1977 Volkswagen Scirocco


ANOTHER Scirocco?!?!

Yeah. Another Scirocco. If you can be fascinated by the proliferation of the mega-Beetle 911, though, you can bear with me. Volkswagen’s replacement for the Karmann Ghia, what would become the Porsche 924, proved to be perhaps a step too far for the company. What it created instead, once that was abandoned, was a bit of a legend in its own right. Based upon the pedestrian underpinnings of the Golf but actually developed in tandem and released prior to the more famous hatchback, Giugiaro’s penning of a slinkier two-door coupe variant of the platform was simply beautiful. As the Ghia had before it, it married serious Italian styling credentials with the practicality of an economy family hatchback.

Volkswagen’s new EA827 was the power of choice. Here displacing 1588 ccs and generating 71 horsepower, it was adequate motivation to top 100 mph – just. Amazing at it may seem, the nearly 1.6 liter unit in this 1977 was an upgrade over the 1.5 from the model’s 1974 launch in the U.S., though it only gained one net horsepower. They were diminutive cars; a 94.5 inch wheel base and only 155.7 inches overall, the first generation Scirocco is an amazing 10 inches shorter than the model I looked at yesterday. Even though it had little horsepower, road tests revealed that the Scirocco could out-accelerate a Mustang II Mach 1 (its contemporary) in the quarter mile. How dreary must that shoot-out have looked to our modern eyes? Suspension in front was a strut with coil-over spring setup; the rear was technically independent with a trailing arm configuration. Wheels were 13″ by 5″, or about the same size as modern brake discs on high performance cars.

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1982 Volkswagen Scirocco

As I mentioned recently in my 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco post, 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 original condition with low mileage? Yeah, play the lottery when that comes across your field of view. Well, at least some (the traditional fans of these cars, for the most part) will now have hope to hit the lotto to throw their hat into the bidding for some of these cars:

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1984 Volkswagen GTI

As far as owning a legendary automobile goes, does it get much more affordable than the Volkswagen GTI? I don’t think it does. Universally lauded as one of the great all time designs and driving experiences, a trans-formative automobile that redefined (and forever defined) the marketplace, a practical pocket rocket, the GTI is not a million, nor even a hundred-thousand dollar car.

The asking price here is $12,995.

For that money, it’s true that money could buy you a new car. No, I’m not joking; the base price for the 2017 Nissan Versa S is 11,990. After destination, that comes to $12,855. Let’s call it even. So where is your money better spent?

The GTI produced about 90 horsepower from its 1.8 liter inline-4. The Nissan makes 109 horsepower from a 1.6. And, it’s got dual cams to impress all the chicks.

The GTI had options such as air conditioning and a radio. On the Nissan, they’re standard. Plus you apparently don’t need hands to operate them (or, Nissan gives you free hands? Whatever.) The base Versa has manual windows and locks, just like the GTI.

Volkswagen claimed the GTI could pip 36 mpg, which I’m pretty sure was a lie given that my ’84 turned about 5,000 rpms at highway speed. The Versa S you just bought is claimed to get…you guessed it, 36 mpg in 5-speed form.

Curb weight on the GTI was about 2,200 lbs with some options. The Nissan’s curb weight is 2,390 lbs. (seriously, I found this pretty shocking. I was unaware that a modern car could be made under 2,500 lbs unless it was completely carbon fiber)

You’d be equally unlikely to survive a major crash in either. But the Nissan comes with self-inflating fluffy pillows hidden in various spots of the dashboard. Unless you duct tape some throw pillows to the GTI’s steering wheel, you won’t get that on a pre-Mk.3.

Performance? The GTI hit 60 in a lethargic 10.6 seconds (wait a second – I thought this was a PERFORMANCE car!), cruised through the quarter at 17.7 seconds at 76 mph. The Nissan? 10.4 to 60, 17.7 in the quarter.

So in terms of raw numbers, these two cars are effectively equal. But while the Nissan you pick up at the dealer will be minty fresh with almost zero miles on the odometer, this 1984 Volkswagen has over 90,000 on the clock. And while you’ll probably not need it, the Nissan even comes with a warranty. But in terms of driver experience they couldn’t be farther apart.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

Early water-cooled Volkswagens are now entering an interesting phase of market value. For some time, if you bought one and restored it there was only one reason – you absolutely wanted it to be what you wanted it to be, regardless of cost. It was a losing proposition in terms of value as you poured your hard-earned cash into bringing your beloved people’s car back from the brink of extinction. People would openly question your sanity; for your investment, you could have had a brand new car, after all. Even a VW!

But over the past few years, the tide has turned as greater appreciation for the early designs has swelled. Of course, the pool of remaining candidates hasn’t, so prices on pristine original examples have been driven heavily upwards. $22,000 for a low mileage GTI? $17,000 for an original survivor Scirocco? These were numbers that, not long ago, got you a pretty nice Porsche 911 of the same vintage. As a result, it’s suddenly becoming economically viable to restore these early Volkswagens and not lose your shirt.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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1984 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta, for most, isn’t the most exciting vehicle. Nor, if I’m honest, was it the most exciting Volkswagen product in 1984. In the hierarchy of collectable Volkswagens from that year, in fact, I’d wager that a stock 1984 Jetta comes just about last in a ranking of desirability within the brand’s lineup. Beyond the fact that there was a GLI high performance model, there was the Scirocco, the Rabbit Convertible, the GTI, and of course the popular Vanagon. Heck, I’d bet there’d be a bigger draw around a clean Quantum than a Jetta.

Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far. The Jetta, even if it’s not the fastest or best looking Volkswagen product, still has quite a devoted following in each generation – and those that love the A1 don’t exactly have a glut of examples to choose from. When they’re found, they’re usually forlorn as the residual value on standard Jettas has remained so low in comparison to other models. You’re not likely to find a clean example even with needs. But a restored and rebuilt model? Surely that would just be too expensive to even contemplate?

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1985 Volkswagen Scirocco

Like the Rabbit Pickup from a few days ago, today’s Scirocco won’t win you a trophy in preservation-class at your local Euro show. But will it draw attention? Absolutely. The Scirocco 2 may not have been the landmark design the original Giugiaro-designed first generation was, nor was it as pretty, arguably. It was interesting that Volkswagen chose to farm the design to Karmann rather than pay for Italdesign’s follow up, because that resulted in the Scirocco’s competition. The Isuzu Piazza (Impulse) took the Italian’s lines to a new level with cleaner execution, cool wheels that looked ready for a auto show, plus you got the automotive equivalent of Thor’s hammer to impress your friends with trim levels like the “Turbo RS” and “Handling by Lotus”. Show up at a party in a Impulse Turbo while one of your friends drove a Scirocco, and you’d go home with the girl and Simple Minds playing in the background.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that easy. And honestly even if the Scirocco was a little underpowered and had clunky bumpers and poor headlight execution here, it still was a compelling choice. This car fixes some of the second generation’s problems, too – Euro bumpers and headlights slim it down, the removal of the rear spoiler tidies up the design a surprising amount, and under the hood lies more motivation in a trusty ABA 2.0:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup G60

Often we complain about the numerous times German manufacturers have failed to send models enthusiasts want to U.S. shores. But in the case of the Volkswagen Pickup – affectionately nicknamed the “Caddy” after the model that was released later in Europe – was first debuted out of the American Westmoreland, PA plant. The chassis was lengthened and unique bodywork and rear axle were fit, and the Rabbit Pickup was marketed as a comfortable, car-like utility vehicle. Between 1980 and 1982, Volkswagen even offered the Rabbit “Sportruck”. While most would presume this was primarily an appearance package, the Sportruck actually was quite a bit more sporty than the diesel options in the rest of the lineup. You got a 5-speed manual (opposed to 4) hooked to a 1.7 liter 8V, a front spoiler and special “Rally” wheel trim, along with a 3-gauge console and bucket seats with a Scirocco steering wheel. It wasn’t a GTI, but it was a half step in between.

This Caddy, though it isn’t one of the Sportrucks, is a huge leap for Caddykind:

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1983 Volkswagen GTI

Is it true that you should never meet your heroes? I remember the stigma surrounding the Porsche 911 growing up, and when I first got a chance to drive one as a late teen – a ’77 911SC – I wasn’t very impressed. It made nice noises but basically felt a bit like a fast pogo stick to me. That was reaffirmed by my second drive in a 911, a close friend’s ’85 Cabriolet. Both were very pretty – the requisite turn and stare every time as you walk away after shutting the door type of pretty. But driving experience? Well, maybe I completely missed the point, and perhaps neither of those cars were particularly well set up, but I wasn’t really blown away either time.

I think it’s more likely, though, that my expectation level far exceeded what the car could ever deliver in either case. For my first drive, I was moving from the vehicle I learned to drive on – a clapped out, seven-time crashed 1984 Toyota Pickup – to a goddamn Porsche 911. I’ve finally been accepted to be an astronaut, I thought to myself, this will be the best drive of my life! Plainly, it was not. I haven’t completely sworn off the 911, mind you, but since I’ve never looked at them the same.

Contrast that with my Volkswagen GTI experience. I bought what may have legitimately been the absolute worst example of a GTI it was possible to buy in 1998. Non-running? Check. Rusty? Check. Partially disassembled? Check. Crashed at some point? Check. Westmoreland build quality? That, too. It was impossible at times to find gears in my car. You could look through gaps in the body structure. The radio didn’t work. Neither did the air conditioning, or the heater, or occasionally the lights, and sometimes the starter. Or the brakes. Or the driveshafts. How the car was ever able to make it through a single inspection is still beyond me. It smelled bad, and looked worse.

But I rode that GTI hard, and even if it was a very frustrating experience 99% of the time, that 1% was pretty rewarding – so much so, that I still love to see them. They’re just neat little cars! And unlike meeting a superhero and finding out they’ve got a closet full of skeletons, it’s just about left of impossible to be disappointed by a GTI. Seriously, how high could your expectations be? You know it doesn’t have much power, or awesome brakes, or a tight chassis, or all the power features in the world. This is basic transportation with a slighty turned up motor and neat looks. That’s it. Unless your daily is a Roller and that’s your level of comfort and refinement that you expect, it will leave a smile on your face.

Imagine, then, if instead of my trash heap of an example, I had bought this clean 1983 two decades ago?

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1983 Volkswagen GTi

Way before “i” stood for everything ‘intelligent’ from your phone to your (no joke) pet, adding the 9th letter of the alphabet to your German car meant something equally as forward thinking in the 1970s and 1980s – injection. Unless, of course, you were talking about ‘e’ in a few cases, where the German word for injection – Einspritzung – came into play (I’m looking at you, Mercedes-Benz. And, occasionally BMW, for no apparent reason).

But I digress.

Adding fuel injection to your motor in the 1970s was pretty close to rocket science, since in the 1960s only the most exotic and high performance cars available had it. So when Volkswagen dropped a fuel injected 1.6 liter inline-4 pumping out an astonishing for the period 110 horsepower in 1975, it’s no wonder it was a revolution. Consider, for a moment, that the 1975 Corvette – with its gargantuan, gas-guzzling 5.7 liter V8 – managed to produce only 165 horsepower. Today’s base Corvette produces about 455 horsepower, meaning that the same relation would make today’s GTI a 300 horsepower hot hatch. Which, ironically in R form, it pretty much is! Still, it was the formula of the original that made this the hottest commodity on the market. It would be eight long years until the GTI debuted in the U.S. market. When it did, it had been turned down slightly and injection was no longer solely the domain of the GTI. Still, it was a potent and popular package, with attractive Guigiaro-penned looks and plenty of practicality. Some 34 years on from launch, the looks still capture the imagination of many who owned (or longed to own) one of these transformative hatches:

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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

Volkswagen of America’s small pickup truck offered a unique experience at the beginning of the 1980s; basically, the front half of the pickup was a Rabbit, which meant relative comfort, reliability, easy of use and driving and good fuel economy. In back, Volkswagen stretched the wheelbase nine inches and swapped in a tubular axle supported by leaf springs giving the pick up 1,100 lbs of payload capacity and a six foot bed – not too shabby! They even launched a “Sportruck” model, which gave you bucket seats and some really trick decals that covered most of the side. You also got some amazing options for the period, like a tachometer (wooooow) and a 5-speed transmission. However, the mix of 1.7 liter, low compression 8V motors available weren’t exactly going ignite your enthusiast dreams. 78 horsepower channeled through the manual would return a not particularly stunning 0-50 time of 9.7 seconds. 60, you’ll remember, was illegal in the United States at that time, so why bother designing a car that could approach it?

But Westmoreland, PA produced some other neat Volkswagens around the same time, though – notably, the U.S. finally got the higher compression, higher output GTi. Though Volkswagen themselves never combined them, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising individuals:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

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