Feature Listing: 1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V

I was pretty excited to see the 1986 Volkswagen GTI that popped up for sale last week. While the A2 is a seriously popular platform for enthusiasts and tuners, coming across original examples is exceedingly hard. But within the GTI range from 1985-1992, the ’85-’86 probably rank lowest on desirability.

You can imagine what a treat it was for me, then, to get to follow it up with the car that re-injected excitement into the lineup. For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 – the PL – to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.

To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the “Silverstone” (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and – of course – 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.

Measured 0-60 times plummeted; now capable of achieving the feat in 7.9 seconds, Volkswagen also installed a pretty optimistic 140 mph speedometer. But it was an indication that this was a quick car, and indeed the GTI again punched above its weight class in performance. The base price was up, too – now $12,250, but you could opt in air conditioning, metallic paint, a sunroof and nicer Heidelberg radio and be pushing $14,000 pretty easily.

Despite the price increase, the GTI was an immediate success, universally heralded by magazines as the best GTI yet. With most of the A2 16Vs now approaching 30 years old, though, they’ve become reclusive legends and rarely appear like this:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

Continue reading

Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro Wagon

As we saw in last week’s Quantum (née Passat), underneath the Volkswagen was almost all B2 Audi. They had borrowed Audi’s full quattro setup in the Syncro model until 1988. That was the same year that the G60 supercharged engine had debuted in the Golf in Europe, but it wouldn’t be until late 1989 and the new Corrado model’s introduction that the G-Lader would become better known on these shores.

The PG G-Lader devoted to the Rallye, G60 and third generation Passat Syncro wasn’t the most powerful unit VW of the time period at 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque (the 3G 16V version in the Golf Limited had 50 horsepower more), but the combination of these items seemed awesome at the time to U.S. fans because, of course, in the midst of VAG’s early 90s sales slump they opted not to bring the package here. Like the Corrado, based on Mk.2 underpinnings the Passat’s engine configuration had moved from longitudinal in the B2 to transverse in the third gen, meaning that Audi’s quattro system remained unique to that brand. The Golf’s transverse engine placement precluded use of the Audi longitudinal design, which used output shafts and mechanical differentials. Instead, Volkswagen turned to Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch for development.

Noted for development of four-wheel-drive systems and probably most recognizable for the Pinzgauer military vehicle, Steyr’s solution to the transverse problem was to utilize a viscous coupling similar to the AMC Eagle. However, while the Eagle’s system was all-wheel drive, all the time, Volkswagen’s system would only engage when the front wheels slipped. The Passat added new electronic features to the range topper, too – including anti-lock brakes and an electronic differential lock, and the new shape dropped the drag coefficient to .31.

The best part about the G60 Passat, though? You could get one in wagon form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro Wagon on Seattle Craigslist

Continue reading

1986 Volkswagen Quantum Wagon

The lineup of unlikely VAG survivors continues today with this second generation Volkswagen Passat, of course badged the “Quantum” for the U.S. market. This model replaced the lovely and popular Dasher model which had been available in several configurations. Briefly, the new B2 continued that and if you’ve ever seen a 1982 Quantum 2-door hatchback in person in the U.S., you might be alone. The model was dropped quickly, though continuing on was the Variant (VW-speak for wagon) model. And because the underpinnings were shared with the B2 Audi, things started to get pretty interesting for the upscale VW. And, confusing.

Volkswagen was happy to tout the Quantum as the sole “German engineered Grand Touring car sold in America that was available as both a sedan and station wagon and came equipped with a 5-cylinder, fuel injected engine, front-wheel drive, power assisted rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension AND cruise control”. You don’t say, VW? Seriously, I think they could have left a few modifiers off that description and it still would have been true. The weird part is that the upscale Volkswagen actually tread on the toes of its even more upscale competition – the Audi 4000. Though early 4000s had the 5-cylinder available as an option, when it came to the mid-80s Audi saved the inline-5 only for the quattro models and Coupe GT/5000 front drivers. The 4000 grabbed the engine from the GTI, instead. But you could still get a 5-cylinder Quantum, and you could get a wagon version. Heck, you could even get a Syncro version of it, but only as a wagon!

Here’s where things get even more confusing. The 5-cylinder is usually associated with the moniker “GL5” – the upscale sedan with alloy wheels. And indeed the base Quantum Wagon in 1985 came with the 1.8. But in 1986, you could get a base Wagon with the 2.2 liter inline-5, and I believe the wagon was never officially badged the “GL5”. Weird? That’s VW.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Wagon on eBay

Continue reading

1986 Volkswagen GTI

Back to the Golf. A few days ago I looked at a pristine, original low-mileage ’85 Golf. A Westmoreland build, it was a very basic model. But your only other option in the first model year was the GTI, and it was a $2,000 upgrade over the basic Golf. Of course, for that amount you did get quite a jump in quality. Replacing the basic 85 horsepower 1.8 was a high-compression HT 100 horsepower unit. It didn’t sound like a lot, but that did represent a roughly 20% gain in power. Signature red-striped trim announced that this was the performance variant of the hatchback, and you also got 4-wheel discs as a first in the U.S. range. Those brakes hid behind carry-over “Avus” (Snowflake) wheels, though instead of the machine/dark gray finish the A1 had, they were now all silver and with “Volkswagen” imprinted on flush covers. Sometimes GTIs were equipped with “Montreal” (Bottlecap) alloys which were also shared with the Jetta GLI. Application seems somewhat indiscriminate. The GTI also had an upgraded suspension with front and rear sway bars and a close-ratio 5-speed manual as the only transmission. Of course, the interior was also upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel borrowed from earlier GTIs, a multi-function display and specially-trimmed cloth sport seats. Unlike the prior GTI, the new model now also had flush-fitting aerodynamic glass headlights which were also seen on the Jetta, and later in 1986 the Golf Wolfsburg Edition.

In all, it was a substantial upgrade over the standard Golf, and you could of course further opt to include a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, and a nice radio. Early U.S. Mk.2 GTIs were only available in Mars Red, Diamond Silver Metallic, or as seen here Black. Magazines fawned over the new GTI, which quickly established itself by winning Motor Trend‘s ‘Car of the Year‘ award. They proclaimed the model was “a case of specialized strengths plus broad flexibility — domination in some areas combined with sound capabilities in all others — to produce a commendable win.”

Today, those first two years of the GTI are quite hard to find. More popular were the later, much more potent 16V versions. But occasionally a really nice early example turns up, and here it is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

Continue reading

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS

Update 6/1/18: The seller has dropped the price from the original $6,995 asking price to $5,995 today.

Continuing on the Volkswagen theme, and with the Roman Catholic-based holiday also in mind (our Orthodox friends celebrate next week!), let’s take a look at Volkswagen’s first foray into water-cooled products. The Golf was, of course, not marketed as the Golf in the United States, but the Rabbit. Ostensibly, the ‘Golf’ name followed in the convention of VW’s other wind-based products (Scirocco, Passat and Jetta) since Golf is German word for “Gulf” – it has nothing at all to do with the game, though a set of clubs would fit nicely in the back. But Volkswagen still won’t tell anyone why they changed the name to Rabbit in the United States. More concerning, they changed the name to ‘Caribe’ in Mexico. That’s a Piranha. At least our market had a more friendly mascot?

While the Beetle was certainly a tough act to follow be sold alongside of, the modern, convenient and completely practical Rabbit sold in droves at a time when fuel-conscious Americans were looking for solutions to their 19 foot long Lincoln Mk. V’s inability to clear 6 mpg. It’s 7.5 liter V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor managed to squeeze a massive 208 horsepower out of all that capacity. And that was the optional upgrade engine. Standard was a 6.6 liter version of the Cleveland V8 rated at only 166 horsepower, yet not really getting any better fuel economy. Of course, the Mk.V needed these giant motors as it was itself a giant. Curb weight was close to 5,000 lbs. So while the Rabbit seemed fairly insignificant in its stature by comparison, the reality was that it was a much better choice for most motorists.

To capitalize on the popularity, Volkswagen moved production of Rabbits from Germany to the United States for 1978. The move was signified by a shift towards rectangular square-beam headlights, just as we saw with yesterday’s early A2 Golf. Sales soared when gas prices did, too: between 1980 and 1984, Volkswagen sold over 620,000 Rabbits from Westmoreland. The sold a further 77,000 Rabbit Pickups – a creation solely aimed at North America, and now sought by some Europeans.

Because there were a lot of Rabbits produced, finding examples for sale even today isn’t all that hard. But low values have meant that restoration is really out of the question unless it’s your labor of love. However, things are beginning to change…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS on eBay

Continue reading

1985 Volkswagen Golf with 29,000 Miles

Continuing on the theme of basic Volkswagens, as I mentioned in the A2 Jetta post I have a soft spot for the Golf. I’ve twice owned them; my last was a ’98 K2 4-door and my first Volkswagen was just like this car. It was a 1986 Westmoreland-built Golf. Compared to most of the cars that come across these pages, the Westmoreland Golfs aren’t really very special. They were very basic models. But they were also unique in their trim, and they were only built in the configuration you see here for two years. Of course, that really only matters to Golfphiles, but it’s a neat bit of trivia, anyway.

I covered the details of these models when I last covered a Westy Golf back in July, 2017. Basically, the easiest way to tell them apart from German builds are the wheel covers and the grill with sealed-beam rectangle headlights. That particular ’86 was mega impressive, as it had only 44,000 miles. Well, today’s ’85 has even less:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen Golf on eBay

Continue reading

2001 Volkswagen Jetta GLS VR6 Wagon

For me, the Jetta got a lot more interesting when it came to the fourth generation. That’s mostly because the Mk.4 came in a myriad of variations. Sure, there was no coupe as there had been in the first and second iterations. But I’d gladly trade the odd two-door sedan for what did come to the U.S., as the Golf Variant finally arrived here as the Jetta Wagon. Engine choices were plentiful, as well; the base 2.0 continued on, but there was the torquey and tunable 1.8T, the thrifty 1.9 TDI, and…of course…the 2.8 liter VR6, Volkswagen’s party hat since 1992.

Mild revisions in the late 1990s gave the VR6 174 horsepower and 181 lb.ft of torque. In most Jettas, the VR6 had been paired with the “GLX” package since the prior generation. They were fully loaded with electrical accessories and leather interiors in an attempt to bring the economy sedan closer to near-luxury models. But since the GLX and VR6 came with a serious premium on the Jetta – almost $6,000 over the base price of the 2.0 GLS Wagon – Volkswagen offered a de-contented GLS version of the VR6. I remember a friend purchasing one when new and excitedly showing it to me. There it was – a Jetta which looked pretty much like every other Jetta, but with a VR6 under the hood. It had smaller 16″ wheels, cloth interior, and…like pretty much every other basic Jetta…an automatic.

So, two days after the last cheap and interesting spec Jetta, here we are again. This one is in a very interesting configuration, as well. It’s a GLS wagon – so, cloth interior and no sunroof, but it was selected with the VR6 motor and is mated to a 5-speed manual. Talk about a sleeper!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Volkswagen Jetta GLS VR6 Wagon on eBay

Continue reading

1991 Volkswagen Jetta Carat

When going through the not particularly extensive product range of Volkswagen in the early 1990s, I really find it hard to get excited about the Jetta. Okay, there were fast Jettas, like the GLI. And they were pretty cool in their own right. But as the GLI was available with less weight and better looks in more famous hatchback form, I’ve never been as excited about them.

I also found the trim levels very confusing. There was the standard Jetta, which pretty much got you nothing other than seats and a motor. Then there was the GL, which got you slightly more of something, but I’m not really sure what. Pretty much everything remained optional on these two models. Everyone knows about the Wolfsburg models, of course. They were more loaded, with special colors, interiors, radios and wheels – generally. Each model year was a bit different, and the A2 resource guide is helpful to sort it out..

In the middle was a strange one – the Carat. Technically, this model was placed above the GL and below the Wolfsburg model. But sometimes it wasn’t as well equipped as the GL, and other times it seemed better equipped than the Wolfsburg. It came with rear headrests (shared with the GL), power locks (shared with the GL), delay dome light (shared with the…are you seeing a trend?). So what did you get for the substantial premium in price? Unseen was the motor upgrade, which gave the Carat the 105 horsepower engine. Carats also differed from other non-GLI Jettas because they were equipped with 4-wheel disc brakes – but only for some years. In 1991, drums returned as standard. They also had an upgraded sports suspension, sport steering wheel, cruise control, sport seats and a power package which included mirrors and windows. So, it was a sporty option of the Jetta – wait, wasn’t that the goal of the Wolfsburg? It certainly seems like mission creep. Still optional were sunroof, automatic transmission, and somewhat shockingly alloy wheels. The Carats came standard with “unique” wheel covers – so unique, they were borrowed straight from the same year base Passat. It was a strange package of piece-meal parts for which Volkswagen charged a serious premium; the Carat cost nearly 50% more than a base Jetta out the door.

But in the company of the neat-looking and 2.0 16V-powered Passat, the supercharged and then VR6-powered Corrado, the legendary Cabriolet and Vanagon models, and the best looking GTI ever produced, it’s really hard to see the Jetta as anything other than an “also ran” for 1990-1992. Still, once in a while a nice one comes along…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta Carat on eBay

Continue reading

Funny Fiber Double Take: 1974 Bradley GT II v. 1980 Aquila

Kit cars don’t get much love on these pages. Well, to be fair, they don’t get much love, period. But kits cars do offer something; exotic(ish) looks on a pedestrian budget. And strangely enough, some kit car and limited-manufacture cars have begun to be considered collectable in their own right. So when I came across two unique Volkswagen-based bits, I thought “why not?”

So today we have two very limited production examples of fiberglass laid over a VW chassis. Which is the winner? Let’s start with the Bradley GT II:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1974 Bradley GT II on eBay

Continue reading

1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

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.

“$10,500”

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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin on eBay

Continue reading