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?
Trying to find a clean 1980s or 1990s Volkswagen is just about impossible these days, unless you’re interested in either of two models. If you want to find a clean Vanagon, you will – just be prepared to pay, as models like the Westfalia Syncro challenge the myth that only air-cooled multi-window VW vans are worth money.
On the other end of the VW spectrum is the Corrado. It doesn’t have the multi-purpose, all-weather camping capability of the T3, true. But what it does have is a serious cult following who have loved and kept these cars up since they were new – rare for this period of VW history. Specifically, when Wolfsburg decided to slot the narrow-angle VR6 into the Karmann coupe, the recipe was transformed into an instant hit. Consequently, it’s not unusual to find an all-original, very clean Corrado SLC like this Flash Red example with only 80,000 miles:
Though it was never available in the U.S. until this coming model year, all-wheel drive in a standard Golf is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around since 1986.
If you follow me around the internet, and I don’t expect you to, you might have caught my article for The Truth About Cars about all-wheel drive Golfs which predated the R32. Though the idea sounds simple enough since parent company Audi had an all-wheel drive system that was ever so popular, mounting that longitudinal transmission and drivetrain into the transverse engine Golf was impossible. Instead, Volkswagen contracted Steyr-Daimler-Puch to design a viscous coupling setup for the Golf with a new independent suspended rear. Like the contemporary Quantum and Vanagon setups, it was dubbed “Syncro”, though outside of all-wheels being driven the three systems shared almost nothing.
The result was a few fan-favorite models. Performance types love the Quattro-inspired Golf Rallye, Golf G60 Syncro and Golf Limited models. But undoubtedly the most recognizable Golf to wear the Syncro badge was the jacked-up Golf Country. Utilizing an already heavily modified Golf Syncro, Daimler-Steyr-Puch installed some 438 unique pieces to create the light offroading Golf way before the Outback was conquered by Subaru:
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?
9A. It’s a term most enthusiasts don’t know. Unlike most pedantic BMW owners that have memorized every signal chassis, engine and option, Volkswagen’s various iterations of the EA827 motor can get a quite esoteric even to lovers of the brand. But the 9A was something a little special, because that was the high-revving 2.0 liter 16V that was stuck into the GTI, GLI and Passat models in the early 1990s. Down on power to the more famous and ubiquitous VR6, the 9A was the VW’s equivalent of the S14. Like the E30 M3, the GTI and GLI wore special items to denote the racey motor under the hood; BBS wheels, wider flares, foglights, Recaro seats and special trim to help set them apart from the more pedestrian lineup. This was the period where a blacked-out VW badge really meant something. While the 9A might not be a name most remember, the “GTI 2 liter 16 valve” still is a magical formula to lovers of the hot hatch in the late 1980s and early 1990s:
It’s hard to say which is more popular – S50/52 swaps into E30s or VR6s into everything Volkswagen. But there’s a reason they’re so popular; they’re relatively cheap and they work. Can you achieve VR-power levels in a 9A 16V? Sure. Will it cost you and be a pretty compromised road motor? Yes, so suddenly the appeal of the ubiquitous VR-swap makes a bunch of sense. The results here turn what was a butch looking but relatively slow 8 valve GTI into a performance machine. That’s helped by a dose of performance parts including a trick Schrick intake, but it’s the supercharger that will really motivate you here. With over 100% more power the ride should be exhilarating!
As I talked about in a post last April, the 1987 Volkswagen GLi 16V had some unique trim features. 1987 was the sole year in the U.S. that you could buy both a 16V and 8V GLi. Upgrading to the DOHC motor got you a rear spoiler and deeper front spoiler with integrated brake ducts. Though they were the same 14″x6″ size of the 8V model, 16Vs got the signature “Teardrop” alloys (though their actual name is Silverstones). Inside you got some awesome Recaro seats in place of the normal sport seats, and the more luxurious GLi models had many power features available. Both 1987 models retained the earlier split front door window design and narrow door trim as well as the 7-bar grill, but the 16V GLi also got a roof-mounted Fuba antenna. That particular 1987 I looked at in April was in awesome condition with near 140,000 for, so this one should be spectacular with 90,000 miles less:
On a recent visit to Coventry Motorcar I was shown the “Tuning Drawer”: one pull-out drawer in an admittedly large and cool rolling tool chest full of cords, plugs, and modules. Today, that’s what it takes to tune a car; not cams, throttle bodies, head work or a high pressure fuel pump. Designing those parts to fit into modern motors and still have them leap through the hoops of getting certified by the EPA means that only the richest and most respected tuning firms can produce parts to fit into these complicated motors, and even then they’re more often than not highly reliant upon computer reprograming rather than internal rebuilds. Today’s GTi may not look particularly outrageous from the outside, but it brings us back to a more simple time in tuning, an analogue age where jumps in horsepower were measured in single digits, not in groups of 100 or more:
Edit 6/17/2017: This car has reappeared with new photos, a new listing and a $10,000 Buy It Now HERE!
The late 1980s saw an explosion of popularity in homologated race specials. There was the Quattro, fresh off the World Rally Championship. Though technically not a homologation, Porsche gave us a pretty popular option in the 944 Turbo which derived much of its technology from the successful 924 Carrera GTR/LM program. Of course, the real heavy hitters were the 190E 2.3/2.5-16 Cosworths from Mercedes-Benz and the superstar BMW M3. But all of those cars were pretty expensive; the Quattro and 944 Turbo were the best part of $40,000, the Benz hit the market at $37,000 while the slightly more affordable M3 stickered for $34,000. Still, inflation corrected, even the least expensive 1988 M3’s sticker price would equate to roughly $69,000 in buying power today – hardly affordable to most.
However, for a little less than half of what the M3 cost, you could get a fair chunk of the high-revving European feel in the Jetta GLi. It hit the markets around $15,000, which felt like quite a lot considering a base Jetta cost only half that amount a few years early. But a lot of Jetta you got for that money. Like the M3, it had a deep front spoiler with integral brake ducting and a rear wing. It had a roof mounted antenna, too, and most Jetta GLis were full of power options like windows, mirrors, anti-lock brakes and sunroofs. Also like the M3 you got form-fitting Recaro seats, and light alloy BBS wheels. And at its heart was a high-revving double-overhead cam 16 valve motor hooked to a close ratio 5-speed manual gearbox. Of course, for $20,000 less than the M3, you weren’t going to get a BMW – power, material and build quality, and the performance were all less than the Munich cars or the rest of that group previously mentioned. But impressive was the Jetta nonetheless, and the late run 16V GLis are still heavily appreciated today:
It isn’t always the flashiest car that pulls your attention, and such was the case for me when pondering this 1986 Golf. Let’s get beyond the diesel scandal and its impact on the company for a moment, as I want to talk about the noise. In this case, it’s not the wind noise generated by the relatively upright Mk.2 design. It’s not even the substantial clatter coming from the engine bay of the 1.6 liter inline-4 diesel. No, seeing this car is a trip down memory lane because of the noise it makes when the key is in the ignition. 1986 was the year that changed at Volkswagen, and I just so happened to have a 1986 Golf 4-door. The noise was the warning chime, and Volkswagen’s clever marketing campaign proclaimed it as a digital “Volks-wa-gen” repeated until you either had to start the car or yank the key out. Fans of the marque have dubbed it “La Cucaracha”, which it vaguely sounds like, though it’s clearly a rip-off of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Rip out is what I, and many others, did to the door chime relay in an effort to maintain sanity when working on the car. The signature door sound would carry on for a few generations but finally died in the 2000s like most VW electronics. I openly wonder if, in an effort to re-brand itself in the post-Dieselgate world, VW will reintroduce the theme song as a “throwback” to gain back its original fan base. After all, I’m sure I’m not the only one who vividly has those three tones repeating in my head as I look at this Golf: