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

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1988 BMW 320is

We try to stay far away from politics on these pages, but there’s a story I have to share with you that has hit the news here in Rhode Island over the past few weeks that in a round-about way is relevant to this car. Rhode Island, if you’re completely unaware of its reputation, isn’t known for having the most…shall we say morally upstanding lawmakers and leadership. A few years ago, twice-convicted felon Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was nearly elected for the third time to run the capital of Providence. So notorious is the corruption on Capital Hill that when RI recently announced its complete debacle of a revised state slogan in “Cooler and Warmer” (reportedly, it cost 5 million dollars for a firm to produce that), people on social media changed the catch phrase to “Lobsters and Mobsters”. That gives you just a hint of context to contemplate the next story with.

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1986 Audi Coupe GT Turbo Diesel

The flexibility of Audi’s B2 platform and the huge number of engine choices that manage to fit under the hood make it a natural choice for swaps. Most popular are the all-wheel drive quattros, but the Coupe GT models are also well built, hugely capable cars that react pretty well to increases in power. And just about every period Volkswagen/Audi motor has made it under the hood of the Coupe GT; from 10 to 32 valves, rev-happy DOHC 16Vs and turbocharged inline-5s to narrow-angle VR6s and even the 4.2 V8s. But this car caught my attention because of the very unusual choice of mill to squeeze juice from. This no-spark Coupe GT has a tuned and turned up 2.0 inline-5 turbo diesel:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT Turbo Diesel on Vancouver Craigslist

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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

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Motorsports Monday: 1984 Volkswagen GTi

When I was young, my family traveled out to Michigan. The year was 1984, and on the trip we went to see some vintage car racing as my father is a pretty big Shelby nut. There were plenty of Cobras and GT350s ripping up the track with V8s bellowing away that day, but what stuck in my mind more was a demonstration that was put on by Volkswagen of America. There were 5 or 6 then-new GTis that were put through their paces, and the particular corner we were sitting at had the train of these hot hatches popping over curbs, dangling a wheel in the air as they slithered through the corners. Sounding more like a pack of angry hornets, they made more of an impression on me than the rumbling Ferrari-killers, and to this day I still smile and think of that day every time I see a GTi. More than once in my ownership of a 1984 example, I even tried to imagine the train of GTis racing around that course on my daily commute to school to the chagrin of all of the other drivers on the road. But the best way to contemplate that magical day in my memory is to check out a race-ready Rabbit:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTi on eBay

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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

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Tuner Tuesday: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado 16V Turbo

The promise of the all new Corrado was great, and on paper the specs sounded fantastic. A new and modern chassis was paired with a supercharged inline-4 and active aerodynamics. Volkswagen fans around the world united in collective salivation. But even at launch, Volkswagen was behind the 8 ball. Performance was lacking compared to the competition and the price for this attractive coupe was quite high, as generally all Volkswagens were at the time. Then the problems of running the G60 long term started to rear their heads. The G-Lader supercharger in particular was a finicky bit of kit, and coupled with notoriously poor Volkswagen electronics in the early 1990s these remained fan favorites, but also cars to stay away from – with many opting instead to get the more robust and better driving SLC model that was launched in 1992. Modern solutions have arisen to help the G60, including turbocharging instead of supercharging, but still there aren’t a glut of these cars left. Today’s example, though, certainly looks pretty spectacular and has gone the next level by swapping in a 2.0 16V from a Jetta GLi – and then turbocharging it!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado 16V Turbo on Hartford Craigslist

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1996 Volkswagen GTi

I still very much remember the launch of the A3 chassis Volkswagens and being less than impressed at the time. At least in my mind, the second generation GTi with the 2.0 16V was a hard act to follow and the 3rd generation – unless equipped with the sonorous VR6 – seemed downright soft in comparison. They looked a bit chubby, they were equipped with only 14″ wheels when everyone else was sporting 16″ wheels, and the base GTi was equipped with a lowly 2.0 8 valve inline-4. It seemed like Volkswagen was badge engineering a standard Golf just to make money, and in many ways you could argue that’s exactly what had occured. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that I would finally understand the A3 package a bit more. My dismissal of the entire “2.slow” lineup turned out to be very misplaced, as my foray into A3 ownership proved. I picked up a very second-hand but relatively low mile K2 edition 1998 Golf. Effectively, this was a 4-door GTi, with fog lights, air conditioning, heated sport seats and white-faced gauges. Was it a really special car? No. But for basic transportation, it was fantastic fun to drive, easy to maintain, got in excess of 30 m.p.g. no matter what you did with the throttle pedal and started every time I stuck the key in the ignition. Granted, it had typical Mk.3 problems with some electric gremlins and rust had started creeping through. But there isn’t a moment that I regret any part of my Mk.3 ownership other than that for so long I overlooked the 2.0 as a form of entertaining car ownership:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTi on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: 1969 Porsche 911S

Well before the market on classic air-cooled 911s exploded, they were often used as intended – hard. If the 911’s natural habitat was the race track, enthusiasts outside of the factory efforts were happy to oblige as voluntary park rangers, taking streetable examples and turning them into race cars. While in international competition the FIA was the governing body, in the U.S. one very popular racing body many turned to was the Sports Car Club of America – still very active today. In stark contrast to earlier’s RSR tribute, then, and well before values were on the rise, an enterprising racer took today’s 1969 911S and turned it into a race car. Raced extensively in SCCA as early as 1980, this is one unique 911S:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1969 Porsche 911S on eBay

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1989 BMW 320is

Just the other day I watched an auction on a 1983 Audi Quattro. Not considered to be the best of the breed, it was nonetheless an opportunity to buy one of the few that were imported to the U.S., since only a reported 664 were sold here. Many have died, several have been repatriated, and that leaves a precious few left if you enjoy the original box-flared wonder of the Quattro. What was interesting about this car was that it was in pieces; partially disassembled for a restoration, it looked like it was going to be work to put it back together – a lot of work. Despite that, bidding was quite active and I was somewhat surprised to see the final price crest $15,000 – money that would have bought you a really nice and complete 1983 last year. There were some extra parts and some desirable items like 8″ Ronals included with the sale, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why the bidding went so high when it looked to me like there was another $10,000 worth of work waiting to happen. But cars from the 1980s are on the ups, and that’s especially true of limited models like the Quattro. You can thank, in no small measure, the recent popularity of the E30 M3 for that trend. And if you think the M3 has had a ripple effect on the rest of the 1980s legends, you better believe that it’s had a major effect on E30 sales. And within E30s, outside of M3s arguably the most desirable is the “Italian M3” – built for tax purposes, the special Motorsport GmbH S14B20 engined 320is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 320is on eBay

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