1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet

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

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco


ANOTHER Scirocco?!?!

Yeah. Another Scirocco. If you can be fascinated by the proliferation of the mega-Beetle 911, though, you can bear with me. Volkswagen’s replacement for the Karmann Ghia, what would become the Porsche 924, proved to be perhaps a step too far for the company. What it created instead, once that was abandoned, was a bit of a legend in its own right. Based upon the pedestrian underpinnings of the Golf but actually developed in tandem and released prior to the more famous hatchback, Giugiaro’s penning of a slinkier two-door coupe variant of the platform was simply beautiful. As the Ghia had before it, it married serious Italian styling credentials with the practicality of an economy family hatchback.

Volkswagen’s new EA827 was the power of choice. Here displacing 1588 ccs and generating 71 horsepower, it was adequate motivation to top 100 mph – just. Amazing at it may seem, the nearly 1.6 liter unit in this 1977 was an upgrade over the 1.5 from the model’s 1974 launch in the U.S., though it only gained one net horsepower. They were diminutive cars; a 94.5 inch wheel base and only 155.7 inches overall, the first generation Scirocco is an amazing 10 inches shorter than the model I looked at yesterday. Even though it had little horsepower, road tests revealed that the Scirocco could out-accelerate a Mustang II Mach 1 (its contemporary) in the quarter mile. How dreary must that shoot-out have looked to our modern eyes? Suspension in front was a strut with coil-over spring setup; the rear was technically independent with a trailing arm configuration. Wheels were 13″ by 5″, or about the same size as modern brake discs on high performance cars.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

Early water-cooled Volkswagens are now entering an interesting phase of market value. For some time, if you bought one and restored it there was only one reason – you absolutely wanted it to be what you wanted it to be, regardless of cost. It was a losing proposition in terms of value as you poured your hard-earned cash into bringing your beloved people’s car back from the brink of extinction. People would openly question your sanity; for your investment, you could have had a brand new car, after all. Even a VW!

But over the past few years, the tide has turned as greater appreciation for the early designs has swelled. Of course, the pool of remaining candidates hasn’t, so prices on pristine original examples have been driven heavily upwards. $22,000 for a low mileage GTI? $17,000 for an original survivor Scirocco? These were numbers that, not long ago, got you a pretty nice Porsche 911 of the same vintage. As a result, it’s suddenly becoming economically viable to restore these early Volkswagens and not lose your shirt.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

Motorsports Monday: 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

Motorsports Monday: 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

Unlike the last string of cars, the Scirocco presented for your consideration this morning is not perfect. It’s not low mileage, and it’s not all original. If you’re into Amelia and Greenwich Concours, you’re not going to be invited onto the law.

But maybe you’re more the type that wants to roll up to those events, rev it to the redline and drop the clutch in a smokey burnout while you chuck the deuces up at the stiff upper lips?

I get it. Cars are meant to be driven, and driving can be fun. Can you believe that? So this 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco has been built to enhance speed rather than paint shine, lap times instead of originality, and performance opposed to preservation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta, for most, isn’t the most exciting vehicle. Nor, if I’m honest, was it the most exciting Volkswagen product in 1984. In the hierarchy of collectable Volkswagens from that year, in fact, I’d wager that a stock 1984 Jetta comes just about last in a ranking of desirability within the brand’s lineup. Beyond the fact that there was a GLI high performance model, there was the Scirocco, the Rabbit Convertible, the GTI, and of course the popular Vanagon. Heck, I’d bet there’d be a bigger draw around a clean Quantum than a Jetta.

Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far. The Jetta, even if it’s not the fastest or best looking Volkswagen product, still has quite a devoted following in each generation – and those that love the A1 don’t exactly have a glut of examples to choose from. When they’re found, they’re usually forlorn as the residual value on standard Jettas has remained so low in comparison to other models. You’re not likely to find a clean example even with needs. But a restored and rebuilt model? Surely that would just be too expensive to even contemplate?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta on eBay

1983 Volkswagen GTI

1983 Volkswagen GTI

Is it true that you should never meet your heroes? I remember the stigma surrounding the Porsche 911 growing up, and when I first got a chance to drive one as a late teen – a ’77 911SC – I wasn’t very impressed. It made nice noises but basically felt a bit like a fast pogo stick to me. That was reaffirmed by my second drive in a 911, a close friend’s ’85 Cabriolet. Both were very pretty – the requisite turn and stare every time as you walk away after shutting the door type of pretty. But driving experience? Well, maybe I completely missed the point, and perhaps neither of those cars were particularly well set up, but I wasn’t really blown away either time.

I think it’s more likely, though, that my expectation level far exceeded what the car could ever deliver in either case. For my first drive, I was moving from the vehicle I learned to drive on – a clapped out, seven-time crashed 1984 Toyota Pickup – to a goddamn Porsche 911. I’ve finally been accepted to be an astronaut, I thought to myself, this will be the best drive of my life! Plainly, it was not. I haven’t completely sworn off the 911, mind you, but since I’ve never looked at them the same.

Contrast that with my Volkswagen GTI experience. I bought what may have legitimately been the absolute worst example of a GTI it was possible to buy in 1998. Non-running? Check. Rusty? Check. Partially disassembled? Check. Crashed at some point? Check. Westmoreland build quality? That, too. It was impossible at times to find gears in my car. You could look through gaps in the body structure. The radio didn’t work. Neither did the air conditioning, or the heater, or occasionally the lights, and sometimes the starter.…

1983 Volkswagen GTi

1983 Volkswagen GTi

Way before “i” stood for everything ‘intelligent’ from your phone to your (no joke) pet, adding the 9th letter of the alphabet to your German car meant something equally as forward thinking in the 1970s and 1980s – injection. Unless, of course, you were talking about ‘e’ in a few cases, where the German word for injection – Einspritzung – came into play (I’m looking at you, Mercedes-Benz. And, occasionally BMW, for no apparent reason).

But I digress.

Adding fuel injection to your motor in the 1970s was pretty close to rocket science, since in the 1960s only the most exotic and high performance cars available had it. So when Volkswagen dropped a fuel injected 1.6 liter inline-4 pumping out an astonishing for the period 110 horsepower in 1975, it’s no wonder it was a revolution. Consider, for a moment, that the 1975 Corvette – with its gargantuan, gas-guzzling 5.7 liter V8 – managed to produce only 165 horsepower. Today’s base Corvette produces about 455 horsepower, meaning that the same relation would make today’s GTI a 300 horsepower hot hatch. Which, ironically in R form, it pretty much is! Still, it was the formula of the original that made this the hottest commodity on the market. It would be eight long years until the GTI debuted in the U.S. market. When it did, it had been turned down slightly and injection was no longer solely the domain of the GTI. Still, it was a potent and popular package, with attractive Guigiaro-penned looks and plenty of practicality. Some 34 years on from launch, the looks still capture the imagination of many who owned (or longed to own) one of these transformative hatches:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen GTi on eBay

1977 Volkswagen Rabbit VR6 24V swap

1977 Volkswagen Rabbit VR6 24V swap

Did the high-mileage R32 from earlier get you wondering what you might do with the drivetrain? A little over three years ago, we took a look at a special early Rabbit. Dressed in Miami Blue and looking subtly upgraded with Corrado steel wheels and a lower ride height, what the exterior didn’t give away was that lurking under the hood was a 2.8 liter 24V VR6 motor popped in. The swap looked well executed and generally clean outside of some loose wiring, and the builder hadn’t gone over the top with a crazy interior – instead, relying on the original items for a true sleeper status. With a few minor changes like a better executed intake, engine cover and some odds and ends, the car has reappeared with generally the same introduction – but that’s okay with us, because the look is spot on! It’s also a no reserve auction, so we’ll get to see where an honest yet seriously quick Rabbit gets you these days.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit VR6 24v Swap on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 2004 Audi TT quattro 2.5

Tuner Tuesday: 2004 Audi TT quattro 2.5

Rightly or wrongly, the Audi TT has been accused of being a pretend sports car. Usually that criticism is lumped onto the chassis by the regurgitating internet generation; masters of all they have never experienced. Get in to a second generation TT, and you’ll be amazed at how they drive – I promise. But the first gen? Based on the same platform as the Mk.4 Golf, the 8N certainly isn’t as sporty as its replacement, but it’s still a very competent sports coupe. In 225 or 3.2 VR6 form, it’s plenty potent, too. But for some people that just isn’t enough:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi TT quattro 2.5 on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

Volkswagen of America’s small pickup truck offered a unique experience at the beginning of the 1980s; basically, the front half of the pickup was a Rabbit, which meant relative comfort, reliability, easy of use and driving and good fuel economy. In back, Volkswagen stretched the wheelbase nine inches and swapped in a tubular axle supported by leaf springs giving the pick up 1,100 lbs of payload capacity and a six foot bed – not too shabby! They even launched a “Sportruck” model, which gave you bucket seats and some really trick decals that covered most of the side. You also got some amazing options for the period, like a tachometer (wooooow) and a 5-speed transmission. However, the mix of 1.7 liter, low compression 8V motors available weren’t exactly going ignite your enthusiast dreams. 78 horsepower channeled through the manual would return a not particularly stunning 0-50 time of 9.7 seconds. 60, you’ll remember, was illegal in the United States at that time, so why bother designing a car that could approach it?

But Westmoreland, PA produced some other neat Volkswagens around the same time, though – notably, the U.S. finally got the higher compression, higher output GTi. Though Volkswagen themselves never combined them, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising individuals:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

1977 Volkswagen Scirocco

It’s hard to believe that the Volkswagen Scirocco has fully entered into mid-life crisis. When I was born, my family was lucky enough to have a few “classic cars”. My father, for example, still drove me around in a 1966 Mustang – considering the number which sold, probably not an unusual occurrence. But while those memories seem as fuzzy as the television broadcasts from the period, consider for a moment that when I was born, that “classic” Mustang was 11 years old. My current daily driver is 14 (technically, 15, soon to be 16) years old, so as I tote my son to school in the back of the Passat I’m wondering if his experiences will feel the same as mine did. Of course, in the 1970s cars seemed to age much more quickly; to the point that when I was forming most of my car-related memories in the 1980s, the Volkswagen Scirocco was well into its second iteration and a fair amount of the original models had already left the road. Survivors are few and far between, as mostly rust took them off the road. Finding a survivor – especially a pre-refresh Scirocco like this 1977 – is quite rare:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

The advertising tag line for the 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup was “So American, it’s not available in Germany”. Since the mid 1980s, though, the opposite has been true as the truck range of Volkswagen was removed from the U.S. lineup. In some ways, that’s a bit strange since the small truck market was so strong in the mid-to-late 1980s, but starting in the 90s and culminating in the early 2000s, the small truck market evaporated as the crossover to large trucks became so easy and prevalent. But big trucks have gotten very expensive, and smaller trucks (which really are the size of 1980s full sized trucks) are experiencing a minor resurgence – so much so that VW is rumored to be thinking of bringing the Amarok starting as early as next year. So, let’s take a look back at where the VW pickup began:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi

1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi

Yesterday, searching through bad 1980s movies to watch I came across the Orwellian classic 1984. I sat and stared at the image of John Hurt, slightly bemused that Orwell’s vision of the future was so dark, dire and complicated. Sitting at the end of a head-scratching 2016, 1984 seems in many ways to be such an easy time. Okay, remove the equally crazy politics of the period; telling my students that bombings in downtown London were commonplace when I was growing up confuses them, or that plane hijackings happened almost as often as mass shootings do today, nevermind the environmental and infectious disease disasters of the period. In 1984, you could buy a Volkswagen Jetta GLi for $8,500. Inflation corrected, that’s just below $20,000 – so still quite a deal in the grand scheme. Sure, today’s cars offer more luxury and convenience, and isolation from the driving experience. They are, without a doubt, safer in every measurable characteristic than cars in the 1980s. And faster? Also indisputable, as a new Jetta GLi turbo will positively wipe the floor with this A1’s performance. With only 90 horsepower on tap, you’ll struggle to best speeds most modern cars can do without the driver even blinking. Relatively speaking, this Jetta GLi is slow, loud, unsafe, and not hugely comfortable. Why, then, were they so much fun to drive?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLi on eBay

1980 Volkswagen Scirocco

1980 Volkswagen Scirocco

Period modifications can be pretty hit or miss, and when you’re talking 1980s cars, it seems most weren’t on target. Sure, the AMG widebody and Ruf cars are spectacular, but many more suffered the ignominious fate of having tacky tacked-on plastic bits, wild and poor paint jobs, and “performance enhancements” that more often than not led to a protracted period of non-running conditions. But once in a while a period piece pops up that looks special, and this 1980 Scirocco spotted by our reader Wojciech is just that:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

Feature Listing: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L

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