WEIGHT WATCHER

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

911 Porsche World - - 924 Track Car -

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

Roger Bracewell at the wheel of his su­perlight 924S track car. For­tu­nately he’s quite lean him­self

On track at Oul­ton Park, where 205bhp and an all in weight of 1010kg makes for a lively per­former

In­trax coilovers, with a vast range of ad­just­ment, plus Toyo R888 track tyres of­fer han­dling and grip to match the power

En­gine bay is a thing of beauty as Roger can­not re­sist ap­ply­ing his skills to the aesthetics. The 2.7litre en­gine, built by Paul Livesey from a pick ‘n mix of parts, pro­duces 205bhp

Be­low left: Quick fuel stop at Oul­ton Park. Just look at the size of the Fer­rari com­pared to the com­pact 924

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