Let’s discount, just for a moment, the reputation of the fourth generation water-cooled, front engined platform from Volkswagen. Yes, they’re known for not having the best build quality, and they were a bit pudgy. The electrics were sketchy and Volkswagen’s venerable 1.8T, which found its way into nearly every VAG product in the late 90s and early 00s, is certainly not without fault. But in many ways, the Mk.4 platform offered some exciting options for the Volkswagen faithful. First, the introduction of the turbocharged engine into the platform redefined the possibilities of the hot hatch. It was available not only in the top-spec GTi, but you could get a 4-door 1.8T, too – a first for Volkswagen, who had offered hot 4-door hatches in Europe but not the U.S. previously. Then, in 2002, Volkswagen upped its game even more with the introduction of the 25th Anniversary Edition in Europe. “But the GTi didn’t come out until 1983″ U.S. fans said, forgetting that 1977 was the launch year of the 1.6 original in Europe. It seemed, for some time, that the U.S. would get snubbed again. After all, it wouldn’t be very smart for them to offer a 25th Anniversary Edition of a car that didn’t exist here, and “19th Anniversary” doesn’t have the same ring. But then, at the New York Auto Show in 2002, Volkswagen surprised U.S. fans by offering the near-identical package to them. The name was the GTi 337 Edition; the name harkened back to the original project code for the Golf GTi. Beefed up with 180 horsepower, a 6-speed manual, an awesome set of Recaro seats, aero tweaks and with some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels, it was an instant hit. Volkswagen sold 1,500 of these models to U.S. fans, and then when they had sold out, recreated the magic in 2003 with colorful options in the 20th Anniversary Edition. Today we’re looking at the 337 though, and I’ve found three for sale in varying states. 13 years on, are these hot hatches still appealing?
All posts tagged GTi
Yesterday’s Rabbit was an interesting case of many good ingredients not necessarily making a good cake; or, at the very least, not an appropriately priced cake. I really wanted to like the car but even outside of the price there was just too much to get me really excited about it. Amazingly, at the same time as that car is listed, we have an interesting counterpoint of a Mk.1 to consider. This example started life as an actual GTi, so it automatically has a leg up – at least in theory – from the ’78 Rabbit that was used to create a GTi. It’s also been completely redone, and also themed with a Euro-feel, though this car has a completely different ethos even outside of the color. Under the hood we find a Mk.4-spec 1.8T mill, complete with transmission, gauges, harness, radio and immobilizer transplanted into this original hot hatch. The price? If you have to ask….
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTi 1.8T on eBay
I was at my mechanic’s just the other day picking up my Passat when he asked me to give him a hand pushing a Mini Cooper S with a blown motor out of the way. He laughed as it rolled to a stop and remarked how heavy it was for such a small car. Of course, BMW made up for this by upping the power and the first of the new Minis is still a hoot to drive in S form, but he said to me “I’d rather have an original GTi”. I concurred; a legend even in its own time, the A1 GTi’s magic has never really been replicated by even Volkswagen themselves. Sure, there are faster, better built and better looking hatchbacks, but there’s something magical about the original – right down to the crazy stories both of us had about 11/10ths driving, flinging the small hatch at corners, overpasses, underpasses, small pets and occasionally pedestrians with abandon. Has all of that nostalgia turned into dollar signs in today’s market, though?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay
I wonder when the Mk.2 market is really going to blow up. For some time, it’s been the A1 models and Sciroccos that have really drawn the big money. Of course, on the other side the Mk.2 market is bookended by the Corrado market, which has always been quite hot. But the 1985-1992 Golf was a very popular platform; I had one, my friends had them, and we drove them hard and turned them up. They were European style on the cheap, versatile and economic hatches that were fun to drive, reasonably reliable and just different enough from the norm to make you feel special. But today, 23 years after the Mk.2 left U.S. shores, there are precious few left in good original shape. I don’t think that the Golf was ever intended to be a collector car, mind you – but then, neither was the original Mk.1 Golf, and those have certainly proven their staying power. However, in Europe, the Mk.2 crowd is – if anything – much stronger than it was in the U.S., and since Volkswagen sold more of the later models in Europe and they’re now becoming import legal, it seems appropriately time that these models start sneaking over to these shores, primed to take advantage of a surging 1980s market:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Golf GL on eBay
1987 saw some serious upgrades for the original “Hot Hatch” GTi. Externally, you’d have to be a seriously devoted Volkswagen fan to pick them all out. The body and trim remained effectively the same as they had been in 1985 and 1986, but new “Teardrop” alloys replaced the leftover “Snowflake” (also known as “Avus”) and “Bottlecap” (also known as “Montreal”) wheels that had adorned the earlier models. Squint closely at the front, and a new deeper chin spoiler sat under the bumper with two brake ducts. The GTi sported a new spiky hairdo as well, with a new roof-mounted Fuba antenna which would become signature for the model going forward. But the change that enthusiasts really liked was under the hood, where eight more valves made their appearance on the venerable 1.8 mill that had powered the GTi. That new motor was announced on every side of the car with new “16V” badges adorning the front, rear and side trim. Horsepower increase was relatively modest – about 13 more horsepower over the high-compression 8V that the car ran in 1985 and 1986. But the letters DOHC were magical pixie dust for wannabe racers in the 1980s, and the entered you into the coolest club out there – Club Twin Cam. Everything sprouted Twin Cams in the 1980s, but it brought the GTi up a notch in performance to compete with the new crop of Hot Hatches it had helped to sprout. 0-60 was now achieved in under 8 seconds – a serious feat for an economy car at that time. The new 16V GTis would be available – as before – in only four colors; Diamond Silver Metallic, Dark Blue Mica, signature Tornado Red or my favorite, Red Pearl Mica (LE3P) that this low mileage example is shown in: