1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6

After its unceremonious and unexplained exit from the U.S. market with the introduction of the third generation Golf in 1993, the GTI came roaring back in a big way for the 1995 model year. Sure, it was bigger, bulkier and well…roundier, but it came with a bunch more gusto thanks to the addition of the VR6 motor as seen in the Corrado and Passat models. The single-overhead cam, twelve valve head lacked the race-bred feel of the Mk.II 16V, the new motor more than made up for it with the addition of two more cylinders. Good for 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque, it swept the hot hatch from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and produced a 15.5 second quarter mile at over 90 mph. But much like the original, the GTI was more than the sum of its numbers, with drivers enjoying the great 6-cylinder soundtrack which accompanied the waves of usable torque.

Of course, like all VWs from the period, it was expensive. Really quite expensive. A base GTI VR6 rolled out the door in 1995 at $18,875, and with a few options it wasn’t difficult to breech $20 grand. Yet that was still only a little more than half the money it would take you to grab a same-year M3, which offered only a bit more motivation and cornering prowess. Catch the pesky BMW driver off-guard, and they’d be unlikely to easily out-drag you. So you could either look at this model as a really expensive Golf or a really cheap BMW. That was what the legendary GTI had always been about, and this was a resounding return to form and continuation of the brilliance that was the GTI 16V, even if they felt (and, looked) completely different:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

2004 Volkswagen Golf R32

The Mk.4 GTI lineup got progressively better through the early 2000s and culminated with the U.S. finally getting the Super Golf. All-wheel drive was nothing new to the hatchbacks, as they’d had it in the normal run starting in 1986 and it was offered pretty much straight until today. But for U.S. customers, models like the Golf Rallye, Golf Limited and VR6 Syncro models were forbidden fruit until the fourth generation of Golfs.

In late 2003, the model with so much promise was finally added to the U.S. lineup. The underpinnings were shared with the Audi TT, which meant a transverse engine utilizing a Haldex hydraulic controller to drive the rear wheels. Power came from a double-overhead cam 24 valve narrow-angle VR6. Displacing 3189 cubic centimeters, it generated 237 horsepower and 236 lb.ft of torque and for the first generation it was mated solely to a 6-speed manual transmission. Outwardly there were a few clues that it was more potent than yesterday’s 20th Anniversary GTI; revised front and rear bumper covers with dual exhaust and gaping intakes. The wheels were the same 18″ OZ-made Aristo wheels from the 20th, but the calipers were painted blue and grasped rotors a full 1.3 inches larger than the GTI. As with the signature model for performance in the hot hatch category, the R32 received larger anti-roll bars and 1BE sport suspension, good for a 1″ drop. Tires were meaty 225-40-18 ZR-rated rubber. All of these things helped to keep the weight of the R32 in check, and there was plenty of that to manage. The addition of heavier-duty running gear, two more cylinders and all-wheel drive meant that the R weighed in a full 3,350 lbs – about two full-sized adults north of a GTI. It was more powerful, but it wasn’t really much quicker in a straight line.…

2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition with 9,800 Miles

News broke this morning that the brand new RS4 Avant is unsurprisingly not coming to the United States. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought it and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.

Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition.…

Fahrvergnüzilla: 1992 Volkswagen Golf

Infrequently do we look at a standard Volkswagen Golf. To be fair to us, they’re not the most impressive vehicles ever designed, especially when you go back a few generations. They were oft the most expensive in category, but seldom the quickest, most tech-laden, most efficient, best handling, neatest or most reliable. Those items are the domain of vehicles like Hondas and Toyotas, who mimicked and improved upon the ideas of others many times over. Their sales reflected that.

But there’s still something nostalgic and lovely about the simplicity of the first two generations of the Golf. It grew up considerably between the A1 and A2 chassis, in weight, size, power and refinement, but the recipe remained the same. Recently I’ve looked at two of the best performers in the chassis overall (and the fastest offered to U.S. customers) with the 1991 GTI 16V and 1987 GTI 16V. Deep seat bolsters, special trim, dual overhead cam high compression inline-4s, close ratio 5-speed manuals, alloy wheels; these represented the pinnacle of performance in the hot hatch segment. Today’s car has none of those things.

What we have instead is a bit of a curiosity. As you can no doubt see, it’s a pretty standard 4-door Volkswagen Golf. It appears to be Ascot Gray Metallic (LA7U) with cloth interior. There’s nothing special under the hood; it’s a standard RV 1.8 inline-4 counterflow engine, running Digifant II injection and good for 100 horsepower. No, what’s unique about this car is where it’s come from…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Golf on eBay

1986 Volkswagen Golf

Do you ever see a car and think ‘I’d love to know the story behind that one’?

I do, all the time. But something in particular caught my eye about this 1986 Golf. Well, first off, it’s become rare to see a 1986 Golf anymore. The ’85 and ’86 model years were a bit unique, since the base and diesel models were manufactured in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. There were minor trim differences, but the easiest way to spot them was the Rabbit-inspired sealed-beam headlight and unique grill. Unlike today’s market where the Golf has gone upscale, with the launch of the A2 chassis for the U.S., the diesel Golf was the cheapest way to buy a VW – and the gas unit was only a hair more money. But they were fairly basic transportation; the 1.8 liter inline-4 GX motor was rated at 85 horsepower for adequate acceleration and fuel mileage. Interiors were basic tweed in a few colors, you had to option in things like a radio and power anything (including steering!), and they came with 13″ steel wheels. If you wanted more upscale, you either spent another $1,000 and bought a Jetta or in 1986 Volkswagen added the Wolfsburg package to make you feel a bit more special.

But this car isn’t a Wolfsburg package. It’s a basic Golf. So why am I interested? A few reasons. First, I had one just like it, and it was a great car all things considered. My ’86 Golf was also a Westmoreland model, and quite basic. Mine had been bought new by a teacher who needed it to commute; after 10 years, she’d accrued just north of 200,000 miles on the odometer, but it still ran like a top. Yet this one, some two decades after I owned mine, has only 44,000 miles since new.…

1986 Volkswagen GTI

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

Time Machine: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI

Recently, I went on a train ride with my son to the local airshow at Quonset Point in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The location also is the port which brings in a fair chunk of the Audi and Volkswagen products destined for New England. And, more recently, it’s also become a graveyard.

As the train rounded the corner onto the siding heading towards the port, what used to be an abandoned rail yard of a forgone era – a reminder of when the Navy had a major presence and money in Rhode Island – has been filled to the brim with a new activity. Yet it’s equally as sad as the dusty boarded up military buildings which once lined what has become an industrial park. That’s because it’s the home of all of the local “Dieselgate” buybacks of Volkswagen TDis.

Row after row of (to me) effectively brand new or lightly used TDis greeted us as the train shook on the decrepit rails. So bad is the condition of the track in that area that the train is limited to nearly walking speed; fitting, as it made the procession by the flocks of abandoned Volkswagens all the more painful to witness. We couldn’t just buzz past quickly; it was as if the antiquated rail system was offering a commentary on the VW scandal.

It brought me back to a little over a decade prior when Volkswagen came roaring back to the U.S. with its promise of “Clean Diesel”. A fan of the brand, I – like so many others – felt genuine enthusiasm as the products which dominated Europe were finally coming to the U.S.! Real world mileage was met with manual 6-speed transmissions and even a wagon – and more people than ever were flocking to the brand, happy to identify themselves as budding environmentalists because of their discerning automotive choice.…

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

Ending Soon: What We’re Watching

Has it really been a month since our last “What We’re Watching”?!? Today I’ve lined up another group of rare and rarely seen models that all have their fans. Once again, they’re all no reserve, offering us a great glimpse at where the market is heading on some models and where deals can still be found:

Click for Details: 1984 Volkswagen Transporter Syncro Panel Van

This one ticks all the right rarity boxes in the T2 market; it’s a Syncro and very unique in that it’s a panel van, though admittedly that probably limits the appeal to those who carry passengers. The “Expedition Build” makes up for it, though, and this adventure van looks prime for traveling anywhere. Bidding is heating up on the no reserve auction, but this one is still a lot cheaper than you’d expect normally for a built Syncro at only $15,000 with a few days to go.

Click for Details: 1989 Volkswagen Fox Wagon

It takes a strong VW lover to appreciate the Fox, but the diminutive 2-door wagon has arguably the greatest appeal of the run. Built in Brazil, these models shared a lot in common with Audis of the same period with a longitudinal layout. Unlike what the seller indicates, that makes a VR6 swap not impossible, but not hugely easy. It sounds like the running condition could probably be sorted reasonably easily if the car at least starts, and the chassis is reasonably clean appearing with lower miles. Right now, a single $1,500 bid buys it, but that’s probably still strong considering it’s only a roller.

Click for Details: 2002 Mercedes-Benz SLK32 AMG

We definitely don’t give much press to the R170, but we probably should since the nutters at AMG got their hands on them and crafted a great option. The SLK32 might not have had the big V8 like the later 55s did, but you still got 349 horsepower from the 3.2 liter V6 for top-down 0-60 in 5 seconds.…

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.…