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:
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It’s hard to think that the Volkswagen GTI has been with us for forty years. In that time, the we’ve seen everything from 2.0 liter, 115 horsepower 8-valve Mk3s to an insane GTI concept car with a mid-mounted W12 engine. In between, there’s been a number of variations on the hot hatch theme, including this car, the Mk2 Golf GTI G60. For those of you non-VW aficionados, the G60 pertains to what’s under the hood, in this case, the 1.8 liter supercharged inline-4 with 160 horsepower that saw duty in the Corrado when it debuted and later in the rare Golf G60 Limited. This GTI G60 for sale in Switzerland has had a complete overhaul and looks sharp sitting on aftermarket, deeper offset Ronal alloys.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Golf GTI G60 on Classic Driver
As I’ve written up a steady stream of Porsches and BMWs of late I thought it prudent to mix it up as I’d hate to get automotive tunnel vision. I had just finished editing some pictures of my girlfriend’s new MkVII Golf when it dawned on me that perhaps one of its early ancestors would make for an interesting post. With that in mind I set about scouring the depths of the internet in hopes of finding something quirky that would spark my interest. I’ve never been a rabid VW fanboy but my New England upbringing did instill a healthy appreciation for Das Auto. In my adolescence I probably spent more time in MkIII Jettas than any other car. A few friends had Golfs but for whatever reason those were far less popular in my neck of the woods. I like an underdog so I focused my search on old Golfs, passing over a number of listings for modified Jettas.
Personally I’ve always preferred the practicality of the hatchback design especially since the Golf was the base for the GTI, which with the exception of the MkIV & MkV, is a nameplate I am a fan of. I think part of what I love about those older boxier designs is that they do not look fast, not even with a bunch of modifications. They are spartan, basic and from a design standpoint relatively un-inspired but that’s exactly what I think makes them cool. If older GTIs don’t ask for attention then the MkI Rabbit is the hermit of the VW family, living way out in the woods with no internet, phone or electricity. So when I came across a clean ’81 Rabbit hiding a 2.0L 16v EA827 under its hood, I knew I had to post it.
And now for something completely different.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit on VWVortex
I wonder if the A2 GTi is really as near extinction as I’ve claimed it is. I mean, sure – there are still countless A2s cruising around on Raceland coilovers with too many stickers on a 45 degree on the rear windows with VR6 or 1.8T swaps and too-wide BBS RSs. There are even more crumbling in their decaying potential, smashed and grabbed by owners with the promise that they’ll be something again someday. But clean, original and unmolested GTis? Now, that’s quite rare. Especially rare seem to be the very early models, the 1985 and 1986 1.8 8 valve model. While the GTi was much more fun when the valves were doubled, the original model still sported a higher compression motor capable of making the tossable A2 an entertaining ride. When I was in college, I had a 1984 GTi and worked with a guy who had inherited a 1986 model without knowing or really caring what it was. He told me that it wasn’t running right and asked me to take it for a ride, which I was happy to do. A quick run through an on ramp and onto the highway with a quick blast up to illegal speeds confirmed my belief that he wasn’t much of a Volkswagen connoisseur – it was easily quicker than my ’84 model, especially above 40 m.p.h., where my Italian tuneup yielded smooth and responsive power. No one will mistake the GTi for a Lamborghini, but in terms of sheer enthusiasm, the 1.8 mill is a motor that encourages thrashing – perhaps an indication as to why so few are left today:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen GTi on eBay
Mk1 GTIs are getting harder to come by, so those enthusiasts looking for the affordable, tossable treat that it’s always been are going to have to start accepting some flaws to get behind the wheel. Today’s Giugiaro masterpiece comes in daily-driver form with 167k miles and some considerable blemishes, but it’s getting harder to find GTIs under $4k that aren’t basket cases. Yes, a few rust spots could use some attention, but it comes with a new sunroof to repair one of the glaring issues. The Mk3 leather seats are an attractive addition and the new wheels and tires look decent if overstretched. It’s going to be a project, but isn’t that what old VWs are supposed to be?