The Golf Harlequin is the model that answers the question no one asked. It’s the model that proves Germans have a sense of humor. It’s also a model which defies logic. If you told your automotive-inclined friend you bought a 22 year old 2.0 automatic 4-door Golf with mis-matched body panel colors, he’d probably offer you the couch in his living room to sleep on for the next month. Things must be that hard for you, after all.
Now, tell him you paid a premium for that car. “How much?”, he’d most certain quip.
The stunned silence which would undoubtedly be followed by the most boisterous of laughter would be punctuated only by the whipping out of a phone and a call to the local insane asylum for an admit, or at the very least a consult. But who’s the joke on here?
It’s funny to follow yesterday’s GTI with this Scirocco S. The critique against the GTI was that it was primarily just an appearance package; underneath, effectively everything was shared with the more pedestrian Golf models, which were cheaper. For many, coupled with the automatic gearbox, that made that model quite undesirable.
Well, in all reality the Scirocco S was just an appearance package as well. The S model shared all of the basic aspects of the Scirocco, but the optional 5-speed was standard, it came with 13″ alloys, a special interior and a front spoiler. Doesn’t sound like much, eh? In all honesty, it wasn’t, and on top of that you only could choose from a few exterior colors. But while finding a clean and original Mk.3 GTI can be tough, finding an original S model Scirocco in good shape borders on impossible. That makes this model one of the most highly sought in the lineup from the 1980s:
In 1996, Volkswagen returned to its roots in the Golf lineup. While the GTI VR6 still grabbed the headlines and enthusiast’s dreams, they re-introduced the 4-cylinder GTI utilizing the 2.0 ABA shared with…well, every other A3 chassis car. Quickly nicknamed the “2.slow”, the 115 horsepower on tap wasn’t anywhere near the VR6 performance. 0-60 was 9.8 seconds versus 7.2, and the smaller engine never had the upper hand as soon as the key was turned unless you were measuring fuel burned. Consequently, the base GTI was really more of an appearance package, and in that regard it was pretty good looking.
The GTI set itself apart from the regular Golf and the Golf Sport it replaced with a new 2-bar grill with GTI badges, twin-chamber headlights and integrated bumper-mounted fog lights shared with the VR6. The signature roof-mounted Fuba antenna also appeared, along with smoked rear lights, 14″ “Flyer” alloy wheels and special interior items. At $16,000, it was hardly cheap at the time. For a few grand less, you could get yourself the class-leading Sentra SE-R which had better tech, better handling and more power. So the GTI made due by living on its reputation, and that meant it felt and looked water-down. Still, today it’s neat to see a clean example pop up, and they don’t come much more clean than this 1996 with only 19,000 miles. Of course, even though there’s no reserve on the auction, there’s still a price to pay.
Update 3/6/2018 – The asking price on this crazy period piece has dropped from the $65,000 ask in February to $46,888.
The 80s was a pretty interesting time, as Rob has talked about in some recent 930 posts. While today’s crowd looks back on the time and often wishes they had a completely stock, all-original example of their favorite hard-to-find ride, back then it was all about how much you could mod your ride to make it wild. Watching videos of turned up WRX-STIs, Skylines, M4s and RS3s today, I suppose not much has changed in retrospect. But wild mods in the 80s were somehow much harder to achieve, and therefore all the more neat when they were done. Or, they were a complete dog’s breakfast, as many Mercedes-Benz models often prove – Andrew’s SLC comes immediately to mind.
There are several notorious aftermarket suppliers of kits for cars that are really hard to achieve a good result with. Koenig, Rinspeed, Strosek, Kamei are all names you’re probably quite familiar with. And if you’re familiar with Volkswagen/Audi products, Rieger should definitely be in that list. Their widebody kits, wild bumpers and huge wings often look way out of place. Paint them a wild color, and they’ll stand out even more. Worst of all, often below the shocking exterior they’re a sheep in wolf’s clothes; all show, no go. But this Scirocco? Well, it’s not only got all of those things going for it, it’s managed to pull it together for a look that is cool and correct in a very over-the-top way, and has the chops to match the outrageous exterior. Also outrageous? The price:
Update 2/6/2018: After selling in November for $2,250, the new owner of the Candy White GTI is selling it with an uninstalled turbo kit asking $2,900 now.
Tired of seeing high prices for Corrado SLC VR6s? Today is your day, because nearly all of the fun offered in the 6-cylinder Corrado was also slotted into the GTI. For a hair under $20,000, you got the same thrilling 2.8 liter VR6 mated solely to a 5-speed manual. Did you want an automatic? Well, then buy the Jetta. Sure, that motor and the bigger body of the Mk.3 meant it was quite a bit heavier than the previous GTIs had been – by 1995, the ‘hot hatch’ had bulked up with 700 additional lbs of super-weight gain Mk.3000 versus the A1. But faster? Without a doubt. With nearly double the horsepower of the original U.S. market model, 0-60 was sub 7-seconds and you could hit 130 flat out. Coupled too with VW’s ‘we don’t care if you think it’s broke we’re not going to fix it’ styling attitude, the Mk.3 might have not looked as slinky as the Corrado, but underneath it was still a Golf and as such, practical.
So while the Corrado pretended to be a Porsche, the GTI remained the answer to the ‘what if’; you wanted a Porsche, but you a) didn’t want to (or couldn’t) pay for a Porsche, and 2) you occasionally needed a car that you could actually use to transport things other than your smile. This was the recipe that made the first two generations successful.
It was no surprise then that the third generation GTI remained a niche hit for Volkswagen even in relatively dire times for European imports. While finding a nice GTI VR6 can be quite difficult, it was a bit of a Thanksgiving treat to see two pop up in my feed.…
If you’re into the small, sporty coupe, the other alternative to the 924s I’ve written up if don’t have the big bucks to buy a super clean 944 is Volkswagen’s answer – the Corrado. While that may generate a chuckle from some, if you breakdown the numbers, the Corrado was pretty close to the recipe of the outgoing 924S. Adding the G-Lader supercharger to the 1.8 liter inline-4 gave the Volkswagen similar punch; 158 horsepower and 165 lb.ft of torque with about 2,700 lbs to motivate. It was a 2+2 hatch as well, with more practical seating in the rear and plenty of storage space. The 195-50-15 tires gave plenty of bite, making the Corrado the equal of the 924S through corners, too. And early on it was even a bit cheaper than the 924S had been because, you know, it wasn’t a Porsche. It’d cost about $20,000 out the door; expensive compared to the GTI, but then this car was really intended to compete in a more upscale market.
Like the 924S, there are foibles. There’s a more potent version that’s quite a bit more popular in the later VR6, though it should be noted that just like the 944, by the time the SLC VR6 models bowed out of the marketplace they were 50% more expensive than the 1990 launch version. It can also eat up a lot of money in repairs, especially if the supercharger that made the package get up and go has got up and went. Also like the 924S, asking prices are usually out of line with market value, and there are quite a bit more abused ones out there than clean examples. I last looked at a clean, but at least partially (and poorly) resprayed example in November:
1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60
The asking price was originally $5,200, but it eventually sold for just under $5,000.…
Boy, it’s been a bit too long since we looked at a Volkswagen Van. In fact it’s been over a year since I last looked at a Vanagon. For shame! Because while I often lament the lack of good 1980s Volkswagens to consider for these pages, there are predictably two models you can find at any time. One is the Cabriolet.
Okay, admit it. While you tell your Corvette-owning friends that the Cabriolet was a travesty you’d never be seen in, they’re actually kind of neat and certainly have their place. After all, what other cheap manual German convertible can you buy….a Boxster?
The other model that’s ubiquitous with 80s search parameters is the T3. They occupy an interesting subculture within the German automobile ownership community. And once in a while, one pops up that I really take notice of:
While Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have all given us superb performance wagons (yes, even in the U.S.!), the German manufacturer with “Wagen” in its name has managed to skirt a really the opportunity to engage 5-door fanatics of ‘Freedom’.
But wait, you say, what about the Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed?
Yeah sure. It was a really cool concept, and with the sport package BBS wheels it even looked really neat. But it wasn’t really a performance wagon. The follow-up 3.6 4Motion Variant actually did offer a bit more sport, but only came in automatic form. The more serious R36 never came here.
However, a few years ago Volkswagen launched an even MORE potent option – the Golf SportWagon R. With a 300 horsepower version of the 2.0 TSFI linked to the 6-speed manual or DSG dual-clutch box and utilizing the same Haldex all-wheel drive as the regular Golf R, the result was no surprise – a slightly bigger Golf R equaled a small performance wagon with few peers. 0-60 could be topped in 4.5 seconds and the quarter was gone in 13.3 seconds with the DSG, it topped out at 155 mph and yet would return 30 mpg on the highway. Eat your cake and have it too, indeed!
Of course, it hasn’t come here. But since it’s a VW and VW enthusiasts are swap-happy….
The last Golf I took a look at was a high-spec GLS TDi model from the end of the run. A popular niche vehicle, the turbo diesel Golf is a hot commodity and even with over 170,000 miles bids were quick to crest $4,000, finally ending with a $4,350 sale. Yet it’s far from the most desirable, or indeed the most valuable, model within a robust lineup of favorites.
There’s the all-wheel drive 3.2 liter VR6 R32, often with asks that rival multiple generations of M3s:
2004 Volkswagen Golf R32
There’s the 20th Anniversary Edition GTI, a turbocharged terror with great looks:
2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition with 9,800 Miles
There’s the Edition 337 – a limited collector-friendly model that kicked off a new generation of turbocharged Golf performance:
Feature Listing: 2002 Volkswagen GTI 337 Edition
And though it carried a ‘Jetta’ badge, we finally got the “Golf Variant” wagon, replete with your choice of 1.8T, 2.0, TDi or even a gutsy 2.8 liter VR6 hooked to a manual:
2002 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6 Wagon
So the Mk.4 range really has a devoted following and plenty of love to spread around to make you a bit unique. Today’s car, though, is none of those collector favorites. What we have here is a Flash Red first-year Golf. No TDi, no VR6, not even a GLS. No, this is a standard Golf. Except it’s not a standard Golf, because it’s an automatic. But before you click away, this one’s odometer hasn’t yet turned 23,000 miles….
Update 12/29/2017: After reportedly selling for $2,650 in October and after originally having a $6,500 ask, this Golf has been relisted with a $4,999 Buy It Now option.
Infrequently do we look at a standard Volkswagen Golf. To be fair to us, they’re not the most impressive vehicles ever designed, especially when you go back a few generations. They were oft the most expensive in category, but seldom the quickest, most tech-laden, most efficient, best handling, neatest or most reliable. Those items are the domain of vehicles like Hondas and Toyotas, who mimicked and improved upon the ideas of others many times over. Their sales reflected that.
But there’s still something nostalgic and lovely about the simplicity of the first two generations of the Golf. It grew up considerably between the A1 and A2 chassis, in weight, size, power and refinement, but the recipe remained the same. Recently I’ve looked at two of the best performers in the chassis overall (and the fastest offered to U.S. customers) with the 1991 GTI 16V and 1987 GTI 16V. Deep seat bolsters, special trim, dual overhead cam high compression inline-4s, close ratio 5-speed manuals, alloy wheels; these represented the pinnacle of performance in the hot hatch segment. Today’s car has none of those things.
What we have instead is a bit of a curiosity. As you can no doubt see, it’s a pretty standard 4-door Volkswagen Golf. It appears to be Ascot Gray Metallic (LA7U) with cloth interior. There’s nothing special under the hood; it’s a standard RV 1.8 inline-4 counterflow engine, running Digifant II injection and good for 100 horsepower. No, what’s unique about this car is where it’s come from…