I was pretty excited to see the 1986 Volkswagen GTI that popped up for sale last week. While the A2 is a seriously popular platform for enthusiasts and tuners, coming across original examples is exceedingly hard. But within the GTI range from 1985-1992, the ’85-’86 probably rank lowest on desirability.
You can imagine what a treat it was for me, then, to get to follow it up with the car that re-injected excitement into the lineup. For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 – the PL – to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.
To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the “Silverstone” (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and – of course – 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.
Measured 0-60 times plummeted; now capable of achieving the feat in 7.9 seconds, Volkswagen also installed a pretty optimistic 140 mph speedometer. But it was an indication that this was a quick car, and indeed the GTI again punched above its weight class in performance. The base price was up, too – now $12,250, but you could opt in air conditioning, metallic paint, a sunroof and nicer Heidelberg radio and be pushing $14,000 pretty easily.…
Back to the Golf. A few days ago I looked at a pristine, original low-mileage ’85 Golf. A Westmoreland build, it was a very basic model. But your only other option in the first model year was the GTI, and it was a $2,000 upgrade over the basic Golf. Of course, for that amount you did get quite a jump in quality. Replacing the basic 85 horsepower 1.8 was a high-compression HT 100 horsepower unit. It didn’t sound like a lot, but that did represent a roughly 20% gain in power. Signature red-striped trim announced that this was the performance variant of the hatchback, and you also got 4-wheel discs as a first in the U.S. range. Those brakes hid behind carry-over “Avus” (Snowflake) wheels, though instead of the machine/dark gray finish the A1 had, they were now all silver and with “Volkswagen” imprinted on flush covers. Sometimes GTIs were equipped with “Montreal” (Bottlecap) alloys which were also shared with the Jetta GLI. Application seems somewhat indiscriminate. The GTI also had an upgraded suspension with front and rear sway bars and a close-ratio 5-speed manual as the only transmission. Of course, the interior was also upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel borrowed from earlier GTIs, a multi-function display and specially-trimmed cloth sport seats. Unlike the prior GTI, the new model now also had flush-fitting aerodynamic glass headlights which were also seen on the Jetta, and later in 1986 the Golf Wolfsburg Edition.
In all, it was a substantial upgrade over the standard Golf, and you could of course further opt to include a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, and a nice radio. Early U.S. Mk.2 GTIs were only available in Mars Red, Diamond Silver Metallic, or as seen here Black. Magazines fawned over the new GTI, which quickly established itself by winning Motor Trend‘s ‘Car of the Year‘ award.…
Continuing on the theme of basic Volkswagens, as I mentioned in the A2 Jetta post I have a soft spot for the Golf. I’ve twice owned them; my last was a ’98 K2 4-door and my first Volkswagen was just like this car. It was a 1986 Westmoreland-built Golf. Compared to most of the cars that come across these pages, the Westmoreland Golfs aren’t really very special. They were very basic models. But they were also unique in their trim, and they were only built in the configuration you see here for two years. Of course, that really only matters to Golfphiles, but it’s a neat bit of trivia, anyway.
I covered the details of these models when I last covered a Westy Golf back in July, 2017. Basically, the easiest way to tell them apart from German builds are the wheel covers and the grill with sealed-beam rectangle headlights. That particular ’86 was mega impressive, as it had only 44,000 miles. Well, today’s ’85 has even less:
Update 12/29/2017: After reportedly selling for $2,650 in October and after originally having a $6,500 ask, this Golf has been relisted with a $4,999 Buy It Now option.
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…
Update 1/6/2018 – The asking price on this Corrado G60 has dropped from $5,200 to $4,800.
While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned to…another antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two “new” models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.
The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrado’s profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true ‘Operation Copy Giugiaro’ plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me – especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasn’t made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a ‘Poor Man’s Porsche’ rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.
Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity.…
Update 3/11/2018: The seller of this unique Corrado has relisted it again on a no reserve auction, but now with a higher $12,500 starting price.
Update 11/1/2017: I was taken to task for my critique of the pricing on this example. The builder and many of his avid fans chimed in to offer more history and background of the build and its thoroughness. Additionally, the seller was able to point toward the $10,000 recent sale of a similar 24V modified Corrado to justify his pricing. It’s a comp that I hadn’t seen and certainly backs up his starting price argument. Thanks for the input to all our readership who know the seller and the build better than I did! -CJ
1992 was an interesting year of change at Volkswagen. At least for the next decade, it signaled the end of the hot water-cooled EA827-derived 4-cylinder models that had made it popular once again as a modern, efficient economy car that was capable of plenty of sport, too. 1992 was significant in this regard, because although the engine labored on for a bit, alongside the twin-cam, high-revving 16V GTI and GLI or the gutsy G60-supercharged Corrado came the new VR6 power unit. Displacing 2.8 liters, the new engine went without exotic forced-induction or peaky twin cams. Instead you just got low-end grunt and great noise, and 170-odd stampeding horses running across the front of your Volkswagen. In short order, the Passat, Jetta, GTI and even the EuroVan all moved to six cylinders.
1992 was even more notable because for the U.S. market it was the sole year where both the G60 and SLC VR6 were available together in the Corrado lineup. It was also unique because of the tones available; Corrados had been available previously in Nugget Yellow LK1B, but in 1992 it moved to Jasmin Yellow LK1D.…
1987 was the year that the GTI started its climb up the weight and complexity scale with the addition of the PL 1.8 liter double overhead cam inline-4. Now with 123 horsepower, Volkswagen continued its mid-80s trend of charging the customers about $100 a horsepower, resulting in a $2,000 increase in base price to correspond with the 21 horsepower jump. New “Silverstone” alloys which had debuted (like the motor) on the Scirocco were still 14″ x 6″, but looked the part with their signature teardrop machined look. Also carrying over from the Scirocco was the Fuba roof-mounted antenna; something which would become a call sign for fast VWs for the next two decades. The lower valences, both front and rear, were painted matte black, further highlighting the red-stripped bumper covers and accented by a deeper front spoiler with twin brake ducts. The red theme carried over to the “16V” badges surrounding the outside and highlighting the inside; a new red-stripe velour and leatherette sport interior kept the passengers planted. While the 21 horsepower increase didn’t sound like a lot, the 16V was a case of a car which outperformed its numbers on paper and felt much quicker than it might have appeared. 0-60 was gone in a tick under 8 seconds and the GTI would gear-out at 124 mph. Car magazines proclaimed it the best GTI yet, though many pointed out that it was also getting quite expensive. Though still popular, not quite as many of these A2 GTIs seemed to hit the market, and finding clean, original examples today like this beautiful Red Pearl Mica example? You guessed it, exceptionally hard.
Like its brethren GTI, in 1985 the Volkswagen Jetta GLI went a bit more upscale with the second generation of water-cooled performance. While the two shared most underpinnings between them, the Jetta was aimed at a slightly more upscale buyer. As a result, things like power windows, locks and mirrors and (gasp!) even an automatic transmission were available in the sedan but not the hatch. The GLI package, like the GTI, offered visual clues that greater performance lay under the hood; you got a red-striped exterior and alloy wheels outside. But unlike the GTI, VW omitted the blacked-out VW badges and the flashy “GLI” grill insert until later in the run. Inside, special velour sport seats, a multi-function display and standard power steering (it was optional in the rest of the range) with a leather-wrapped steering wheel helped to distinguish the model. But the meat of the meal was the added sport; the HT-code inline-4 was good for 100 horsepower and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual as standard. You also got disc brakes all around and an upgraded sport suspension with front and rear anti-sway bars. You could grab all of this fun for just a hair under $10,000 with no options – exactly $100 per a horsepower.
For 1986, power was up slightly to 102 with a new RD-code motor, again shared with the GTI. That massive power increase was met with a corresponding increase in base price to $10,190. Yet most reviews of the period felt that even at that price, the Jetta represented a great value; a perfect mix of sport and practicality with reasonably good build quality. The GLI of the period never sold quite as well as the GTI or caught on in quite the same way, though, so it’s a special treat to come across a clean and mostly original ’86 like this one:
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.…
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: