Here’s one you don’t see every day! The Opel Kadett B launched in 1965, but was actually the third generation of the Kadett nameplate if you counted the pre-War models. It introduced no less than eight body-style variants on the chassis, including two- and four-door sedans, two- and four-door fastbacks, two-door coupes, and two- and four-door ‘kombi’ wagon models that were dubbed the Caravan.
Produced at the Rüsselsheim factory (about 200km north of Stuttgart, near Frankfurt), the Opels were sold through Buick dealers with little success in the heyday of the 1960s. Part this wagon next to one of the General’s other creations from the period – I’m looking at you, Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado – and you being to understand the vast gulf that marketing just couldn’t make up for. Under the hood lay not a 7.0 liter V8, but a 1.0 liter inline four powering the rear wheels through a manual transmission. Luxury? Yeah, it had….carpet….and…..windows. This one even has a radio! But it’s still really neat to see a survivor Opel on the market today:
It seems fitting to follow up the clean 82 Scirocco from the other day with another unique example. This one comes from the following model year, and was sold in the US as the California Edition. But it was part of a larger campaign that celebrated the 600,000th Scirocco produced in Osnabrück, Germany by Karmann.
Karmann started with a Wolfsburg Edition Scirocco, which added leather inside, blacked-out trim, and effectively all of the running gear from the contemporary GTI. That meant you got the 90 horsepower 1.8-liter motor, the close-ratio gearbox, and an upgraded suspension. Wolfsburg Editions were available in three colors – Black Metallic, Mars Red, or Zermatt Silver. The California Edition took the Wolfsburg package a step farther, though.
A claimed 505 were produced, all in Zermatt Silver over black leather. On top of the Wolfsburg standard equipment, they added the GTI’s 14″ Avus wheels and a Kamei X1 body kit. These are rare bits of kit, but one has popped up for sale in the original state they were sold exclusively in:
Like the 1984 Audi 4000S quattro, the 1984 Audi Coupe GT was a bit of an odd bird in the U.S. market. The GT was a light revision of the earlier Coupe; the major difference that was noticeable immediately was the Quattro-inspired 14″ Ronal R8 wheel design and raised spoiler shared with its bigger brother. Coupled with the deep chin spoiler and 4-quad headlight design, the Coupe GT introduced in mid-1983 looked like a fitting tribute to the turbocharged halo model.
Power now came from a 2.1 liter inline-5 (code WE) which cranked out 100 horsepower. Matching its European “5S” counterpart, the U.S. spec GT got an overdrive 5-speed manual with a 4.90 final drive; it helped economy slightly, though the slab front end certainly didn’t. But the new close(r) ratio box over the early economy-minded 5 speed helped acceleration little. Despite the lightweight 2,500 lb curbweight, Audi claimed the GT could hit 60 in a little over 10 seconds and it was out of fizz at about 109 mph. Despite this rather tame performance for a ‘Grand Tourer’, the GT’s numbers were on par with the GTI and better than the Scirocco. Plus, the longitudinal engine layout with equal length driveshafts coupled with a longer wheel base made them quite fun to drive.
But what was really unique about these cars was that they were an intermediary; the end of the Type 81 Coupes before the Type 85 Coupe GTs launched with heavy revision and more power (along with bigger brakes) for 1985. So while the later Coupes were basically a front-drive quattro, the 83-84 Coupe GT was like a 5-cylinder powered VW in some ways. They retained the smaller 4×100 mm bolt circle on the hubs with 239mm (9.4″) front disc brakes and rear drums, which is a blessing for wheel and brake upgrades should you want to go that route.
But on an example like this ’84, I hope someone keeps it stock!
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:
Though the shape of the new Scirocco was modern for the time, underneath the specification changed little from the outgoing model. It was still a Mk.1 underneath, with a 1.7 liter, 74 horsepower inline-4 providing adequate motivation to the 2,000 lb. coupe. Where the original Giugiaro design had held lovely nuance, the Karmann-penned follow-up borrowed heavily from the Asso di Picche design (ironically, also from Giugiaro) meaning it was all angles, everywhere. But it pulled it off reasonably well, and the second generation was quite popular, selling about a quarter million units in total. There were rolling changes throughout the years as more power, bigger spoilers and wheels, and even a more traditional second wiper appeared. But in terms of purity, the simple design shows through well despite the clunky U.S. spec bumpers on the early models like this 1982:
Much like the E28 M5, the E82 was a legend before it even hit the market. Press releases and journalists gushed over its superlatives; while most felt it was a return to the classic BMW form, some went so far as to suggest it was the best M product ever. Debate still rages over that and generally fans of each chassis manage to come up with plenty of justification as to why theirs is the most special M produced. However, one thing is undeniable; the 1M might be the only M car to ever immediately appreciate on the market. Perhaps it was the combination of those aforementioned press articles or the limited nature of the model; a scant 983 were produced for the U.S. market over a 10 month production cycle in 2011. As with the E28, color choices were quite limited (though, thankfully more than just black!) – 326 Alpine White III (300), 222 Black Sapphire Metallic (475), and 435 Valencia Orange Metallic (B44) – the model’s signature color. All were mated with the same interior: LWNZ Black Boston leather with contrasting orange stitching. They all featured the same drivetrain specification, too – the boosted twin-turbocharged N54 turned up to 335 horsepower and mated only to a 6-speed manual with a limited slip differential. Wheels were the Competition Package BBS-made Style 359M 19″ options from the E9x. The result was magical – if you can afford it…
Jumping in to a third generation Volkswagen Golf won’t get you much respect outside of dedicated brand enthusiasts. But what it will do is reward your decision. Like the E36 M3, adding two cylinders to the model may not have sounded as sexy on paper as the high-revving double cam inline-4, but the result was better performance, better reliability, and cheaper prices for that speed. With 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque on tap, the VR6 took the Mk.3 into a new performance territory. It brought with it a more grown up feel, too – leather, a quiet(er) cabin, power windows and sunroof – these were unthinkable a decade earlier in the budget hatch. In fact there was only one option – a trunk mounted CD changer. Everything else? Standard. The increase in performance dictated upgrades throughout; sport suspension with sway bars, larger brakes with 5×100 mm hubs and accompanying 15″ wheels. 0-60 was firmly sub-7 second range, and the boxy hatch could brush 130 mph flat out. In a flat-out drag race, this economy car was on par with the Audi S6.
At nearly $20,000, the price tag didn’t seem cheap at first. Indeed, in a little over a decade the base price of the GTI had increased 100%. But the Golf was still about cheap speed, and so you need to view this package in relative performance. It wasn’t much slower than the U.S. specification M3, for example, but was about half the price. More appropriate, though, was that it was some $6,000 cheaper than the Corrado with nearly the same setup. Today, that cost savings carries over – Corrados are easily twice to many times the current bid of this example:
If an effort to bolster slow sales in the 1990s and rebrand itself as a fun-loving alternative to the rest of the modest budget alternatives, Volkswagen rolled out a new marketing campaign and several special editions of the popular third-generation Golf and Jetta. Probably the most famous is the Harlequin, but there was also the Jetta GT and the Wolfsburg Edition. But the ones that really struck a cord with college students were the K2 and Trek editions, as they came not only with your Fahrvergnügen driving experience, but something to do when you got there as well.
In the case of the Trek Edition, you could get alloy wheels, front fog lights, special interior trim, a sunroof, and a rear spoiler. But the most important part of the package was of course the Trek mountain bike that came mounted to the roof rack. It was a silly marketing gig for what was neither the best car nor the best mountain bike available, but it was fun and cool. And today, it’s pretty rare to find them still attached to one another:
Replacing a car universally heralded as the second coming of the automobile certainly wasn’t easy for VW, but the Mk.2 chassis proved up to the task immediately. It was very much the same formula as the original with a touch more refinement, space and power. The lines of the Mk.2 were less angular and upright than Giugiaro’s original design, but several aspects of the Herbert Schäfer replacement mimicked another Giugiaro design – the Lancia Delta. This was most notable in the C-pillar, which tapers with nearly the exact same angle, while early 4-door Golfs also shared the split-glass look on the doors.
For U.S. customers, the GTI continued to be a 2-door only affair and was initially only available in three colors – Mars Red, Black, and Diamond Silver Metallic for an extra charge. Customers opting for the GTI package paid approximately $10,000, which included red-accent trim outside, ‘Bottlecap’ 14″ alloys and blacked-out fender trim, a rear spoiler above the window and aerodynamic headlights. Dynamically, the GTI received the new 100-horsepower ‘HT’ high compression 1.8 liter fuel-injected inline-4, which was solely mated to the front wheels via a close-ratio 5-speed manual. GTIs also sported 4-wheel disc brakes for the first time and front and rear anti-sway bars to go along with the sport-tuned suspension. The driver got special striped fabric in either gray or red over their sport seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and digital computer display were all standard. Buyers could, of course, opt for a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, cruise control and an upgraded stereo if they chose.
Despite the upgraded spec and new model, Golf sales continued to slide in the mid-80s from their height (as the Rabbit) in the late 1970s. Coupled with their spunky nature, affordability and less-than-stellar build quality, very few Westmoreland-built A2 GTIs remain around. This one looks to be saved from obscurity, and a few tasteful mods have it looking ready to impress:
As with the first 5-Series, the E21’s reputation has suffered in the wake of the models that replaced it and the legend which preceded it. The US-market models were long on bumpers and short on engine choices and while a lot of them sold here when new, they just never really grabbed the enthusiast following of either the ’02 models or the E30.
Yet there are good examples that pop up from time to time, especially when they’re presented in European guise and with the gutsier inline-6 under the hood. The model that often pops to mind is the 323i, one of which I looked at back in 2018. But there was also a carbureted version called the ‘320/6’, which used the M20 hooked to a single Solex. That’s what we’re looking at today, but this one not only has the more desirable look at motor, but also a host of period-style mods to go with it: