1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet

1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet

The first water-cooled entrant into the Volkswagen world had remarkable staying power, just like its air-cooled brethren had before it. Construction of the first models began back in 1974, and though the convertible version didn’t begin production until five years later, the renamed (but largely unchanged) Cabriolet wouldn’t wrap up production until an amazing 1993. Granted, by that point the Cabriolet was more niche model and nostalgic throwback than practical transportation, but nonetheless it was an impressive return on investment in the chassis design that 19 years later it was still being produced. And, if you want to count the reworked South African version, technically the Mk.1 was still available for sale until 2009!

What we have here is one of the later U.S. specification Cabriolets. In 1988, Volkswagen updated the look of the aging model (which, incidentally, had just been lightly refreshed in 1985 and renamed Cabriolet from Rabbit Convertible) to the “Clipper” models. Signature would become the four-headlight grill, deeper and smoother front fascia, wider fender flares and side skirts. The Cabriolet became the first Volkswagen model to sport an airbag as standard in 1990, too, as well as a new knee protection bar to the lower portion of the dashboard. 1990 also marked the change from the ex-GTI CIS motor to the Digifant electronic fuel injection. The more upscale models, like this “Best Seller”, also received the 16V model “Teardrop” alloys making for a slick looking package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet Best Seller on eBay

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco


ANOTHER Scirocco?!?!

Yeah. Another Scirocco. If you can be fascinated by the proliferation of the mega-Beetle 911, though, you can bear with me. Volkswagen’s replacement for the Karmann Ghia, what would become the Porsche 924, proved to be perhaps a step too far for the company. What it created instead, once that was abandoned, was a bit of a legend in its own right. Based upon the pedestrian underpinnings of the Golf but actually developed in tandem and released prior to the more famous hatchback, Giugiaro’s penning of a slinkier two-door coupe variant of the platform was simply beautiful. As the Ghia had before it, it married serious Italian styling credentials with the practicality of an economy family hatchback.

Volkswagen’s new EA827 was the power of choice. Here displacing 1588 ccs and generating 71 horsepower, it was adequate motivation to top 100 mph – just. Amazing at it may seem, the nearly 1.6 liter unit in this 1977 was an upgrade over the 1.5 from the model’s 1974 launch in the U.S., though it only gained one net horsepower. They were diminutive cars; a 94.5 inch wheel base and only 155.7 inches overall, the first generation Scirocco is an amazing 10 inches shorter than the model I looked at yesterday. Even though it had little horsepower, road tests revealed that the Scirocco could out-accelerate a Mustang II Mach 1 (its contemporary) in the quarter mile. How dreary must that shoot-out have looked to our modern eyes? Suspension in front was a strut with coil-over spring setup; the rear was technically independent with a trailing arm configuration. Wheels were 13″ by 5″, or about the same size as modern brake discs on high performance cars.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Scirocco

1982 Volkswagen Scirocco

As I mentioned recently in my 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco post, early water-cooled Volkswagens are really beginning to stretch their legs in value. That’s especially true for survivor cars; those untouched by the hand of times and hands of the traditional Volkswagen crew. It’s unusual to see a Scirocco at all these days, but one in pristine original condition with low mileage? Yeah, play the lottery when that comes across your field of view. Well, at least some (the traditional fans of these cars, for the most part) will now have hope to hit the lotto to throw their hat into the bidding for some of these cars:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1984 Volkswagen GTI

1984 Volkswagen GTI

As far as owning a legendary automobile goes, does it get much more affordable than the Volkswagen GTI? I don’t think it does. Universally lauded as one of the great all time designs and driving experiences, a trans-formative automobile that redefined (and forever defined) the marketplace, a practical pocket rocket, the GTI is not a million, nor even a hundred-thousand dollar car.

The asking price here is $12,995.

For that money, it’s true that money could buy you a new car. No, I’m not joking; the base price for the 2017 Nissan Versa S is 11,990. After destination, that comes to $12,855. Let’s call it even. So where is your money better spent?

The GTI produced about 90 horsepower from its 1.8 liter inline-4. The Nissan makes 109 horsepower from a 1.6. And, it’s got dual cams to impress all the chicks.

The GTI had options such as air conditioning and a radio. On the Nissan, they’re standard. Plus you apparently don’t need hands to operate them (or, Nissan gives you free hands? Whatever.) The base Versa has manual windows and locks, just like the GTI.

Volkswagen claimed the GTI could pip 36 mpg, which I’m pretty sure was a lie given that my ’84 turned about 5,000 rpms at highway speed. The Versa S you just bought is claimed to get…you guessed it, 36 mpg in 5-speed form.

Curb weight on the GTI was about 2,200 lbs with some options. The Nissan’s curb weight is 2,390 lbs. (seriously, I found this pretty shocking. I was unaware that a modern car could be made under 2,500 lbs unless it was completely carbon fiber)

You’d be equally unlikely to survive a major crash in either. But the Nissan comes with self-inflating fluffy pillows hidden in various spots of the dashboard.…

1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

Early water-cooled Volkswagens are now entering an interesting phase of market value. For some time, if you bought one and restored it there was only one reason – you absolutely wanted it to be what you wanted it to be, regardless of cost. It was a losing proposition in terms of value as you poured your hard-earned cash into bringing your beloved people’s car back from the brink of extinction. People would openly question your sanity; for your investment, you could have had a brand new car, after all. Even a VW!

But over the past few years, the tide has turned as greater appreciation for the early designs has swelled. Of course, the pool of remaining candidates hasn’t, so prices on pristine original examples have been driven heavily upwards. $22,000 for a low mileage GTI? $17,000 for an original survivor Scirocco? These were numbers that, not long ago, got you a pretty nice Porsche 911 of the same vintage. As a result, it’s suddenly becoming economically viable to restore these early Volkswagens and not lose your shirt.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta, for most, isn’t the most exciting vehicle. Nor, if I’m honest, was it the most exciting Volkswagen product in 1984. In the hierarchy of collectable Volkswagens from that year, in fact, I’d wager that a stock 1984 Jetta comes just about last in a ranking of desirability within the brand’s lineup. Beyond the fact that there was a GLI high performance model, there was the Scirocco, the Rabbit Convertible, the GTI, and of course the popular Vanagon. Heck, I’d bet there’d be a bigger draw around a clean Quantum than a Jetta.

Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far. The Jetta, even if it’s not the fastest or best looking Volkswagen product, still has quite a devoted following in each generation – and those that love the A1 don’t exactly have a glut of examples to choose from. When they’re found, they’re usually forlorn as the residual value on standard Jettas has remained so low in comparison to other models. You’re not likely to find a clean example even with needs. But a restored and rebuilt model? Surely that would just be too expensive to even contemplate?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta on eBay

1985 Volkswagen Scirocco

1985 Volkswagen Scirocco

Like the Rabbit Pickup from a few days ago, today’s Scirocco won’t win you a trophy in preservation-class at your local Euro show. But will it draw attention? Absolutely. The Scirocco 2 may not have been the landmark design the original Giugiaro-designed first generation was, nor was it as pretty, arguably. It was interesting that Volkswagen chose to farm the design to Karmann rather than pay for Italdesign’s follow up, because that resulted in the Scirocco’s competition. The Isuzu Piazza (Impulse) took the Italian’s lines to a new level with cleaner execution, cool wheels that looked ready for a auto show, plus you got the automotive equivalent of Thor’s hammer to impress your friends with trim levels like the “Turbo RS” and “Handling by Lotus”. Show up at a party in a Impulse Turbo while one of your friends drove a Scirocco, and you’d go home with the girl and Simple Minds playing in the background.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that easy. And honestly even if the Scirocco was a little underpowered and had clunky bumpers and poor headlight execution here, it still was a compelling choice. This car fixes some of the second generation’s problems, too – Euro bumpers and headlights slim it down, the removal of the rear spoiler tidies up the design a surprising amount, and under the hood lies more motivation in a trusty ABA 2.0:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60

1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60

Often we complain about the numerous times German manufacturers have failed to send models enthusiasts want to U.S. shores. But in the case of the Volkswagen Pickup – affectionately nicknamed the “Caddy” after the model that was released later in Europe – was first debuted out of the American Westmoreland, PA plant. The chassis was lengthened and unique bodywork and rear axle were fit, and the Rabbit Pickup was marketed as a comfortable, car-like utility vehicle. Between 1980 and 1982, Volkswagen even offered the Rabbit “Sportruck”. While most would presume this was primarily an appearance package, the Sportruck actually was quite a bit more sporty than the diesel options in the rest of the lineup. You got a 5-speed manual (opposed to 4) hooked to a 1.7 liter 8V, a front spoiler and special “Rally” wheel trim, along with a 3-gauge console and bucket seats with a Scirocco steering wheel. It wasn’t a GTI, but it was a half step in between.

This Caddy, though it isn’t one of the Sportrucks, is a huge leap for Caddykind:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60 on eBay

1983 Volkswagen GTI

1983 Volkswagen GTI

Is it true that you should never meet your heroes? I remember the stigma surrounding the Porsche 911 growing up, and when I first got a chance to drive one as a late teen – a ’77 911SC – I wasn’t very impressed. It made nice noises but basically felt a bit like a fast pogo stick to me. That was reaffirmed by my second drive in a 911, a close friend’s ’85 Cabriolet. Both were very pretty – the requisite turn and stare every time as you walk away after shutting the door type of pretty. But driving experience? Well, maybe I completely missed the point, and perhaps neither of those cars were particularly well set up, but I wasn’t really blown away either time.

I think it’s more likely, though, that my expectation level far exceeded what the car could ever deliver in either case. For my first drive, I was moving from the vehicle I learned to drive on – a clapped out, seven-time crashed 1984 Toyota Pickup – to a goddamn Porsche 911. I’ve finally been accepted to be an astronaut, I thought to myself, this will be the best drive of my life! Plainly, it was not. I haven’t completely sworn off the 911, mind you, but since I’ve never looked at them the same.

Contrast that with my Volkswagen GTI experience. I bought what may have legitimately been the absolute worst example of a GTI it was possible to buy in 1998. Non-running? Check. Rusty? Check. Partially disassembled? Check. Crashed at some point? Check. Westmoreland build quality? That, too. It was impossible at times to find gears in my car. You could look through gaps in the body structure. The radio didn’t work. Neither did the air conditioning, or the heater, or occasionally the lights, and sometimes the starter.…

1983 Volkswagen GTi

1983 Volkswagen GTi

Way before “i” stood for everything ‘intelligent’ from your phone to your (no joke) pet, adding the 9th letter of the alphabet to your German car meant something equally as forward thinking in the 1970s and 1980s – injection. Unless, of course, you were talking about ‘e’ in a few cases, where the German word for injection – Einspritzung – came into play (I’m looking at you, Mercedes-Benz. And, occasionally BMW, for no apparent reason).

But I digress.

Adding fuel injection to your motor in the 1970s was pretty close to rocket science, since in the 1960s only the most exotic and high performance cars available had it. So when Volkswagen dropped a fuel injected 1.6 liter inline-4 pumping out an astonishing for the period 110 horsepower in 1975, it’s no wonder it was a revolution. Consider, for a moment, that the 1975 Corvette – with its gargantuan, gas-guzzling 5.7 liter V8 – managed to produce only 165 horsepower. Today’s base Corvette produces about 455 horsepower, meaning that the same relation would make today’s GTI a 300 horsepower hot hatch. Which, ironically in R form, it pretty much is! Still, it was the formula of the original that made this the hottest commodity on the market. It would be eight long years until the GTI debuted in the U.S. market. When it did, it had been turned down slightly and injection was no longer solely the domain of the GTI. Still, it was a potent and popular package, with attractive Guigiaro-penned looks and plenty of practicality. Some 34 years on from launch, the looks still capture the imagination of many who owned (or longed to own) one of these transformative hatches:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen GTi 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

1976 Audi 50LS

1976 Audi 50LS

The Volkswagen Golf was a revolutionary design for the company. Dynamically, it took the Wolfsburg firm into the modern era, ushering in a period of compact front-drive, front-engine, water-cooled designs. That was a big step for a company which – to that point – had only produced rear-drive, rear-engine, air-cooled models. So, where did the technology to make that impressive (and successful) leap come from?

It came from the engineers at a recent acquisition of Volkswagen – Audi. We won’t go through the politics in this post of how that came to be, but in 1972, a completely modern design was launched replacing the DKW-based F102 chassis. The new B1 featured (you guessed it) a front-engine, front-drive, water-cooled motor. That motor – the EA 827 – would then find its way into the Golf, and the Golf’s transverse engine design would find its way back into Audi two years later in the Audi 50. The 50, while looking a lot like the Golf, actually was a different platform which then traveled back to Volkswagen in the form of the Polo. Confused? Well, you probably wouldn’t know much about this model, since it was never produced in great number, nor was it ever imported to the United States. But, as we know, models that never came here have a cult following and one has popped up for importation:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1976 Audi 50LS 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

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