000 coupes made it to the U.S., with another 2,400 cabriolets sold here.

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