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:
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.
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.…
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.
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.…
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.
Edit: After selling for $4,650 in the auction from June, this car has been relisted with a $4,750 Buy It Now.
Jumbo Shrimp. Act naturally. Hell’s Angels. Living Dead.
Oxymorons are part of our life to the point where we often don’t even consider their genesis, nor their contradiction. Yet these things pop up on regular basis and have become integral to our culture. Well, I’d like to add a few oxymorons to the list when considering this 1986 Volkswagen:
1) 1986 Volkswagen GTI 16V : Yes, it’s true that the 16V wasn’t introduced in the U.S. until the 1987 model year. Yet, here we have a well engineered, so-clean-it-looks-stock PL-code 1.8 16V swapped in.
2) Clean, well-presented Volkswagen: I know this one seems silly, but it’s really true – outside of the ridiculously clean (and ridiculously bid to $21,000!) 1987 Jetta Coupe , it is extremely rare to find crisp, well-maintained, well-photographed and detailed Volkswagens from the 1980s.
And, unfortunately for the seller but fortunate for us, there’s one more:
3) Buyer didn’t pay: This happens on a regular basis on eBay, but thankfully it offers us a chance to take a peek at the lovely condition:
Creating the W201 series was a monumental undertaking for Daimler-Benz. Design and prototyping ran through the early days of the 1980s as the company spent 2,000,000,000 DM in development costs for the small chassis to compete against the 3-series. This amount included construction of a new factory in Bremen to help produce the W201. Bruno Sacco, head of Mercedes-Benz styling in the late 1970s and early 1980s, created a compact rendering of the S-class formula which worked well. The chassis brought new refinement to the small executive market, with multi-link independent rear suspension and anti-dive front suspension, along with increased levels of sound deadening and lower wind noise from the aerodynamic design.
Mercedes-Benz wasted little time demonstrating that the new “Baby Benz” was, indeed, worthy of the three-pointed star. The culture within the engineering department was still very much funded with an open checkbook, so no stone was left unturned to created a sedan of unparalleled quality and without compromise. To prove this point, shortly after its introduction Daimler-Benz took three of the newly launched, high-performance 190E 2.3-16 variant to the Nardo test track in Italy. At a time when not many family sedans were able to exceed much more than 110 mph, the diminutive Benz topped 150. But it wasn’t just for a moment; over ten days, the W201s lapped Nardo at a fevered pace, conquering world records in distance over time. First fell the 25,000 km World Record time, then the 25,000 mile one. Ultimately, along with a slew of class records, the 190E 2.3-16s averaged 154 mph for 31,000 miles – yet still returned over 10 mpg.
That achievement signaled the launch of a new level of small sedan performance which soon would be met with improved models from BMW and other marques. And while those subsequent models would go on to be more famous on the race track, the 190E made its mark nonetheless.…
Unlike the last string of cars, the Scirocco presented for your consideration this morning is not perfect. It’s not low mileage, and it’s not all original. If you’re into Amelia and Greenwich Concours, you’re not going to be invited onto the law.
But maybe you’re more the type that wants to roll up to those events, rev it to the redline and drop the clutch in a smokey burnout while you chuck the deuces up at the stiff upper lips?
I get it. Cars are meant to be driven, and driving can be fun. Can you believe that? So this 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco has been built to enhance speed rather than paint shine, lap times instead of originality, and performance opposed to preservation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
The introduction of the DOHC motor into the Volkswagen lineup may not have heralded a massive increase in power; on paper, the 21 horsepower bump from the RD 8 valve 1.8 liter inline-4 to the PL 16V of the same displacement was pretty modest compared to the massive leaps of today. But in a 2,000 lbs car, the 20% bump in thrust meant that the new Jetta GLI 16V for 1987 felt like the rocket ship its tach acted like every time you stabbed the throttle. To match the additional power, Volkswagen offered many upgrades over the standard 8 valve GLI in 1987, the only year they were offered together in the U.S. market. A deeper front lip spoiler with brake ducting and rear spoiler added boy-racer looks. Though the wheels remained 14″x6″, the new “Silverstone” design you know as “Teardrops” looked cooler than the bottle-cap inspired design on the 8V. A swept-back Fuba roof-mounted antenna continued the speed theme and became the signature Volkswagen look for some time. Inside 16V badges on the dash and a higher red line prepared you for the thrill ride while heavily bolstered half-cloth, half-leatherette Recaro Trophy seats hugged you. And to show how fancy you were to your friends, this Volkswagen included a lit key fob – the first I can think of for a Volkswagen. The Jettas were also marketed upscale of the more boy-racer GTI (a trend which recently has been reversed), so options included power windows, air conditioning and a sunroof, and the model carried over from 1987 largely unchanged into 1988. They were a cut-rate M3 to an entire generation that was never able to even contemplate new BMW ownership, and became wildly popular as a result: