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

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1987 Porsche 944S with 15,000 Miles

It’s no great revelation that values of the transaxle Porsches are all over the place. I looked at two of the most expensive you could buy recently with the twin low-mileage Turbo S Silver Rose examples:

Double Take – 25,000 Miles Total: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S Silver Rose

In impeccable condition, it was no surprise that the asks were out-of-reach for nearly all enthusiasts. On the other end of the spectrum sits the lowly 924; you recently had your choice of either of these very clean examples for about $4,000, both special in their own way:

Face Off: 1980 Porsche 924 Turbo v. 1988 Porsche 924S Special Edition

But I have to say, the one I covered recently that bothered me the most was the $20,000 ask for the 1988 944 Special Edition, or “Celebration”, model. Sure, it had one of the coolest interiors offered by Porsche in the period, though it’s soundly outdone by the Silver Rose.

1988 Porsche 944 ‘Celebration’ Special Edition

But I just can’t wrap my head around why you’d want to pay a premium for one. For the 924S Special Edition, it makes sense, in a way. The delta between normal and SE values is small and there are tangible performance gains for the Special Edition. But the Celebration was effectively just a loaded 944 with a neat interior. Surely, there must be a better option?

There was.

Alongside the appearance package offered on the regular 944, Porsche introduced the “Super” 944. The new M44/40 double overhead cam motor upped power output substantially to nearly 190, but outside of the subtle “S” badge on the rear and the embossed “16 Ventlier” on the side trim, there were no signs of the performance gains under the hood. There was a substantial change, however, to the base price, which cut the middle ground between the ~$32,000 944 and ~$40,000 Turbo at around $37,000. I always felt like Porsche’s pricing versus power gains on these models seemed a little too convenient; you got the impression that they could do more with the model, but didn’t want to tread on the 911’s toes. Apparently, so did buyers at the time. The 944S failed to sell as well as the normal 944 or the Turbo, with about 8,800 imported over the short two year production cycle before it was replaced by the even more potent and better looking S2. Few appear today like this 15,000 mile Zermatt Silver Metallic one does:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Porsche 944S on eBay

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Totally Turbular: 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V Turbo Rieger GTO

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V Turbo Rieger GTO on eBay

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1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

We’ve covered the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II here many times in the past and for good reason, it is a hell of a unique car with a price tag to match. You can get your 1990s DTM kicks on the street all while being in the lap of luxury (at the time) with things like air conditioning and leather seats. This car is not shy, it is not subtle and most importantly for everyone, it is not cheap. When this thing launched in 1990, asking price for an 2.5-16 Evolution II from Mercedes was around $80,000. That isn’t in 2017 money, that is in 1990 money. Just to give it some perspective, factoring in inflation and other things, this W201 would have run you around $155,000 in terms of buying power. Yes, for a W201 190E.  Unfortunately, this 1990 for sale in the Netherlands isn’t cheaper either.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II on Hemmings

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1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

Much like the S4 I posted over the weekend, the Jetta GLI 16V is a car which on paper I should like very much. After all, I’m a huge fan of the same-generation GTI 16V, and the Jetta was little more than a trunk added to that formula. Underneath, there were almost no changes between the two. You got the same high-strung 9A 2.0 16V with Motronic fuel injection pushing 134 horses through that open-diff front end. Your only choice was a 5-speed manual, of course, and it was a close-ratio one – enjoy those highway speeds! Brakes were updated to 10.1″ and dual tailpipes emerged from the new ‘big bumper’ A2 refresh. Central locking and a cassette player were standard, while you could opt for many power options including windows, mirror, anti-lock brakes, trip computer, cruise control and of course a sunroof. The GLI also carried over BBS wheels from the pre’90 1.8 models, in this case the 15″x 6.5″ ‘RA’.

These items should have conspired to produce a deeply desirable product for me. And yet, somehow I never really took to the Jetta though many did. I suppose it’s the same as the 4000 quattro/Coupe GT fan bases. Rarely do they seem to cross over, yet there’s a mutual respect between them. I like the Jetta, and in the absence of the GTI it would probably be a great favorite of mine. It was aimed at being a more refined alternative to the racier hot hatch. But ultimately it falls second fiddle to the GTI, which always seems (and, arguably is) just that little bit more neat.

For enthusiasts, though, that means potential value. As GTI 16V prices climb steeply with no real relent in sight and few good examples hitting the market, you can get a bit of a value if you don’t mind the junk in the trunk:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

I can say with utter confidence that I’ll never own a Scirocco II. Here’s the weird part – I’m not exactly sure why.

It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the design, though how it came about is somewhat suspect. Volkswagen canned Giugiaro as the replacement designer for the exceptionally beautiful and unique first generation car, moving in-house to Karmann for the second go at the Golf-based sport coupe. The result looked suspiciously like Giugiaro’s Italdesign Asso di Fiori from 1979, though – the car that became the Isuzu Impulse. Two years later, and Viola! the Scirocco II debuts from Karmann with a near identical shape. On top of that, the mechanicals continued to be based upon the first generation Golf, while the A2 series went upwards in refinement. To me, because of the short wheel base and long overhangs – especially highlighted with U.S. spec bumpers – the second-generation Scirocco has just never looked quite right. The visually similar Audi Coupe was better balanced both in design and driving characteristics, and ultimately there wasn’t a huge price gap between them. A 1986 Scirocco 16V, with a few options, was yours for about $13,500 – only about $2,500 shy of the basic Coupe GT. But the performance nod went to the later 16V version of the Scirocco.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V on eBay

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1991 Volkswagen GTI 16V

The 1991-1992 GTI followed the same basic recipe as the 1987 model we saw this past week, but everything was turned up a few notches. Starting in the mid 1990 model year, all US bound A2s received the “big bumper” treatment; new smooth aerodynamic covers front and rear. To help to differentiate it a bit, the GTI’s blackened arches were widened. Filling those arches were new 15″ wheels from BBS. The multi-piece RMs were lightweight and the perfect fit for the design, echoing other contemporary class-leading sports cars such as the M3. Volkswagen color-coded the mirrors and rear spoiler to match the car, as well. VW also gave the GTI a fresh face with more illumination; quad round lights filled the grill, and foglights illuminated the lower bumper. Prominent GTI 16V badges still encircled the car.

Power was up to match the heightened looks. Now with 2.0 liters of twin-cam fun, the GTI produced 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 RPMs. Coupled to the close-ratio 5-speed manual, that was good enough to drop 0-60 times below 8 seconds. That may not sound like much today, but at the time it was another league of performance compared to the typical economy car. Holding you in place were the same heavily-bolstered Recaros that special editions like the ‘Helios’ 1989 Jetta GLI Wolfsburg had enjoyed.

It was a recipe for success, but these cars were also relatively expensive in period, and fell into the global recession time frame which affected sales of nearly all European marques drastically. The general consensus is that around 5,000 of the last of these GTIs were imported, putting their rarity on the level of the M3. But because they weren’t M3s, there are far less around today to enjoy and few turn up in stock configuration for a myriad of reasons. It’s always a bit of a joy to see one arrive in the feed, though, and this LY3D Tornado Red example sure looks great:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen GTI 16V

1987 was the year that the GTI started its climb up the weight and complexity scale with the addition of the PL 1.8 liter double overhead cam inline-4. Now with 123 horsepower, Volkswagen continued its mid-80s trend of charging the customers about $100 a horsepower, resulting in a $2,000 increase in base price to correspond with the 21 horsepower jump. New “Silverstone” alloys which had debuted (like the motor) on the Scirocco were still 14″ x 6″, but looked the part with their signature teardrop machined look. Also carrying over from the Scirocco was the Fuba roof-mounted antenna; something which would become a call sign for fast VWs for the next two decades. The lower valences, both front and rear, were painted matte black, further highlighting the red-stripped bumper covers and accented by a deeper front spoiler with twin brake ducts. The red theme carried over to the “16V” badges surrounding the outside and highlighting the inside; a new red-stripe velour and leatherette sport interior kept the passengers planted. While the 21 horsepower increase didn’t sound like a lot, the 16V was a case of a car which outperformed its numbers on paper and felt much quicker than it might have appeared. 0-60 was gone in a tick under 8 seconds and the GTI would gear-out at 124 mph. Car magazines proclaimed it the best GTI yet, though many pointed out that it was also getting quite expensive. Though still popular, not quite as many of these A2 GTIs seemed to hit the market, and finding clean, original examples today like this beautiful Red Pearl Mica example? You guessed it, exceptionally hard.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

How can you talk about 1980s Volkswagens and not mention the Scirocco? Karmann’s lift of the Giugiaro Asso di Picche, Asso di Quadri and Asso di Fiori designs was plainly evident, but that they were borrowed really should come as a surprise. After all, the reception to the master Italian designer’s other pens – the Golf, first generation Scirocco, Audi 80 (4000) and Coupe GT firmly established both companies in the public limelight. In the case of Volkswagen, it defined a company emerging from the shadow of the air-cooled generation; for Audi, it modernized designs and capitalized on the success of the 100 lineup in the 1970s. But Karmann had been integral in the production of the first two as well, making an easy transition from ItalDesign to Volkswagen’s go-to special production for the second generation Scirocco.

But while the design was all grown up and modern for the 1980s, the underpinnings were the same; little changed dynamically between the 1981 and 1982 model year, and though upgrades came over the next few years with higher-spec trim and a bit more power, it wasn’t until 1986 that VW coupe fans finally got to rejoice as the addition of the PL 1.8 liter dual-cam inline-4 finally joined the lineup. Now with 123 high-revving horsepower, the Scirocco went a bit more like the wind it was named after. The wide-ratio, economy-minded gearbox of yore was gone too, replaced by a close-ratio gearbox. Like the GTI and GLI, 14″ ‘Teardrop’ wheels and a new bodykit heightened the boy-racer appearance, and the 16V models got all matchy-matchy before the Golf and Jetta, too, with body-colored painted bumpers.

Perhaps this was a shot across the bow of the other Giugiaro-designed, sporty 2-door coupe on the market – the Isuzu Impulse Turbo. Because as much of a VW nut as I am, let’s be honest – the Impulse was cooler. It had much better integrated bumpers, for example, and looked even MORE modern than the Scirocco. And it had cooler wheels. And it had a turbo, and as neat as having dual cams was, having a turbo got you into pants in the 1980s. While it only had one cam, the intercooled 4ZCI was good for 140 horsepower in 1985. That power was channeled through the back wheels, too, with near perfect weight distribution. To top all of that off, in 1987 you could get the “RS” model which was painted all white – yes, even the wheels. My ‘87.5 Coupe GT Special Build was even jealous. They came fully loaded with electronic gizmos, and mostly unlike the VW, they worked. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, GM links created the “Lotus Tuned Suspension” package for the 1988 model year. If one of these rolled up to the party you and your Scirocco were at, you were going home lonely (and, slower).

But this isn’t “low-production Japanese cars for sale blog”, so we’ll look at the Scirocco.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16

The more I stare at the 2.3-16, the more I realize just how right Mercedes-Benz got it with the design of this car. The starting point was already a good one. The stock 190E, with its restrained, angular good looks and taut lines, brought Mercedes’s design language out of the 70s and firmly into the 80s. But the flared wheel arches, revised valences and rear deck spoiler found on the 2.3-16 turn the staid W201 into a car that looks ready to go racing. Which it did, first as a rally car and, when that didn’t work out, at the DTM. Power came from a version of the M102 2.3 liter four pot engine – later enlarged to 2.5 liters in the European market – breathed on by British tuning company Cosworth. But despite the looks and pedigree, the 2.3-16 has never attracted the same kind of attention or following as its obvious competitor, the E30 M3. The market for these is pretty spotty. They don’t appear very frequently and when they do, many of them have been battered and broken by neglectful owners. Still, every now and again a really nice one pops up.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 on eBay

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