Walter Röhrl is a living legend in the world of rallying. While he is most well known for his exploits behind the wheel of the Lancia 037, and the 1983 WRC Constructors title against the might of Audi, very few know that he briefly drove for Porsche. As such, the German Automaker surprised him for his 74th birthday with the race-winning 924 Carrera GTS Rally that he campaigned in 1981.

“This car opened the door to Porsche for me,” said Röhrl. “For me, it’s a journey back in time. I immediately feel 40 years younger.”

Gallery: 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTS Rally

Before his standout season with Lancia, Röhrl raced with Porsche for just one season in 1981. Early mechanical gremlins held them back during their first rally, but the car was still quick enough to finish second in the overall standings. Röhrl and co-driver Christian Geistdörfer would go on to win four rallies that year – including a victory at the gruelling Serengeti Safari Rally.

The race car was built on the underpinnings of the 924 GTS, which happened to be the most expensive car in the Carrera lineup in 1981 – setting customers back a mere 110,000 marks (£48,500) at current exchange rates. However, the rally car was actually built from one of the nine pre-production prototypes of the 924, meaning that its 2.0-litre four-cylinder never had a factory serial number.

Thankfully, in the care of the Porsche Museum, the car was kept in great condition. Even after sitting dormant for 40 years, a quick inspection revealed that the engine and KKK 26 turbocharger were ready to go. Despite a few issues with a worn-out fuel supply system and chassis components, the restoration went smoothly, with only a few components needing an overhaul.

As turbo engines were still relatively new at the time, Porsche wasn’t sure if the car would be competitive in such an established field. However, thanks to Röhrl’s talent and determination, the package was a resounding success. After a great season with the German automaker, he departed to Opel in 1982 and won the World Rally Championship.