1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V

1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V

9A. It’s a term most enthusiasts don’t know. Unlike most pedantic BMW owners that have memorized every signal chassis, engine and option, Volkswagen’s various iterations of the EA827 motor can get a quite esoteric even to lovers of the brand. But the 9A was something a little special, because that was the high-revving 2.0 liter 16V that was stuck into the GTI, GLI and Passat models in the early 1990s. Down on power to the more famous and ubiquitous VR6, the 9A was the VW’s equivalent of the S14. Like the E30 M3, the GTI and GLI wore special items to denote the racey motor under the hood; BBS wheels, wider flares, foglights, Recaro seats and special trim to help set them apart from the more pedestrian lineup. This was the period where a blacked-out VW badge really meant something. While the 9A might not be a name most remember, the “GTI 2 liter 16 valve” still is a magical formula to lovers of the hot hatch in the late 1980s and early 1990s:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

I think I’ve made my gripes with the used Volkswagen market abundantly clear in prior posts. Fuzzy photos, “feelers”, lack of information, failure to wash the car, only posting photos of the car in a carwash covered in foam, junk-strewn interiors, massive miles and broken odometers, poorly executed swaps, maintenance skipped in favor of dubious modifications. We’ve seen it all on these pages; well, a “no thank you” helping sample of “it all”. But once in a while a Volkswagen comes along that really debunks the stereotype of typical VW owners. Today’s GTI VR6 is one of those myth busters:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

Volkswagen of America’s small pickup truck offered a unique experience at the beginning of the 1980s; basically, the front half of the pickup was a Rabbit, which meant relative comfort, reliability, easy of use and driving and good fuel economy. In back, Volkswagen stretched the wheelbase nine inches and swapped in a tubular axle supported by leaf springs giving the pick up 1,100 lbs of payload capacity and a six foot bed – not too shabby! They even launched a “Sportruck” model, which gave you bucket seats and some really trick decals that covered most of the side. You also got some amazing options for the period, like a tachometer (wooooow) and a 5-speed transmission. However, the mix of 1.7 liter, low compression 8V motors available weren’t exactly going ignite your enthusiast dreams. 78 horsepower channeled through the manual would return a not particularly stunning 0-50 time of 9.7 seconds. 60, you’ll remember, was illegal in the United States at that time, so why bother designing a car that could approach it?

But Westmoreland, PA produced some other neat Volkswagens around the same time, though – notably, the U.S. finally got the higher compression, higher output GTi. Though Volkswagen themselves never combined them, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising individuals:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

It’s hard to believe that the Volkswagen Scirocco has fully entered into mid-life crisis. When I was born, my family was lucky enough to have a few “classic cars”. My father, for example, still drove me around in a 1966 Mustang – considering the number which sold, probably not an unusual occurrence. But while those memories seem as fuzzy as the television broadcasts from the period, consider for a moment that when I was born, that “classic” Mustang was 11 years old. My current daily driver is 14 (technically, 15, soon to be 16) years old, so as I tote my son to school in the back of the Passat I’m wondering if his experiences will feel the same as mine did. Of course, in the 1970s cars seemed to age much more quickly; to the point that when I was forming most of my car-related memories in the 1980s, the Volkswagen Scirocco was well into its second iteration and a fair amount of the original models had already left the road. Survivors are few and far between, as mostly rust took them off the road. Finding a survivor – especially a pre-refresh Scirocco like this 1977 – is quite rare:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

2000 Volkswagen Cabrio

2000 Volkswagen Cabrio

In an attempt to challenge Mercedes-Benz’s R107 for chassis longevity, Volkswagen’s introduction of a more affordable German drop-top in the 1980 Rabbit Convertible stretched production until 1993. That meant that the A1 outlasted all of the A2 production cycle and was no squarely into the newly launched A3. Volkswagen introduced their replacement for the aging and renamed Cabriolet with the Mk.3 Cabrio in 1994. As with the A1, production again would extend beyond the A3 chassis life, because in 1999 VW introduced us to the fourth generation Golf. As with the 2nd generation, VW didn’t plan a convertible version for the Mk.4 – well, at least, not for the Golf, as convertible duties would be handed off to the New Beetle. But since the launch of the nostalgic Beetle Convertible waited until 2003, VW covered the gap with the “Mk3.5” refresh on the Cabrio. It received softened and rounded bumper covers, Mk.4 inspired lights, and a lightly revised interior. As with other VW models, there was a base GL model or the better equipped GLS, like today’s example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Volkswagen Cabrio on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1992 Volkswagen GTI with Supercharged VR6

Tuner Tuesday: 1992 Volkswagen GTI with Supercharged VR6

It’s hard to say which is more popular – S50/52 swaps into E30s or VR6s into everything Volkswagen. But there’s a reason they’re so popular; they’re relatively cheap and they work. Can you achieve VR-power levels in a 9A 16V? Sure. Will it cost you and be a pretty compromised road motor? Yes, so suddenly the appeal of the ubiquitous VR-swap makes a bunch of sense. The results here turn what was a butch looking but relatively slow 8 valve GTI into a performance machine. That’s helped by a dose of performance parts including a trick Schrick intake, but it’s the supercharger that will really motivate you here. With over 100% more power the ride should be exhilarating!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

The Mk.3 Volkswagen GTI is in a pretty tough spot right now. For many, they’re too new to consider a classic in the making. But let’s take a breath on this one right now – the first VR6 powered GTIs can legally be registered as a vintage car in some states. Now that your mind is blown, move on to the next step – when was the last time you saw a really nice, clean and original VR6? Right, what was it – 2002? Sure, the Mk.3 didn’t have the best interior quality or the best build quality. But then, neither did the Mk.1 or Mk.2, and the GTI versions of those are firmly into collector status. The third generation may suffer from not being a Corrado and looking a little less special overall than the first two, but the addition of the VR6 into the chassis made for one thrilling driving experience. This might be the perfect time, then, to snap up a nice VR6 and get ready to rock some antique

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

The advertising tag line for the 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup was “So American, it’s not available in Germany”. Since the mid 1980s, though, the opposite has been true as the truck range of Volkswagen was removed from the U.S. lineup. In some ways, that’s a bit strange since the small truck market was so strong in the mid-to-late 1980s, but starting in the 90s and culminating in the early 2000s, the small truck market evaporated as the crossover to large trucks became so easy and prevalent. But big trucks have gotten very expensive, and smaller trucks (which really are the size of 1980s full sized trucks) are experiencing a minor resurgence – so much so that VW is rumored to be thinking of bringing the Amarok starting as early as next year. So, let’s take a look back at where the VW pickup began:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

Feature Listing: 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

Feature Listing: 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

While our author Nate has been on sabbatical, I have to admit we’ve had a dearth in coverage of his favorite subject – the Vanagon. Slow, boxy and rust prone, there is plenty to poke fun at every time a Vanagon comes to market. But to me what’s amazing is the package that the Vanagon offers. There’s a simplistic utility to the model which belies its near-universal appeal and recognition. And it’s hard to argue with the adventure aspect which comes with ownership, but also opens new possibilities to life. Over the past few years my wife and I have discussed touring the country and visiting the National Parks with an Airstream. They’re seriously vintage-chic these days, so buying a good condition one can be prohibitively expensive to being with. Then, you need a vehicle to tow it with, quite literally doubling the complexity of your journey. This makes the Vanagon an interesting alternative for many adventure seekers, as you get a different version of camp couture in a package capable of bring you to the next site on its own. Today’s 1989 Vanagon Westfalia is just that sort of package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia on Cleveland Craigslist

1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi

1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi

Yesterday, searching through bad 1980s movies to watch I came across the Orwellian classic 1984. I sat and stared at the image of John Hurt, slightly bemused that Orwell’s vision of the future was so dark, dire and complicated. Sitting at the end of a head-scratching 2016, 1984 seems in many ways to be such an easy time. Okay, remove the equally crazy politics of the period; telling my students that bombings in downtown London were commonplace when I was growing up confuses them, or that plane hijackings happened almost as often as mass shootings do today, nevermind the environmental and infectious disease disasters of the period. In 1984, you could buy a Volkswagen Jetta GLi for $8,500. Inflation corrected, that’s just below $20,000 – so still quite a deal in the grand scheme. Sure, today’s cars offer more luxury and convenience, and isolation from the driving experience. They are, without a doubt, safer in every measurable characteristic than cars in the 1980s. And faster? Also indisputable, as a new Jetta GLi turbo will positively wipe the floor with this A1’s performance. With only 90 horsepower on tap, you’ll struggle to best speeds most modern cars can do without the driver even blinking. Relatively speaking, this Jetta GLi is slow, loud, unsafe, and not hugely comfortable. Why, then, were they so much fun to drive?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible with 8,000 Miles

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible with 8,000 Miles

The product catalog for what Formula E is makes for a pretty hilarious read. “Passive Formula-E systems built in to your VW begin with an aerodynamic body design that cuts down on wind resistance.” Have you actually looked at a Rabbit? I guess in terms of footprint, it was physically smaller than a Chrysler Cordoba, so there’s that? But ‘aerodynamic’ is not the first thing I think of when I see an A1. It continues on touting the benefits of radial tires (Wooooow), a high-torque engine (compared to….?), and the George Costanza-inspired “breakerless transistorized ignition”. What it really was was a long 5th gear, denoted on Audis as the ‘4+E’ in the same year. What that meant was it spun the high-torque motor down to low revs, and that road better be pretty flat and not particularly windy if you’d like to maintain any speed. And, if you downshifted to pass anything or go the speed limit, immediately an arrow-shaped light would pop on the dash, reminding you that fuel was being wasted. But Volkswagen claimed it was good for 42 m.p.g. in a period still reeling from the fuel crises of the 1970s, and marketing is marketing.

What the Rabbit Convertible really offered you was one of the very few drop-top options in the early 1980s. Remember, this was a time when Detroit had pulled out of convertibles following hints they would be banned by the NHTSB. Japan didn’t really have much of anything on offer, either, as it hadn’t really established itself fully into the market in anything other than superb economy cars. And Germany? In 1982, you had two options – the Mercedes-Benz 380SL, or the Rabbit Convertible which had replaced the Beetle in 1980. That was it. In some ways, that makes these early Rabbits special, and though these Volkswagens were no where near as dear as the Daimlers, some who bought them treated them as royalty:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible on eBay

2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible

1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible

When considering the Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible and it’s Halloween disguise replacement, the Cabriolet, I was at a bit of a loss to explain its general lack of popularity. It wears much of the same DNA as the very popular, universally lauded, and VW market darlings of the moment GTi and first generation Scirocco. Yet it is often dismissed as too soft, too heavy, too weak on performance, and too girly. This is strange, since it’s not the removal of the top that dynamically changes it much. You don’t look at a R107 or Porsche Cabriolet and think ‘Wow, those drapes they’ve put on top have really made this car feminine.’ I guess ultimately it’s probably like the difference between the two Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Underneath, the share 99% plus of the same DNA. They’re both intelligent, well spoken, dynamic and ruthlessly, take-no-prisoners fast on the race track. Yet when it comes down to it, the crowd loves the plucky underdog Brit, while the cold and calculating German seems a bit of the villain. Silly, right?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible on eBay

1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant

1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant

If I told someone in the general public that a 21 year old, cloth interior Volkswagen rolling on steel wheels would be worth $10,000 on the open market, they’d probably laugh. After all, Volkswagens half that age are worth only around 50% of that figure. But to the general public, the moniker “1Z” means little else other than the first number and last letter. Unless they’re trying to pass some perverted field sobriety test, that combination just wouldn’t have any deeper significance. But to Volkswagen enthusiasts, “1Z” is the password to secret hyper-milers. They’re the name of the Kingdom of special hippie-crunchy, make-your-own-gas type of automobile enthusiasts. One step from Moonshiners, they take showers about as often as they wash their cars (read: not frequently). They test the suspensions of their cars with how much weight they can carry and or tow at a given time. The term “low mileage” is not in their vocabulary, instead proudly patting themselves on the back for the hundreds of thousands of miles they’ve clattered slowly away. Instead of bragging about 60 m.p.h. times, they are happy to rub your nose in 60 m.p.g. claims. And though the 1Z 1.9 TDi came in a few packages stateside, they absolutely go gaga over Passat wagons of the manual variety:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDi Variant on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI

1996 Volkswagen GTI

The third generation Volkswagen GTI 2.0 might just go down in history as the least appealing of the brand name. Starting with the move to 16 valves in the second generation, the 8 valve models would play second fiddle as mostly an appearance package slapped onto an economy car. But while the second generation had the benefit of butch good looks, flared arches and the signature quad-round headlight arrangement to make you feel that you had gone upscale, when it came to the third generation’s base GTI it was a bit of a head-scatcher. It wasn’t that you didn’t get equipment; your $16,000 got you lots of standard items such as air conditioning, an upgraded stereo, power sunroof and door locks, and a few other premium-feel items (An alarm! Specially colored seat fabric!). The meat of the GTI was the appearance changes, though – from the 14″ alloy wheels to the dual-chamber headlights and projector fog lights, along with smoked tail lenses and a roof-mounted antenna, the special grill held the all-important letters “GTI”. But the performance of the ABA 2.0 inline-4 was standard Golf fair and the suspension wasn’t upgraded – this was, after all, just a Golf. That meant 0-60 in a lethargic 10 seconds unless you fried the front tires and knocked .2 seconds off – the result of all those “luxury” item additions. The 2.0 was a poser, then, and lived fully in the shadow of the high-output VR6 model which packed a full 50% more power in the same package but with upgraded brakes, suspension and wheels. The premium to jump to the VR6 was about $3,500 – a lot of money. But the leap in performance well paid off for your additional indebtedness, and consequently the 2.0 seemed to be popular only with college-bound Jersey girls who were convinced their compact economy hatch was actually a bumper-car ride at an amusement park.…