Words: Steve Bennett Photography: Antony Fraser Weight is the enemy, whether that be to us portly humanoids or porky cars. Roger Bracewell got a bit obsessive about the weight of his 924S track car project and ended up shedding 210kg. He also created a ve
Show me a man and I'll show you any number of hobbies and interests bordering on the obsessive. We're all guilty. It's why you've picked up this magazine, because your interest in Porsches goes beyond the casual ownership experience. You want to know more and do more and read about other folk who are bitten by the Porsche bug, people like Roger Bracewell and his Porsche 924S.
Roger, you see, has got a thing about weight. Not his weight, you understand (although he is undoubtedly lean), but the weight of his 924. It didn't start like that, but then it never does. It started with the purchase of a really nice, clean machine back in 2012, when 924S prices were where they'd always been, which is to say good and low.
This wasn't Roger's first front-engined, water-cooled Porsche, but the latest in a longish line of 944s and a 968 that he'd owned. But, like many, he was attracted to the 924S by its purity of shape and relative light weight in modern terms. How heavy? Well, just 1260kg. Nothing much to write home about in the mid ’80s, when a Golf GTI weighed in at about 1000kg, but the 924 was always a rather more substantial car. Whatever, the weight thing kept playing on Roger's mind and he resolved to start making it lighter and lighter and, er, lighter.
We've been keenly following Roger's project from the outset looking forward to the time when we could bring you the full story. That time is now. As a fellow front-engined Porsche fan, with 944 ownership running into double figures, Roger's emailed updates, with detailed pictures, were always a treat to receive. And, of course, like all projects, this one took way longer than anticipated, but that's because Roger has pushed the boundaries of 924 mods and general geekiness to new levels, we're sure you will agree. But then that's what happens when a project takes hold. There's no rhyme or reason, except for the sheer satisfaction of the build and the journey.
And the build and journey has to start somewhere, and in this case it was with an innocent wheel refurb. Roger is also 'The Wheel Restorer', with Porsche wheels a speciality. No surprise, then, that the 924's 'Teledial' wheels just happened to find their way into production at Roger's Wrexham base and finished off with a set of new Michelins. Naturally, new boots made a big improvement to the 924’s general demeanour and got Roger thinking about wheels, tyres and unsprung weight in general. Being a 'wheel' man he knows about these things and knows how bloomin’ heavy a set of wheels and tyres can be, even alloy ones. So he began to experiment with different tyre/wheel combinations from the Porsche range to make the 924 that bit lighter on its Michelins.
He concluded that 16in Cup wheels as fitted to the 944 Cabriolet and 968 would make the best starting point, weighing as they did 17kg (fully 2kg lighter than a Teledial). But that's not all. Figuring that they had enough meat on them, and bearing in mind the weight of the 924 compared to a 944 or a 968, he figured that he’d be able to machine the face of the wheel flat to shed more weight, without compromising strength. He added some holes for more weight saving and aesthetics and fitted 205/55x16in Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres to achieve a wheel and tyre weight combination of 16kg each and a weight saving of 25kg in total compared to a typical 17in Cup wheel/tyre set-up popular as an alternative fitment to front-engined 924s/944s/968s.
All this makes a big difference to dynamics. Less unsprung weight equals faster acceleration and agility, improved braking and cornering. Further wheels were sourced. Another set of Cup wheels, this time shod with Toyo 888s for track days, and finally yet another set, but this time the rare 6J x 16in Cup wheel, which Roger attacked, machining the face and fitted with Michelin Energy tyres for road use to achieve a total weight of 15.5kg for wheel and tyre.
It could have ended there, but by chance a set of Cobra Kevlar race seats landed in Roger's workshop. Out came the heavy standard seats and in went the Cobras and the weight saving started in earnest as Roger started to monitor what was coming out. Naturally the rear seats went, too, plus the standard belts. Beige carpets were replaced with racier black numbers, the door cards stripped and painted black, and Roger fabricated a rather wonderful custom aluminium roll cage, with rose jointed tubes, and clever brackets, which avoid welding in mounting plates and which fills the void in the back, where the rear seats once lived.
Roger, clearly on a roll, set to with the exterior and the kilos really started to fall off. Starting at the top, the electric sunroof was ditched with a total weight saving of close to 13kg and, of course, taking weight out here improves the centre of gravity, too. Halesowen based Club Autosport supplied a glassfibre bonnet (9kg v 20kg for the steel bonnet) and front wings, plus a 924 Carrera GT style front valance, to which Roger fitted the appropriate Hella lights, which weigh in at 3kg the pair compared to the mighty 15kg of the standard pop up lights, with motor and connecting bar.
Glass is heavy and the 924’s all glass rear hatch is horribly heavy. A Lexan version, with a neat bridge style wing from Carlton Motorsport in Barnsley took yet more weight away from the upper half of the car, while Roger also attacked the doors. Glassfibre
Roger set to with the exterior and the kilos really started to drop off
doors are available, but never fit well, so Roger picked up a pair from a race car and modified them further by taking weight out of the door frame, adding a cross brace for strength and replacing most of the steel skin with aluminium (a saving of 20kg for both doors). Further weight loss was found by replacing the rear bumper and heavy 'flag' style electric mirrors (3kg each) with 500g race mirrors, and removing the front driving lights (1.5kg the pair).
Needless to say, while all this weight shedding was going on, Roger was plotting further modifications. After all, why stop at weight? Indeed, with such weight reduction, the standard suspension would be at a loss, with the stock springs and dampers completely out of kilter with the new, lighter demands placed upon them.
Roger is a man after my own heart, and something of a suspension obsessive. Initial dalliances with various strut inserts and spring combos from Spax and Bilstein weren't getting Roger anywhere, so he decided on something rather more bespoke. To be honest, there isn't enough space here to go into what would make a feature or possibly two in its own right. Regular readers will appreciate that from my own 996 suspension saga. For the full suspension lowdown check out Roger's excellent project website (details at the end of this feature), but in the meantime here are the highlights.
Star of the suspension show is a full custom coilover system, with remote reservoirs, from Dutch suspension experts, Intrax. I will spare Roger's blushes by not revealing how much, but we're talking quality here with a capital ‘Q’. As well as a massive range of adjustability they incorporate Intrax's patented ARC (Anti-roll Control) system which stiffens the suspension under cornering, yet retains ride comfort and compliance in the straight ahead. Clearly a benefit on UK roads.
Being a coilover set-up height adjustability is a given, but in order to take advantage of this, Roger needed to make the rest of the suspension fully adjustable, too, creating his own top mounts and modifying some 944 spec aluminium lower wishbones – in conjunction with FP Engineering in Wales – to accept adjustable male rose joints, which attach to strengthened 924 stub axles and adjustable tie rods. Every variable in terms of ride height, camber and caster can now be catered for.
At the rear the torsion bars are retained albeit 27mm thick, hollow, height adjustable jobs from Elephant Racing, with the original spring plates refurbed with Poly Bronze bearings again from Elephant Racing. The torsion bars work in conjunction with the Intrax coilover damper units, or should that be to say that the dampers/springs take the strain in the corners. The coilover units have an additional helper spring, which
system was given a Zircotec coating to keep the heat in and under bonnet temps down. The inlet manifold was shortened for a straighter flow of air from the standard throttle body and internally polished to speed up the airflow into the engine.
The result of this careful parts pick and mix, plus expert build by Paul Livesey, was finally realised on the rolling road, when ECU and chip tuning guru, Wayne Scholfield of Chip Wizards set about fine tuning the old Bosch ECU. Not many folk know how to get the best from these in the 21st century, but he proved Livesey perfectly correct and after eight hours of 'live' tuning a headline figure of 205bhp at 5700rpm and 205lb ft at 4500rpm was achieved. That, you'll agree, is pretty good going from an 8-valve, four cylinder engine and isn't far off a 3-litre 944 S2 engine. What's that you say? Why not just stick a 944 S2 engine in? Oh, really, where's the fun in that?
Oh, and sticking with the running gear, Roger naturally went all out with the transmission and commissioned Paul to fully rebuild the transaxle gearbox and fit a Wavetrac limited slip diff.
So that is pretty much the build as started with the purchase of the car in 2012. Given that Roger's motivation started with dumping kilos, just how much weight has he managed to lose? Well, if this was Weight Watchers a loss of 210kg would presumably be worthy of some sort of award. To save you the calculation, that brings the 924 in at 1010kg and tantalisingly close to a sub 1000kg figure.
And the big question now? Well, what's it like to drive? We can't wait to find out, which is why we're now at Oulton Park in early December 2017 for a track day courtesy of Javelin. The day is bright, the track is drying out and Roger's 924 in the metal looks absolutely stunning and a testimony to all his hard work and attention to detail, which manifests itself in the fit and finish of both the new components and all the lovingly restored, painted and powder coated parts, too. Roger, by his own admission, gets a bit carried away with this sort of thing, but when you've got the skills and the equipment, then why not?
Roger has put a few thousand miles under the wheels now, but is conflicted as to the future role of the car, but it looks like the 750 Motor Club’s Club Enduro series is calling, where he will share driving duties with Porsche enthusiast friend, Lee. As a former 125cc, geared kart racer, he's got the ability. Indeed, that's more than apparent after strapping myself into the passenger seat for a few laps, with Roger at the wheel.
It's been a long time since I've driven at Oulton Park. It's not what I would call one of my favourite tracks, but that's more out of lack of familiarity with its rolling terrain. Frankly, I'm