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

1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V

If you were not a Volkswagen fan, it would have been relatively easy to miss the numerous small changes to the Jetta lineup in 1987. Chief among these changes was the introduction of a new model, the GLi 16V. Outside there were subtle changes to what was already established in the sporty 4-door to help it be distinguished from the 8 valve model it was sold alongside (only in the 1987 model year). A new, deeper front chin spoiler had two integral brake ducts. The antenna had been relocated to the roof, and the rear spoiler was color-matched on the top surface. Inside, new body-hugging Recaro seats were offered, alongside the host of subtle luxury options that the Jetta had including power windows, mirrors and locks, sunroof, air conditioning, cruise control and an onboard computer. The GLi 16V also received new wheels, popularly known as the “Teardrop” alloys but properly named Silverstone. Of course, appearance was one thing, but performance was what the GLi 16V was about and the dual overhead cams of the new motor churned out 123 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like a lot today, but it was plenty to make this light sedan entertaining. Expensive new and popular to be modified secondhand, these early GLi 16Vs are somewhat rare to happen across these days:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V on eBay

Sporty Soot: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V Ecodiesel

With the exception of the short-lived Jetta TDi Cup Edition, Volkswagen has denied U.S. fans something that it’s offered in Europe for several generations – the sporty versions of its diesel products. They go as far back as the mid-1980s and made lots of sense in European countries were greater fuel economy trumped the need for speed. But that lack of importation hasn’t stopped some from creating their own anti-sleepers. What started life here as an early Jetta GLi 16V has gone through a unique swap to an equally if not more rare Ecodiesel-spec 1.6 turbo motor. You get the sporty look and interior from the GLi with all the clatter and fuel economy of the diesel:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V Ecodiesel on eBay

Euro Breadvan: 1989 Volkswagen Polo C

Just like we saw with yesterday’s 928S4, there are specific dealers that have made a go of importation of vehicles from Europe that have passed the magical “25 year” rule. Most of what we have seen from this particular seller is of the BMW variety, and we’ve featured quite a few of their E30 Tourings as well as a wayward Volkswagen. While the photography is never as slick as the 928s looks, the photos are a bit more honest and the descriptions usually show the drawbacks. What you get is a good look at a model infrequently seen in the U.S.. However, in this case it’s one that will probably leave most people scratching their heads, as it’s a right-hooker 1.0 liter base Polo wagon. At least it’s a manual?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Polo C on eBay

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

End of the Run: 1991 Volkswagen GTi 16v and 1992 Volkswagen GTi

There’s something that’s just so right about the 1990-1992 GTis. The bigger bumpers gave a chunkier, more menacing look than the 85-89 cars had, and the swap to the 4-headlight grill worked so well. More power and bigger, better BBS wheels made these the best GTis in the eyes of many VW faithful. By 1990, the GTi 16V had gotten fairly expensive so Volkswagen reintroduced a more budget-conscious 1.8 8 valve version. It wasn’t a total poseur, though – Volkswagen made an attempt to differentiate the entry level GTi from the standard Golf. With 105 horsepower on tap (5 more than the standard Golf) and a 5-speed close-ratio gearbox, they channeled a bit of the original A1 GTi even if they didn’t sing up high like the 16Vs did. There were other subtle differences between the 16V and 8V; externally, they looked very similar except that the 16Vs wore appropriate 16V insignia front and rear and on the slimmed down side moldings. The 16Vs also got the larger and wider BBS RM multi-piece wheels with wider flares, while the 8V model wore the 14″ “Teardrop” alloys that had previously been the signature of the 16V. Both now wore roof mounted antenna and integrated, color coded rear spoiler with 3rd brake lights and color coded mirrors, along with the aforementioned 4-headlight grill, deeper rocker panels and integrated foglights. The 16V got beefier Recaro Trophy seats, while the 8V was equipped with the standard sport seats. Both wore the same sport suspension. And, both models now had the passive restraint “running mouse” belts. Today we’ve got one of each to look at, so let’s start with the big brother:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen GTi 16V on Huntsville Craigslist

1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V

“DOHC” was king in the late 1980s and 1990s, and Volkswagen offered several different flavors of dual-cam goodness. You had practicality and sport in the Scirocco model and GTi, with the Golf carrying the torch into the 1990s after the sports coupe’s production ended. Volkswagen also carried the 16V into the Jetta, but offered some slightly different features and styling to help to separate it from the Golf. Where the Golf was slightly more hard-edged and felt like a racer, the Jetta felt slightly more refined. While 1987-1989 models externally weren’t very different in the front from the GTi, after 1990 single rectangular headlights continued and GLis now came standard with the BBS RA 15×6 wheels in silver. Those wheels had previously been outfitted on the Helios Edition. They also got the Recaro Trophy seats and bigger, aerodynamic bumpers that the GTi now carried. Standard was central locking, twin outlet exhaust, 10.1″ front brakes and a cassette radio with 6 speakers, while options included ABS, power windows, sunroof and metallic paint. Just like their GTi counterparts, these expensive Jettas weren’t sold in great numbers and finding all-original examples can be difficult, especially one with lower miles like today’s end of the run 1992:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GLi 16V on San Francisco Craigslist

1990 Volkswagen GTi 16V

While it’s nice to look at imports from Europe that we didn’t get here, when it comes to the Volkswagen front we got at least one of the most desirable 1990s VWs that wasn’t sold in Europe – perhaps, one of the most desirable all around Volkswagens ever made – in the 1990-1992 GTi 2.0 16V. It wasn’t really the best at much of anything compared to the competition; the engine was thirsty and noisy, the upright shape of the Mk.2 Golf was old and on the verge of being replaced, the expensive wheels bent at the mere sight of a pothole, the transmission self-machined occasionally and the electronics were the work of a high school tech class. If you wanted a fast, economical, awesome handling hatch that actually worked all of the time, you bought an Acura Integra GS-R. But all of these faults didn’t detract from what was for the the most desirable GTi package Volkswagen produced. You got the iconic chunky shape of the Golf with extra wide flares. It sat lower, and though they were soft those BBS RMs were gorgeous. Inside were the spectacular Recaro Trophy seats and little else – these were no-frills cars compared to the more luxurious GLi models. And to top it off, under the hood was the screaming 16V in 2.0 form. Good for 134 horsepower and vibrating the entire car (and your eardrums) at highway speed, this car moved beyond look and into entire sensation:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen GTi 16V on eBay

1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

Last night, I watched a “Throwback” Motorweek which reviewed the then-new top-tier twin-turbocharged Japanese sport coupes. It pitted the height of the market cars against each other – the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, the Toyota Supra Turbo, the Mazda RX-7 and the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo in a head to head. It’s hard to believe only a year or two after that segment aired, all of those cars would have disappeared from the U.S. market. While vestiges of them have returned, we’re still generally left without that glut of fast Japanese GT cruisers that were available in the early 1990s. It reminded me of another segment that all but disappeared around the same time; the sports economy coupe. True, cars like the Scion TC live on, but remember when there were 11 or 12 different small coupes you could buy? Like the “HYBRID!”s of their day, each offered shouty colored badges about what made them special; a DOCH here, a 16 valve there, or if you were really, really cool, you had a TURBO badge somewhere on your car. Preferably, multiple places. I remember fondly my friend in high school’s Plymouth Sundance Turbo; it might as well have been a Ferrari to us. While Volkswagen never went that far, they did continue to offer their version of a sport coupe, the Scirocco, through the late 80s. Still sporting its Giugiaro-inspired but Karmann-stolen all-angles design proudly, the Scirocco had a bit of a mystique as all Volkswagen coupes had that it was the best of the class, even if by the numbers it wasn’t:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V on eBay

1985 Volkswagen Golf Diesel

I hear the same line all the time from enthusiasts; “Volkswagen/Audi, bring (enter European specification model) to the U.S. – we’ll buy it!” Well, the truth is that there are many reasons why the company doesn’t bring your long-sought after model to these shores. First, they’re not stupid, in general. They’ve done their homework and though there are inevitably many people who claim they’d rush down to their dealer to buy the car, the number of people who would actually show up with cash is quite a different story. Mostly, it seems those enthusiasts saying they so eagerly await a model really would wait until it had floated down the used-market stream a bit. Then, there are the costs associated with bringing a new model into the market; the safety tests, campaigns to launch a new model, stocking and educating dealers, parts, and training mechanics to repair them. And, when that isn’t enough, there will inevitably be some small problem and they need to recall them all. Look, I’m not saying car companies aren’t making money – but it’s money that they’re in it for, not the love of making cars (sorry, Porsche – but it’s true). On top of that, the companies – believe it or else – have sales data. And that sales data reflects period when they did import the cars that supposedly enthusiasts wanted. And while some enthusiasts did buy them, more “non-enthusiasts” bought their other models more. A great example of this is the disappearance of the wagons from North America, but more poignant to this post is the relative lack of diesels. Considering all of the major German manufacturers (even, begrudgingly, those purists at Porsche who only love to make cars, not money) offer highly efficient diesels in their model ranges, it’s a bit strange that they haven’t offered them until quite recently over here, right?…