If, for some reason, you didn’t really love the modified GTI I just looked at and were hoping for a more pure version of the Westmoreland Wonder, well…I’m not sure this is it, either. But it is a lot closer to how it was delivered new, with sealed-beam headlights, a stock interior, and the original 8-valve under the hood. It’s also traveled just under 55,000 miles since new. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt you, it’s got WORKING AIR CONDITIONING. No, I’m not kidding:
Okay, so recently we’ve seen neat A2 and A3 Golfs turned up a few notches – where’s the A1 love? Not to be forgotten or overlooked, the ‘original’ hot hatch is ready to make a splash in your morning feed!
This ’84 GTI looks relatively innocent enough, but it’s sporting an early production look with round headlights, thin Euro bumpers, and small taillights. It’s obviously low and it’s hard to miss those fantastic BBS RM wheels. But there’s even more to see on this neat example:
Acclaimed as the original of the “Hot Hatch” market, the original A1 GTI gained weight before it even hit U.S. shores and never stopped eating. Each generation gained weight, options and complexity – and to make up for that, VW kept upping the power. From the simple 1.6 8V the original sported, it was up to 1.8 liters by the time it hit U.S. shores – then a few years later, gained 8 more valves, than another .2 liters in 1990, and finally made the jump to the narrow angle VR6 with its mighty 2.8 liters pumping out nearly double the horsepower of the original. Despite the changes, each generation has been revered by its own group of enthusiasts, and it’s rare to find original condition GTIs over 10 years old.
On its way out of production, VW sweetened the VR6 even more with the “Driver’s Edition” model in 1997. Red stitching, red calipers and special Speedline wheels made an appearance, and while the package was ’97-only it was more-or-less completely carried over to the ’98s. This particular ’98, though, doesn’t carry much of that original spec because it’s been thoroughly upgraded, stretched and restored to an impressive level:
Hard to believe though it may be, 2020 rings in the reign of what will certainly be the new benchmark for small hatchbacks – the Golf Mk.8. The Mk.7 redefined the driving dynamics and performance of the category with what is generally hailed as the best VW chassis to date – the MQB platform. So it’s time to start looking at these models as potential values while we wait for the next GTI to bow.
The Mk.7 introduced a new strata of GTI trim levels. The base was a S, which gave you the Tartan interior, the turbocharged 2.0TFSI motor cranking out 210 horsepower, LED foglights, Bluetooth and a 5.8″ touchscreen, 18″ alloy wheels and a review camera. In other words, it wasn’t exactly a stripped model, and as such it’d cost you over $26,000 to get into one. Moving to the SE got you leather and a sunroof, along with automatic headlights, premium Fender radio and rain-sensing wipers. The top-tier Autobahn package further added navigation, power seats, and dual-climate control – by which point you were knocking on the R’s base price if you had fully optioned out your GTI.
So the one to get was the S if you could live without a sunroof, since it gave you the best look and the most bang for a buck. But there was a secret – the Performance Package, which gave you a further 10 horsepower and a limited-slip differential in front, along with upgraded brakes. Click one more option – the Lighting Package – and you got adaptive HIDs. This Pure White over Titan Black/Clark Plaid cloth 2016 had just that set of options, and just 5,500 miles since new:
As much as all of us would love to be Jerry Seinfeld, causally trading the most historic air-cooled Porsches on a whim, the reality is that we’re not. But, as ever, I offer a potential solution. The Karmann Ghia gave you Porsche looks on a Beetle budget. Shortly after the Beetle’s arrival in America, VW’s new sport coupe arrived for the 1956 model year. Like the later Scirocco also built by Karmann in Osnabrück, Volkswagen based its model on the normal production line Beetle but the swoopy body came from the Italians – technically, borrowed from a Chrysler, actually. Those lines were notoriously complicated; outside of items that open, the body is one piece and constructed entirely by hand. The rear-engine, rear-drive 1.2 liter flat-4 air-cooled clatter wouldn’t get you anywhere as fast as the looks suggest, but then why are you in such a hurry?
About 400,000 were produced in total and they’re not impossible to find today. They’re also more affordable than really top-tier Beetles and early VW Vans, but more significantly you really do get exotic looks on a shoestring budget still. While getting into a fully sorted ’58 356A will set you back around $130,000 – $150,000, you can get into a beautiful early example of the Ghia fully restored for only a fraction of that price:
I know I just said that we were on Passat overload, so why are we here again? Well, I certainly haven’t written up many newer Passats. And, truth told, while competent the U.S.-specific B7 Passat hasn’t really given many reasons for fans to celebrate. Instead of leading the market, VW chose to give consumers what they thought consumers wanted. They reacted….sorta. B7 sales spiked with its introduction in 2012 to 125,000 until in the U.S.; respectable for what has always been a slow seller for the company. That was more than the B6 ever sold in a single year by a factor of 2.5, for example. But every year since has been a downward slope; 110,000 in 2013, 96,000 in 2014, 78,000 for 2015, 73,000 in 2016, 60,000 for 2017 and just 41,400 for 2018. Sure, sales of normal sedans are slipping all around. Compare that to the Honda Accord; a popular, “sporty” alternative, and it’s drawn into sharper contrast. In 2018, Honda sold 291,000 Accords. And that was an uncharacteristically bad year for the model.
So to help prop up sales towards the end of the B7 run, Volkswagen introduced new trim packages – no surprise there. And one came out in 2018 called the “GT”. Now, traditionally VW hasn’t done a stellar job on its GT packages, but hear me out on this one – because it’s pretty special. Outside, the Passat GT distinguished itself with red-trim grill like the GTI, blacked out roof panel and big dual exhaust. 19″ ‘Tornado’ wheels filled the lowered arches; the GT was a bit over half an inch lower with stiffer shocks. Inside, contrasting stitching and two-tone sport seats were met with carbon-like and aluminum trim. But the real news was what made this car sing; under the hood was the 3.6 liter DOHC 24 valve narrow-angle VR6 rated at 280 horsepower and barking through that big exhaust. Shifts were handled solely by the DSG 6-speed dual-clutch box, meaning lightning-fast changes and a manual mode. While VW has seldom given you something for nothing, the Passat GT also rang in as one of the cheapest 6-cylinder cars you could buy last year – base price was $29,995, making it one of just three sub-$30,000 sixes on the market. But today, you can grab one a whole lot cheaper:
Although Volkswagen started its small 5-door wagon production in the Mk.3 era, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they finally decided to bring their second generation Golf Variant in the form of the Jetta Wagon. It was part of an unprecedented wave of early 2000s wagon popularity which gave enthusiasts a lot of very nice options. Parked alongside the Passat Variant in dealerships, just like the B5 they were offered with a dizzying array of configurations. There were GLS and GLX trim specs, along with four different engine configurations. Base GLSs got the 2.0 inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower. Stepping up to turbocharged your experience with the familiar 1.8T, here rated at 170 horsepower just like the Passat – although they’re not the same motor code, as obviously the mounting is transverse. Optional was also the ALH 1.9 liter TDi which could return an honest 50 mpg and be mated to a manual (both not really options in the Passat diesel) and for a touch more sport you could kick up to the GLX model, which gave you the 12 valve 2.8 liter VR6 rated at 174 horsepower and 181 lb.ft of torque.
So there were a lot of options in the Mk.4 Variant’s trick bag, but they’re somewhat hard to find in clean, original condition. Today I came across a 1.8T model that just like Monday’s 300TE is a a rather boring color combination, but one that’s exciting to see in this condition today:
Last week I looked at the oddball LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin camper. While it was affordable relative to some crazy VW Camper pricing, at the end of the day it wasn’t a really great example. Somewhat surprisingly, another Sven Hedin
popped high-topped up immediately after I wrote up the post. Our reader Daniel spotted it, and not only was it cheaper than the one I featured, it was in much better condition. But it’s not the only offbeat VW Van to appear at that time.
I also noticed what seems to look like a more traditional American-style mini-camper, and I was curious. What it is is a T3 conversion by Jürgens in South Africa. Called the “Mighty Mini Motorised Home” in period literature, starting in the 1970s the company basically strapped what looked like a tow-behind caravan onto the chassis and cab of a T2. Although I couldn’t find much information outside of the brochure, there are a few fan groups devoted to the T2 model. According to that site, Jürgens began production in 1973 and when the T2 was phased out, production moved to the T3. The new T3 chassis offered more space in the back, so the AutoVilla grew to accommodate a double bed over the cab and a bathroom. All this space meant weight, and the already underpowered 2.0 inline-4 apparently struggled to meet the company’s definition of “motorised”, never mind “mighty”. But these South African campers inspired Wilhelm Karmann (yes, THAT Karmann), who liscenced the design and began building the equally ungainly Volkswagen Karmann Gipsy. Karmann even built a few syncro models of the Gipsy. Needless to say, neither the Karmann Gipsy nor the original Jürgens AutoVilla made it to the U.S., but there’s one for sale now in North Carolina:
Until fairly recently, “collector-quality Volkswagen” was pretty much an oxymoron unless you were talking about some rare air-cooled packages like the T34 Ghia or a 23 window microbus. But an explosion of 1980s products means that we’ve seen Mk.1 Sciroccos and GTis break $20,000 or more, and even an odd Mk.2 GTi come close to the same amount. If you’re trying to break in to the 1980s collector scene for Volkswagens, you might be a little late to the party. Not much from the 1990s makes the same impression, save one car – the Corrado. Unlike pretty much every Volkswagen ever made, these expensive sport coupes were prized since new and generally have avoided the pitfalls of downstream VW owners who tend to neglect and abuse them. As a result, we regularly get to see all-original, pristine low mileage Corrados that always amaze me. So throw on some flannel and crank the Soundgarden, we’re taking a trip back in time to 1994:
Of course, if you’re a fan of German cars (and even some who are not), the Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top campers are legendary in their own right. But esoteric fans no there was not just one version of the iconic ‘Camper Van’. Indeed, Volkswagen offered two iterations of do-anything #vanlife in the 70s,80s and even 80s. The Vanagon is probably the best known, but based upon VW’s larger LT platform were also 8 versions of campers with unique features and a bit more space than the traditional VW van.
Top of the range between 1978 and 1989 was this model – the LT Westfalia Sven Hedin. Hedin was a notable Swedish explorer of central Asia, so the eponymous camper was adventure ready. These high-top vans featured similar accoutrements to the T2 and T3 models, with a cooker, fridge, versatile seating and a fixed sleeping area along with copious storage. Where the LT stood apart was incorporation of a bathroom, replete with hot water shower. You could have these Sven Hedins with either PVC or carpeted flooring as seen here, and with either a 2.0 inline-4 gas motor or the lump seen in this model – the D24 2.4 liter inline-6 diesel rated at 75 horsepower.