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. Following the Nardo record runs, in 1984 Mercedes-Benz handed the keys for 20 identical 2.3-16s to all the Formula 1 stars of the day. The ensuing chaos was enough to make purists cry, but at least one driver who would soon become quite famous took the race seriously. Just like the W201, Senna’s victory at the Nürburgring signaled to the world that there was a new force to be reckoned with; one which quickly would establish itself as a new, higher benchmark.
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:
The Porsche 944S2 took the twin-cam out which had debuted in the short-lived 944S for the 1987 model year to the next level. Bumped from 2.5 liters out to 3.0, the new motor crested 200 horsepower, producing nearly as much twist as the standard 944 Turbo had only a few years before but with no turbo lag. Beefed up too were the looks, which mimicked the Turbo’s design with smoothly integrated bumpers, brake ducts and fog lights as well as a rear diffuser. Wheels looked visually like the Club Sport, but were a different offset. The new “Design 90” style was also seen on the 928 and 911 model and became the signature Porsche look for a half decade. Though many point to the 968 as the ultimate development of the transaxle 4-cylinder, the 944S2 offers most of that package with the chunkier looks of the 951. Few come to market looking as nice as this example does:
I know what you’re thinking.
“Great“, you’re saying, “Carter wants to look at another shitty swapped Volkswagen. Pass. When will he get over this?”
Admittedly, I have looked at quite a few hot hatches recently. There was the A1 GTI with an ABA 2.0 swap; subtle, and clean, but certainly not original and that hurt the value. Several notches up from that was the repeatedly for sale 1977 Rabbit with the 2.8 24V VR6 swap – neat and generally clean, but again a bridge too far for many. Then there was the ultra-clean and fully custom 3.2 swapped Golf; cool, but clearly not a daily driver candidate. So, here we go again – another swapped Golf. But, this one has a bit of a twist…is it worth a roll of the dice?
The 2.3-16 is more than just a W201 in a fancy bodykit. Developed by Mercedes-Benz to go rallying, it was redeployed in the DTM instead when it became clear that it stood no chance against the Audi Quattro. Powered by a willing four cylinder, 16v motor with a head provided by British racing firm Cosworth, it has nonetheless struggled to move out from underneath the shadow of the E30 M3. While the M3 has now attained legendary status amongst enthusiasts, with eye-watering prices to match, the 190E has rather languished. True, it’s not quite as fun or as fast as the M3 (especially in US specification). It’s not that fast at all, in fact: many modern day, entry level cars will pull away from it quite easily. Still, these 190E Cosworths are great because they retain all of the admirable qualities of the W201 (a confidence inspiring, over-engineered chassis, indestructible build quality) while dialing up the fun.
Frequently I see Volkswagen swaps. Infrequently do I think they’re well carried out. There are a myriad of reasons why this might be the case, but often it seems that the details, the aesthetics, or the excuses are too questionable. However, once in a while one pops up that really is pretty well pulled off.
Now, to be clear, I always have a love/hate relationship with swapped cars. On the one hand, I love the creativity, the devotion to the brand, the attention to detail – the individuality that shines through. It’s a general love of cars that can be expressed in so many different directions that makes the hobby refreshing. If we all had tan Camrii, what would be the point? But the hate also shines through, as in this case we lost one of the acknowledged VW greats; a late model 2.0 16V GTI. Was this swap executed well enough to excuse such an exacting high cost?
The 190E 2.3-16, Mercedes’ competitor to the E30 M3, remains relatively under appreciated, with values struggling to climb higher than the mid teens for a nice example. (If you can find one. Many come to market in a sad state.) The upshot is that those looking for an 80s DTM-inspired hot rod can pick one up relatively cheaply. They’re not all that fast by today’s standards – a humdrum Honda with a V6 would
probably undoubtedly beat it in a straight line – and the high strung four cylinder motor can be a bit finicky. But the combination of 80s Mercedes build quality, a cool aero kit, a chassis that inspires confidence and a dogleg 5 speed manual gearbox (first is down and to the left, leaving second and third directly in line) makes for a unique and enticing package.
A little over a week ago, I took a look at a 1992 GTI 16V. One of my absolute favorite cars, it was worth a look outside of the inherent appeal because of the survivor status and the prove-my-theory-right dirty pictures. I figured that it was about a $4,500 car, but was surprised that the bidding pushed upwards to $5,300.
Today we have another Volkswagen to consider. It, too, confirms many of my prejudices about the Volkswagen market. It, too, is a second generation water-cooled car. The asking price is right where I pegged the value of the last Mk.2 at $4,500. And it, too, has 16 valves under the hood – although in this case, it didn’t start there.
Speaking of not starting, it also doesn’t run.
Is this modded Jetta GLI worth a roll of the dice?