Four decades ago, Porsche built ‘test car no. 5,’ the 924 Carrera GTS Rally that would eventually go on to nab several wins across multiple rally championships for Porsche in a single season.
Manning the wheel for Porsche during that year was Walter Rohrl and his co-driver Christian Geistdorfer. Unfortunately, when the two left Porsche after that 1981 season, the legendary rally car was also then retired. It was turned over to the Porsche Museum in February 1982, and it has not seen real rally action since.
Now, as Rohrl celebrates the 40th anniversary of his lone albeit successful season with Porsche, the German carmaker is marking the occasion by arranging a special reunion between the two-time World Champion and the famed rally car.
It’s ‘special’ because Rohrl isn’t simply reuniting with his old 924 Carrera GTS Rally car—he’s actually meeting the newly-restored version of it. And the restoration job? It’s an absolute masterpiece.
The full restoration of the now-museum piece of a vehicle was a secret project that was carried out in the historic motor racing department in Weissach, the same place where the original car was built 40 years ago.
The mechanical bits including several chassis components were overhauled, rebuilt, and reinstalled without exception. The focus was to keep everything original down to the very last detail. Everything from the smallest parts down to the most intricate ones like the original 911 Turbo brake calipers were fully restored.
The handwritings of those who built the car are also still present, and great emphasis was also put on preserving the car’s patina. The V8 under the hood was retained, and so was the gearbox which was also dismantled but surprisingly showed no signs of wear. A stock race clutch from the Porsche Museum was used to complete the drivetrain, while Pirelli tires in the same size with tread from the same era were also added for more period-correctness.
Kuno Werner, the head of the museum workshop, shared that the biggest problem during the restoration process was not the restoration itself, but the task of keeping it secret. The plan was that the finished car would suddenly show up at the doorstep of Rohrl on his 74th birthday.
“Walter Rohrl knows so many people here that it was difficult to keep the project quiet,” said Werner. Fortunately for them, the project was carried out succesfully.
“It was a huge surprise for me. I stepped out of the car 40 years ago and haven’t sat in it again since. So I was astonished when Roland showed up all of a sudden in this car,” said Rohrl. “This car opened the door to Porsche for me. That is why I feel a particularly close bond to it. For me, it’s a journey back in time. I immediately feel 40 years younger.”
Rohrl reminisced his experiences with the rally car and shared how early turbocharging technology was an issue back then. “As a driver of cars with naturally aspirated engines, the characteristics of turbocharged engines drove you mad. The turbo lag was enormous! In order to drive out of bends quickly, you had to accelerate again shortly before the bend and keep the engine speed high,” he added.
“But the car was fast right from the start. At the beginning, we had around 247hp, later also more—but the strengths of the 924 were its handling and traction, not the power,” continued Rohrl. “And everything kept working. That is typical for Porsche.”
As far as rally car restorations go, this has got to be one of the most impressive ones we’ve seen to date. You can see more photos of this beaut below.