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						Mwr Rothmans 924 13
Audi 1.8T-Powered Porsche 924 Rothmans Tribute

944-based Rothmans Porsche 924 tribute

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller (Motor Werks Racing), Racingjunk.com

Now there’s a lot to unpack in that headline! Draped in the iconic Rothmans-Porsche livery, this turbo Audi-powered Porsche 924 is dripping in vintage motorsport nostalgia. And if you’re anything like me, it’s surely the newest thing you didn’t know you needed.

The description for this car on Racingjunk.com lists it as a “1987 Porsche 924 GTP ‘Rothman's Tribute’ track car,” and it’s not too difficult to trace the lineage of its inspiration. See back in the 1980s and ’90s (still the glory days of racing liveries), the Rothmans International tobacco company was synonymous with fast Porsche road racing cars. Rothmans began supporting Porsche in 1982, and they hit gold right away with a 1-2-3 finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche 956. Three subsequent Le Mans victories would follow in the 1980s, in addition to the 1985 World Sportscar Championship in the 956 and 962. Also consider the Rothmans-Porsche 953 and 959 rally racers, made famous for their memorable performance in the 1986 Paris-Dakar rally.

The inspiration for a Rothmans 924 tribute livery however, can probably be credited to a number of global sports car racing series of the day, including the SCCA Escort Endurance Championship, The Rothmans Porsche Turbo Cup Series, and possibly others. The liveries were spectacular, and the racing was competitive, and the huge number of Porsche 924s and 944s on the U.S. market today makes the concept of a Rothmans tribute a real winner. But what about the Audi 1.8-liter turbocharged engine, how does that fit into the puzzle? As it turns out, there’s historical pretense for that too.

The design concept that eventually became the Porsche 924 was actually cooked up back at Volkswagen, as the company was looking for a new performance flagship for the brand. As was common practice, Porsche was contracted to design the car with one of the only constraints being the use of an existing VW/Audi inline four-cylinder engine. Porsche delivered a nicely balanced rear-drive design that utilized an Audi four-speed transaxle and the tried-and-true VW/Audi EA831 2.0-liter engine.

But by the late 1970s, the political and regulatory arenas were changing for Volkswagen, and the company decided to adopt the cheaper Scirocco design as a flagship, and “Project 425,” as it had been deemed, was scrapped for now. But that was perfect timing for Porsche, as a replacement for the entry-level 914 was needed, and the company purchased the design back from VW and put it into production starting in 1976.

By the early 1980s, VW was ending production of the old 2.0-liter block though, and Porsche planned to replace it with a new all-alloy four-cylinder engine that was based on the 928’s 5.0-liter V8 geometry. Porsche debuted the car at the 1981 Le Mans event, calling it the 924 GTP Le Mans. This new model was based on the 924 Carrera GT Le Mans from the previous year, but with the new Porsche 2.5-liter engine and a single KKK turbocharger producing 414 hp. The car achieved seventh position overall in the event, and won the GTP+ 3.0 category.

Proven on the track, Porsche introduced a new street-legal, mid-level model of the car with the 2.5-liter Porsche engine in 1982, calling it the 944. Production of the 924 would continue until 1988 as a true entry model though, with a switch to a detuned version of the 2.5-liter Porsche engine after 1984.

Now that was quite the history lesson, but it still doesn’t totally wrap up the rationale for the 1.8T Audi engine in this stellar Rothmans tribute car. The answer though, comes down to a simple comparison of weight, technology and horsepower.

See the Audi 1.8T swap is something of a specialty for Motor Werks Racing, and they claim that it’s a smart upgrade for performance in Porsche 924s and 944s. The reasoning for which, starts weight, advanced ECU tunability and the engine’s modern twin-cam, five-valve cylinder head. With stage 1 mods, MWR makes 275 hp with the 1.8T, a healthy increase over the 944 and 944 Turbo, but MWR claims they can turn the wick up to a reliable 600 hp. MWR's stage 1 engine also weighs in at 147 pounds less than a standard 944 engine, and 205 pounds less than the 944 Turbo.

By this point I’m sure it’s all starting to click, and you start to see just how impressive this MWR 924 tribute car is. This model has been tuned to 450 hp and 395 lb-ft with an 8,000-rpm rev limit. It’s based on an ’87 944 chassis with extensive modifications and GTP body panels. The suspension consists of full Delrin bushings, remote-reservoir shocks, camber plates and MWR’s own adjustable control arms.

Weighing just 2,050 pounds with 450 hp on tap, this has to be a serious animal on the track, and I’m sure you’ll agree, a fitting tribute to the storied history of Porsche and Audi. See the MWR Porsche 924 here on Racingjunk.com.

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