Tuner Tuesday: 1992 Volkswagen Golf GTi 16V

On a recent visit to Coventry Motorcar I was shown the “Tuning Drawer”: one pull-out drawer in an admittedly large and cool rolling tool chest full of cords, plugs, and modules. Today, that’s what it takes to tune a car; not cams, throttle bodies, head work or a high pressure fuel pump. Designing those parts to fit into modern motors and still have them leap through the hoops of getting certified by the EPA means that only the richest and most respected tuning firms can produce parts to fit into these complicated motors, and even then they’re more often than not highly reliant upon computer reprograming rather than internal rebuilds. Today’s GTi may not look particularly outrageous from the outside, but it brings us back to a more simple time in tuning, an analogue age where jumps in horsepower were measured in single digits, not in groups of 100 or more:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GTi 16V on eBay

1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V

Edit 6/17/2017: This car has reappeared with new photos, a new listing and a $10,000 Buy It Now HERE!

The late 1980s saw an explosion of popularity in homologated race specials. There was the Quattro, fresh off the World Rally Championship. Though technically not a homologation, Porsche gave us a pretty popular option in the 944 Turbo which derived much of its technology from the successful 924 Carrera GTR/LM program. Of course, the real heavy hitters were the 190E 2.3/2.5-16 Cosworths from Mercedes-Benz and the superstar BMW M3. But all of those cars were pretty expensive; the Quattro and 944 Turbo were the best part of $40,000, the Benz hit the market at $37,000 while the slightly more affordable M3 stickered for $34,000. Still, inflation corrected, even the least expensive 1988 M3’s sticker price would equate to roughly $69,000 in buying power today – hardly affordable to most.

However, for a little less than half of what the M3 cost, you could get a fair chunk of the high-revving European feel in the Jetta GLi. It hit the markets around $15,000, which felt like quite a lot considering a base Jetta cost only half that amount a few years early. But a lot of Jetta you got for that money. Like the M3, it had a deep front spoiler with integral brake ducting and a rear wing. It had a roof mounted antenna, too, and most Jetta GLis were full of power options like windows, mirrors, anti-lock brakes and sunroofs. Also like the M3 you got form-fitting Recaro seats, and light alloy BBS wheels. And at its heart was a high-revving double-overhead cam 16 valve motor hooked to a close ratio 5-speed manual gearbox. Of course, for $20,000 less than the M3, you weren’t going to get a BMW – power, material and build quality, and the performance were all less than the Munich cars or the rest of that group previously mentioned.…

2008 Audi TT Roadster 3.2 quattro

VAG’s decisions on who would be able to shift their own gears have always been a bit confusing, but the period of the 3.2 VR6 is really where this came to a head for U.S. customers. In 2004, Volkswagen brought their hottest Golf (finally!) to our market, featuring the singing VR6 in 6-speed manual only form with the R32. Great, but Audi offered the same platform in slinkier TT 3.2 Quattro form. However, fans of manual shifting were overlooked as Audi opted to bring the top TT here only with DSG. This carried over to the A3 model range, where you could get a 3.2 quattro but only with the DSG box. When it came to the next generation, VAG opted to change this formula. As it had been a fan favorite, you’d assume that the R32 would retain the same layout. But no, Volkswagen removed the manual option and the Mk.5 based R32 became DSG-only. So that would hold true in the bigger budget, typically more tech-heavy TT too, right? Wrong, as in the 2nd generation, Audi finally opted to allow buyers to select a manual in either Coupe or Roadster form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi TT Roadster 3.2 quattro on New London Craigslist

1986 Volkswagen Golf Diesel

It isn’t always the flashiest car that pulls your attention, and such was the case for me when pondering this 1986 Golf. Let’s get beyond the diesel scandal and its impact on the company for a moment, as I want to talk about the noise. In this case, it’s not the wind noise generated by the relatively upright Mk.2 design. It’s not even the substantial clatter coming from the engine bay of the 1.6 liter inline-4 diesel. No, seeing this car is a trip down memory lane because of the noise it makes when the key is in the ignition. 1986 was the year that changed at Volkswagen, and I just so happened to have a 1986 Golf 4-door. The noise was the warning chime, and Volkswagen’s clever marketing campaign proclaimed it as a digital “Volks-wa-gen” repeated until you either had to start the car or yank the key out. Fans of the marque have dubbed it “La Cucaracha”, which it vaguely sounds like, though it’s clearly a rip-off of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Rip out is what I, and many others, did to the door chime relay in an effort to maintain sanity when working on the car. The signature door sound would carry on for a few generations but finally died in the 2000s like most VW electronics. I openly wonder if, in an effort to re-brand itself in the post-Dieselgate world, VW will reintroduce the theme song as a “throwback” to gain back its original fan base. After all, I’m sure I’m not the only one who vividly has those three tones repeating in my head as I look at this Golf:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen Golf Diesel on eBay

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