The Polo isn’t a model often featured on these pages because 1) they never came to the United States and B) if you’re going through the effort of importing a European car, let’s just say the Polo probably isn’t top of your list. But once in a while a neat example pops up, and that’s the case today.
The fourth generation Polo emerged in the mid-1990s and was heavily based upon the SEAT Ibiza. That car was styled by Giugiaro’s Italdesign, and while arguably not their best work by a country mile, it wasn’t an unattractive small car. It also bore more than a passing similarity to the shape of the Mk.3 Golf, and that was both on purpose and by design – literally – as the Ibiza itself was derived from the Mk.3 chassis.
Introduced with the 6K Polo, as with the Golf, was a five-door Variant model. And as with the European Golf, multiple engines including diesels were available. This particular Polo was optioned with the most trick diesel available in the chassis at the time – the SDI 1.9-liter. And, according to this ad, it was then imported by the US government and now sits in New Hampshire. Huh?
The B2 Quantum has always been an interesting car to me. As my first car was an Audi 4000CS quattro, there were aspects of its Volkswagen sibling that I really liked. First, while I wouldn’t say that the Quantum was more handsome than the 4000, it was certainly more distinctive looking. There are some downright odd angles on the Quantum, but somehow the design pulls it off. It’s also more rare to see them, or at least it felt so when I was driving around in the 4000. Then there were more practical things; for example, unlike Audi who ran the odd 4×108 pattern for slightly larger brakes, the Quantum stuck to smaller stock and retained 4×100 mm wheels. That made upgrades a bit easier and gave the Quantum a signature look with the GTi-sourced snowflake wheels. You could also get the 5-cylinder in front drive sedan configuration with the GL5; it was something Audi offered early on but had dropped, instead having only the Coupe GT be the front drive 5-cylinder. But the real trump card for the Quantum was undoubtedly the Syncro Wagon, as there was no Audi B2 wagon available in any configuration. Effectively, they took most of the oily bits from a 4000 quattro and stuck them in the Volkswagen with little fanfare. Outwardly, there was really only a single badge to tell them apart from a GL5 wagon.
Pricing was on par with period 4000 quattros, though – base price was $15,645, but equip the Quantum similarly to the standard 4000 with power windows, mirrors, locks and sunroof and you’d quickly crest $17,000 – about $4,000 more dear than a standard GL5. Unlike the 4000, Quantum Syncro Wagons came standard only with power steering, brakes, cruise control and air conditioning. You had to opt-in the power package to get the other items.
That made the Quantum Syncro Wagon very much more expensive than, say, a Subaru GL 4WD Wagon or the Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon. But both of those cars were part-time 4WD; in order to get a car with similar build quality and seamless drive of all wheels, you’d need to pony up a staggering $30,000 for the Audi 5000CS quattro Avant. Also unlike the Audi, the Syncro Wagon ran through the 1988 model year, but never sold in large numbers. Finding one today is a bit of a treat, even if it’s not without its needs:
Back to our old friend, the Scirocco. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Volkswagen’s water-cooled coupes aren’t my favorite cars in the lineup. And that’s mostly true, with one notable exception. I adore the first generation Scirocco. To me, it’s the early 911 of the water-cooled Volkswagens. Flawed, but full of style and charm. And just like the early 911s, the real treat is to find an ‘S’ model – if you can.
In all reality the Scirocco S was just an appearance package. It shared all of the basic aspects of the Scirocco, but the optional 5-speed was standard, it came with 13″ alloys, a special interior, red stripes, and a front spoiler. Doesn’t sound like much, eh? In all honesty, it wasn’t, and on top of that you only could choose from a few exterior colors. But while finding a clean and original Mk.3 GTI can be tough, finding an original S model Scirocco in good shape borders on impossible. While today’s example is a bit of a project, when you throw in a dose of the heavy-hitting name ‘Callaway’, it’s worth taking note:
Early water-cooled Volkswagens are really beginning to stretch their legs in value. That’s especially true for survivor cars; those untouched by the hand of times and hands of the traditional Volkswagen crew. It’s unusual to see a Scirocco at all these days, but one in pristine condition? Yeah, play the lottery when that comes across your field of view. And because of rising values, you’ll have to play the lotto. Case in point? How does $37,000 after fees sound for an ’87 16V? So let’s take a look at this ultra-clean ’85 to see where the value lies.
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about air-cooled models on these pages, and that’s a huge gap in Volkswagen’s history. It’s also not so long ago that VW continued to crank out brand new Beetles alongside their water-cooled replacements. The proliferation paved the way not only for the water-cooled replacement models I tend to favor, but some pretty awesome air-cooled examples, too.
Of those my favorite certainly must be the Type 34. I dissected Volkswagen’s first attempt to move upscale in an article on The Truth About Cars back in 2008:
Volkswagen’s Other Karmann Ghia: the Type 34
Basically, like the Phaeton, the Type 34 was a sales failure. It was too expensive – costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature “razor” nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, the Type 34 only achieved about 42,500 units – less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. But we’re lucky to find one today in Mississippi, of all places:
We here at GCFSB are fans of colorful rides. And we’ve certainly seen our fair share of Porsche PTS rides or BMW’s Individual paint work. Audi even comes to the pages occasionally with its Exclusive program, or Mercedes-Benz and its designo tones. But if you’re a VW fan? Well, until recently, you were pretty hard up. But in 2018 Volkswagen announced it would do fans a solid and offer its range-topping Golf R with their Color Spektrum Program which would give you the choice of not one, not two, but some 40 different shades.
Of course, there’s a catch. The Golf R is already pretty pricey at $40,000 with few options. Tack on the Spektrum option and you’re paying another $2,500….and…..waiting. Few of these cars were ordered, meaning that if you really want one you either need to pony up or be very lucky. But an ’18 in the fetching but oddly-named ’91 Blue’ came up for auction with a seemingly very low entry price. What’s the rub?
Popular wisdom would suggest that modifying a car will never be rewarded in improving its desirability. After all, they are personal expressions of automotive passion, and passions vary wildly. So slap a set of VMR rims and an APR tune on your GTI, and yeah, it’s faster. But it’s not necessarily worth more. That logic has been challenged over the past few years, though, as tuners from the 80s have really come to the forefront of value in the classics market. Ruf, AMG, and Alpina have all produced some stunning cars, and lately, stunning numbers at auction. But it’s hardly a new trend.
Way back in 2013, I watched in amazement as an unassuming 1983 GTI took center stage in a bidding war which resulted in a then-staggering $18,000 worth of bids. I was lucky enough to speak with the new owner, and shared his vision and experience in a Reader Ride story which revealed a lot more not only about why he bid, but about what we didn’t know – how incredibly well preserved that Cashmere White GTI was, with full documentation from day one. Certainly, the chance to own such a piece of history was unrepeatable. Or, was it?
The follow-up to the quite popular Scirocco was the even better driving, even more popular, even more powerful, and way more expensive Corrado. And after looking at a neat Euro-spec G60, I thought it would be neat to look at a Canadian-spec VR6 that popped up for sale.
Mechanically, there were basically no differences between US market Corrados and Canadian market examples. However, there were a few odds and ends which help to set them apart for the Corrado fans. Most notable is probably the wheel design, which was shared with European models but not available in the US. More subtle, though, was the lack of fog lights – different bumper regulations meant that the Canadian market cars got dummy lenses. So you had to live without fog lights, but you also had the opportunity to live without the running mouse seatbelts. That’s right, Canadian Corrados got NORMAL SEATBELTS. Gosh, that alone could probably sell the car.
The arrival of the second-generation Scirocco in 1982 was, to be honest, not much of a revelation. It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the design, though how it came about is somewhat suspect. Volkswagen canned Giugiaro as the replacement designer for the exceptionally beautiful and unique first-generation car, moving in-house to Karmann for the second go at the Golf-based sport coupe. The result looked rather suspiciously like Giugiaro’s Italdesign Asso di Fiori from 1979 and Asso di Quadri from 1976, though – the car that became the Isuzu Impulse. Two years later, and Viola! the Scirocco II debuts from Karmann with a near-identical shape. On top of that, the mechanicals continued to be based upon the first generation Golf.
It wasn’t until 1986 that VW coupe fans finally got to rejoice as the addition of the PL 1.8 liter dual-cam inline-4 finally joined the lineup. Now with 123 high-revving horsepower, the Scirocco went a bit more like the wind it was named after. The wide-ratio, economy-minded gearbox of yore was gone too, replaced by a close-ratio gearbox. Like the GTI and GLI, 14″ ‘Teardrop’ wheels and a new bodykit heightened the boy-racer appearance, and the 16V models got all matchy-matchy before the Golf and Jetta, too, with body-colored painted bumpers.
Today they’re hard to find in good condition at all. But this Flash Silver Metallic example threatens to break your Radwood savings account wide open with its near-showroom appearance:
Last night I watched Netflix’s Dirty Money documentary on the Volkswagen diesel saga. As amazing, and interesting, and disturbing as I might have thought it was on Saturday, the revelations outlined in the documentary draw the company’s ambition – and moral ineptitude – into much stronger focus. Seriously, they hatched a plan to gas people (or, as it actually turned out, monkeys) basically to death to prove that their dirty diesels were oh-so-slightly better than a Ford F250. On one hand, I can see the point of what they’re hinting at, and indeed – unregulated truck emissions are probably a bigger problem in the U.S. than 500,000 Volkswagens – but then, seriously VW? You saw no problem with a German company suggesting introducing gas into a chamber with a person inside might have a historical overtone?
Beyond that, and I promise it’s worth the watch even for the head-shaking nature of the outcome, was Ferdinand Karl Piëch. Indeed, he’s almost glazed over but for a momentary introduction with a diabolical ‘Mr. Burns’-type soliloquy. Piëch’s incredible, insatiable drive to have Volkswagen be the world’s number one company was certainly at the heart of the TDi. But it was also at the heart of this car.
The flip side to VW’s TDi debacle was, of course, the push to move Volkswagen upmarket. Re-integration of Audi technology and build-quality into the top-tier products was paramount, and the result was of course the spectacular in execution (and failure in the U.S. market) Phaeton and the entire Passat B5 lineup, but primarily the W8. Let’s take a look at this lower-mile example of a wagon for sale today: