Feature Listing: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L

I’ve spent a fair amount of time documenting the importance of Porsche’s 924 model on these pages, but the first generation Volkswagen Golf was equally if not more important. Like the 924, it signaled the shift for the Wolfsburg firm from its tried and true air cooled roots into the modern age of water cooled, front-engine designs. Taking the design pioneered by the Mini, Volkswagen adopted a transverse engine layout driving the front wheels. To package their new platform, Volkswagen turned to Giuigaro, an ex-Ghia employee who had helped design the swoopy and popular Karmann Ghia. But the shift from air to water cooling needed a new direction, and capitalizing on the wedge designs he had pioneer in cars like the Maserati Merak and Lotus Esprit, Giugiaro made an angular but pretty design with a signature large greenhouse. While not a revolutionary design in either engine, platform or interior/exterior look, the first generation Golf hit the market at just the right time – in the midst of the OPEC-driven oil embargo. The effects were long reaching in the U.S. even though the embargo was lifted in 1974; we adopted a national speed limit, daylight saving time was invented to reduce electric consumption and small, efficient cars like the Golf became popular. Like the 924, in addition to being a sales success in its own right, the Volkswagen Golf was the platform which launched several successful other models. The Scirocco, Jetta, Cabriolet and third generation Passat all came from the original design, along with pretty much every single car VAG makes today. But unlike the 924, appreciation for the original design has been very widespread and the first Golf was even nominated for (and came close to winning) Car of the Century. As cars have become increasingly complex, fast, heavy and expensive, the this 1978 Rabbit brings us back that more simple time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L on eBay

1986 Volkswagen Golf Diesel

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen Golf Diesel on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

It’s been 15 years since I traded in that piece of crap 2000 Volkswagen GTI. I haven’t had the nerve to buy another Volkswagen since, but this isn’t a problem since the Scirocco and Polo GTI are conveniently omitted from the US product lineup. I am convinced to this day that VW had hired away some Fiat assembly plant workers back in the dark days of the 1970s and would employ them on the line when the Germans went on holiday. There was no other way of explaining a car that would self destruct in front of my own eyes. It also made me pine for the simpler days of the car we see here, the original Volkswagen GTI. This 1984 GTI for sale in New York reminds me of the example fellow GCFSBer Brian owns, albeit in stock form. For a final year Mk1 GTI, rarely do they get this nice and it has just the right amount of mileage and patina that won’t deter an enthusiast from using it as intended.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1992 Volkswagen Golf VR6 Turbo

The hot hatch may just be the perfect have your cake and eat it too automobile. And though many argue that they weren’t the originator and didn’t produced the best example in the market, Volkswagen’s GTi has been intrinsically linked with the moniker. It always raises an interesting question of which generation is best, and while there are plenty who would contend that the model never got any better than its original configuration, fans of each iteration of the venerable model abound. Like some others that read the blog, I came of automotive age in the midst of the Mk.2 model run. A Mk.2 Golf was also my second car, and as a result I have quite a soft spot for them. In the days before the internet, my knowledge of European models like the Golf Limited was non-existent, so at the time it got no better than the late GTi 2.0 16V. Wider arches, deeper bumpers, fog lights and the signature red striped quad-round grill setup coupled with some great colors like Montana Green. The roof mounted Fuba antenna was like a remote control pickup for fun, and capped with some awesome BBS RM multi-piece wheels and slick looking Recaros, the package might as well have said “Ferrari” on the front. But if the looks of the Mk.2 GTi were the best in the line, quite a few VW souls would point out that the fantastic sounding VR6 model that followed had the performance that really backed up the hot-hatch name. As a result, swapping the VR6 into the Mk.2 has not only become popular but almost a given, and VR swaps are nearly as prevalent as the ubiquitous S50/S52 in a E30 swap. This particular one has been dialed up a few more notches with a turbo, but channels the look of the 2.0 16V with some updates and a whole lot of black paint:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen Golf VR6 Turbo on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

One car that sticks in my mind which I have yet to try on for size is the Mk3 Volkswagen GTI VR6. Having owned a 1998 GTI 2.0, I yearned for the increased power of the six cylinder variant at times but knew it was all but out of reach for a younger motorist like myself at the time. The VR6 really took the hot hatchback formula and kicked it up a notch, transforming an otherwise sedate looking Mk3 Golf into a performer that could run with the big dogs. It also paved the way for more refined hatchbacks, such as the MINI Cooper S, Mercedes C-Class Sportcoupe and CLC and the BMW 1 series hatchback. This 1996 GTI VR6 for sale in Georgia is about to crest 70,000 miles and is quite unmolested, which is rare for a car that was an object of desire of the Fast and Furious set.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

1981 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

For a decade the Mercedes-Benz R107 SL held a monopoly on topless motoring in Germany. Granted, the Beetle Convertible ran alongside the R107, but honestly they were no where near the same product and certainly didn’t appeal to the same clientele. The company narrowed the gap in 1980 though; Beetle Convertible production ended and a new topless VW came onto the market in the Golf Cabriolet. Modern engines and driving dynamics made the Cabriolet a much more appealing affordable option to those who wished to have some fun in the sun, and though Porsche and BMW would join the topless crew a few years later it still seems that the R107 and the Cabriolet personified the ends of the market and both were extremely popular in their own right. While the Mercedes-Benz has been gaining traction as a collector-status car, the Cabriolet has been slower to be appreciated by enthusiasts but a mint condition original model in European trim is certain to raise some eyebrows as it drops its top:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet on eBay

1991 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Perhaps the rationale behind the SUV popularity in the US these days is due to the fact that people used to like hatchbacks more here in the US. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the choices for vehicles with a rear hatch seemed endless, but nowadays, you would be hard pressed to identify on two hands the number of offerings available here in the states. The second generation Golf went a ways towards refining Volkswagen’s first attempt at a subcompact, front-drive vehicle for the masses and with it carried over the hot version, the GTI. This particular GTI for sale in the UK is another one of those low-mileage creampuffs we’ve come to expect from 4 Star Classics. While this one packs the milder 8 valve engine, there is no denying this car’s classic appeal.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Golf GTI at 4Star Classics

1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V

Whatever the reason might be, Volkswagen enthusiasts never seemed to hold the third generation GTI in as high regard as some other iterations of this hot hatchback. While the Mk2 GTI 16V seemed to hit the nail on the head in terms of what boy racers desired, the Mk3 fell just a bit short of that mark, in four-cylinder form. No one was complaining about the superb new VR6 engine available, however, US customers were left with a modest 2.0 liter 8V four-cylinder that produced only 115 horsepower. It was a torquey unit, but performance at the top end was less than stellar. Regardless, I enjoyed my time with my final year 1998 GTI 2.0. I miss that car to this day, even if my 2006 MINI Cooper S blows the doors off it performance wise. Like the Audi A8L 6.0 W12 we saw yesterday, this 1995 GTI 16V was a model not offered in the US. Looking great with just over 100,000 miles on the clock, you don’t see Mk3s this nice hanging about anymore.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V at PCH Automotive

1991 Volkswagen Golf Driver

It’s interesting to me that Volkswagen has managed to make the Golf a premium product, because for so long it was actually low man on the totem pole at VW. I owned a Westmoreland made Golf built in 1986, and while it was a fun car to drive, luxurious it was not. Compared to new models with Audi-inspired interiors, the Mk.2 cars are positively Spartan in design. However, compare them to some similar Japanese interiors from the day and you begin to see why the Golf was widely regarded as the premium hatch in the segment. It also offered plenty of performance from the 16V models, though in Europe those cars were more expensive to insure. Popularity and a propensity for getting into accidents meant that they were targets for theft, the and consequently high insurance premiums. As a result and due to the higher cost of the GTi models, Volkswagen introduced several GTi-look packages like the Golf GT and this one, the later Golf Driver:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Golf Driver on eBay

Now Legal for Import: 1990 Volkswagen Rallye Golf

Continuing with a theme I touched upon last week, I’m going to take a look at a few cars this week which are now legal for importation to the United States. It’s hard to believe more than 25 years have already passed since 1990, but that opens up a whole new portfolio of vehicles that weren’t certified by the US Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency for US sale. The Volkswagen Rallye Golf almost made it to market in the US, but sadly, an executive at Volkswagen of America trumpeting this vehicle’s cause perished in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. With that, yet another homologation special slipped away from the grasp of the US consumer. This Rallye Golf for sale just a bit north of Stuttgart, Germany is one for the serious VW collector, having covered just over the equivalent of 20,000 miles. This is also one of the few I’ve seen with the rather tasty partial leather interior, featuring a variation on the GTI plaid in the seat inserts.

Click for details: 1990 Volkswagen Rallye Golf on Mobile.de