The Transaxle Era
The 924 was a sports car without precedent. Engine in the front, transmission at the rear, and all manner of space in between. Forty years ago,
Just one year later,
The term “transaxle” is a combination of “transmission” and “axle.” The engine transmits power to the rear axle via a driveshaft housed in a rigid cover pipe. In an age when drive systems did not have the benefit of electronic assistance, this principle was an innovative concept for a sports car. It ensured neutral and very stable handling qualities.
Arriving at the same time as the rear-engine 911, this addition meant that
One man who was there for both the start and the finish of the transaxle era is 69-year-old
The special exhibition at the
“I was a young designer, just 25 years old,” he says. “And yes, I had a major hand in the 924. It started off as a VW project. There were three final proposals for the exterior. One came from Richard Soderberg, one from Dawson Sellar, and one from me. All three were based on the transaxle package, and they were very different.” The three versions were presented in Wolfsburg as 1:5 scale models. “My design was chosen,” says Lagaaij. While he provided the overall style for the proportions of the 924, another designer supplied the car’s most striking feature. “The VW executive board was very taken by the large glass hatch on Soderberg’s proposal, so his glass dome was added to my design.” The interior of the 924 and the 928 was created by interior designer Hans Braun.
The rest is history, one might say. But that is not entirely correct. We know that the oil crisis led Volkswagen to discontinue work on the EA 425 in late 1974, even though the car was completely finished and already being prepared for production. We also know that
What is not widely known, however, is how the 924 was a clear and unmistakable
Just a few meters away from the young Lagaaij, the 928 was being created at the same time as the 924. In fact, photos of the design center back then show the two models together. Anatole Lapine was in charge of the 928 as well, and the original sketches of the Gran
Most automotive journalists regarded the
When Harm Lagaaij returned to
By Thomas Fuths
Photos by Rafael Krötz