1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V

The 1991-1992 GTI followed the same basic recipe as the 1987 model we saw this past week, but everything was turned up a few notches. Starting in the mid 1990 model year, all US bound A2s received the “big bumper” treatment; new smooth aerodynamic covers front and rear. To help to differentiate it a bit, the GTI’s blackened arches were widened. Filling those arches were new 15? wheels from BBS. The multi-piece RMs were lightweight and the perfect fit for the design, echoing other contemporary class-leading sports cars such as the M3. Volkswagen color-coded the mirrors and rear spoiler to match the car, as well. VW also gave the GTI a fresh face with more illumination; quad round lights filled the grill, and foglights illuminated the lower bumper. Prominent GTI 16V badges still encircled the car.

Power was up to match the heightened looks. Now with 2.0 liters of twin-cam fun, the GTI produced 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 RPMs. Coupled to the close-ratio 5-speed manual, that was good enough to drop 0-60 times below 8 seconds. That may not sound like much today, but at the time it was another league of performance compared to the typical economy car. Holding you in place were the same heavily-bolstered Recaros that special editions like the ‘Helios’ 1989 Jetta GLI Wolfsburg had enjoyed.

It was a recipe for success, but these cars were also relatively expensive in period, and fell into the global recession time frame which affected sales of nearly all European marques drastically. The general consensus is that around 5,000 of the last of these GTIs were imported, putting their rarity on the level of the M3. But because they weren’t M3s, there are far less around today to enjoy and few turn up in stock configuration for a myriad of reasons. It’s always a bit of a joy to see one arrive in the feed, though, and for me none moreso than the signature LB6Z Montana Green Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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1985 Volkswagen GTI with 34,500 Miles

Landing squarely back into reality and our comfort zone, let’s look at the 1985 Volkswagen GTI. 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 – certainly not in the condition of today’s example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen GTI on Hemmings.com

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1989 Volkswagen Golf Limited

The Golf Limited may be one of the best sleepers of all time. It’s such a sleeper, in fact, that most of the world doesn’t even know it exists. Yet this was the car that arguably gave birth to Volkswagen’s “R” lineup and along with cars like the Lancia Delta Integrale took hot hatches to a new level of performance. So why is it so thoroughly overlooked?

The root of the cause, I believe, comes down to availability. A scant 71 Golf Limited models rolled out of VW Motorsports’ skunkworks, and to the naked eye, they weren’t nearly as impressive looking as the Rallye, GTI G60 or even the Country models they were sold alongside of. But Volkswagen was looking to move into FIA Group A rally after its exploits with twin-engine Sciroccos and the Pike’s Peak Golf attempts from ’85 and ’86. I wrote about those crazy cars back in 2016 on The Truth About Cars:

Bi-Curiosities: Volkswagen’s Twin-Engine Terrors

Volkswagen had also simultaneously developed its own ‘syncro’ system to rival Audi’s signature quattro drivetrain. Audi’s system only worked with longitudinally mounted motors, so to mate all-wheel drive and the transverse Golf platform required a complete redesign. I talked about that solution back in 2017 when looking at a Passat G60 Syncro:

Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro

Though only seen in the Corrado in the U.S., the supercharged PG 8 valve G60 was found in three models in Europe. But VW Motorsport had a trick up their sleeve; they took all of their experience from the BiMotor Golf, the syncro development, and the G60 and they combined it. The new 3G engine was both supercharged and a 16V, and cranked out 211 horsepower. Rallye suspension and special front fenders were fit into a relatively sedate-looking 4-door syncro chassis. Distinguishing features outside were few; BBS RM wheels, a pre-facelift 16V front chin spoiler, a Fuba roof-mounted antenna, and a blue outline grill with a VW Motorsport badge were all that let you know this was the highest performance Golf that had ever been built:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Golf Limited on Autoscout24.com

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1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V

Update 11/26/18: After selling as a Feature Listing back in April, the new owner of this GTI 16V has had second thoughts and listed it in a reserve auction. It doesn’t look as though there have been any changes over that time and it sold for $4,200 in the Spring. Though the seller paid a lot to transport it, I wouldn’t expect the value to be much more than the last go around this time.

I was pretty excited to see the 1986 Volkswagen GTI that popped up for sale last week. While the A2 is a seriously popular platform for enthusiasts and tuners, coming across original examples is exceedingly hard. But within the GTI range from 1985-1992, the ’85-’86 probably rank lowest on desirability.

You can imagine what a treat it was for me, then, to get to follow it up with the car that re-injected excitement into the lineup. For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 – the PL – to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.

To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the “Silverstone” (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and – of course – 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.

Measured 0-60 times plummeted; now capable of achieving the feat in 7.9 seconds, Volkswagen also installed a pretty optimistic 140 mph speedometer. But it was an indication that this was a quick car, and indeed the GTI again punched above its weight class in performance. The base price was up, too – now $12,250, but you could opt in air conditioning, metallic paint, a sunroof and nicer Heidelberg radio and be pushing $14,000 pretty easily.

Despite the price increase, the GTI was an immediate success, universally heralded by magazines as the best GTI yet. With most of the A2 16Vs now approaching 30 years old, though, they’ve become reclusive legends and rarely appear like this:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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Golden Nugget: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Collector Volkswagens from the early 1990s are now very much a thing, but supply – especially of original condition examples – can be quite difficult. Still, every few months we roll across some clean time pieces that are worth a look. Earlier this year I took a look at two nearly identical Tornado Red Corrado G60s, explaining a bit about what made them so special:

1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

As a coming-of-age driver, while red was often associated with sporty hatches for me it was Volkswagen’s introduction of Nugget Yellow on the Corrado that captured my attention. Perhaps it’s because the ad campaign and a fair amount of the magazine tester cars came in the shade, but regardless, this was the ‘Montana Green’ of the early Corrados. It just looks right! So when this apparently clean, lower mile and original 5-speed manual 1990 popped up for sale, I had to take a closer look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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1990 Volkswagen Corrado

Jealousy.

I still remember the moment as the wave of envy set over me. A struggling college student, I had tried hard to balance my love of cars with the multiple part-time jobs I fit in between classes. Ultimately, cars probably came before some things they should have, but still fell staunchly behind the realities of life. Rent. Tutition. Books. Utilites. FOOD. These necessities multiplied themselves together over the years, grasping at my meager weekly paycheck more rapidly than I could deposit it in the bank. Trips to the pump were always metered; weeks went by holding breath at every turn of the key, praying for a safe completion of circuit. And when you own a ’84 Volkswagen that sat in a driveway not running for decade rotting away before you resurrected it, often your dreams of a trouble-free commute are unrealized.

As a result of my shoestring budget, I often turned to a friend to help with mechanical work that my GTI often needed. He’d stop by my house after work and wrench for a bit, or I’d drive it by his place for a replacement part or ten. He also had a A1 – a sweet special edition Cabriolet from ’85 which he had spent years tricking out. But on one of these repair stops, he introduced me to his new toy.

It was 1998 and he had picked up a ’90 Corrado G60. He had picked it up cheap, too, as they often broke even when pretty new. Two things struck me about this car. Though it was only 6 years newer than my GTI, it might as well have been a spaceship. The two shared nothing in common outside of the badge. My pyrite-in-the-rough GTI was rusty and not so trusty. Horrible build quality meant things regularly broke, or fell off, or rusted off; often, the trifecta struck. It was a square slowly-deteriorating block of iron oxide in a rounded-off world. In comparison, the Corrado looked well-built, felt modern, was comfortable, had air conditioning and electronic items that…well, functioned, and even had paint all in one color. But the other thing that struck me was just how tired and old that Corrado already felt in 1998. I rarely buy cars that are newer than 10 years old, but this Corrado felt a lot more than that already. Perhaps that was because the VR6 model had so quickly replaced it. Or perhaps it was because I was still excited for new cars to launch in 1998. Looking back, though, my initial impressions of the Corrado G60 still hold true. But am I still jealous that I didn’t have one?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60 on eBay

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1991 Volkswagen GTI 16V

Without a doubt, for me the best change ever to the GTI lineup was the revision in mid-1990 of the GTI 16V. The DOHC screamer was already a pretty potent performer, but Volkswagen pushed the desirability over the top for the end of the run. The result was what many – this author included – consider the best of the breed. The original may have been more pure, and subsequent models are a lot faster and more dependable. But none of them got it quite as right as the 2.0 16V.

Outside the GTI built on its legend with wider European-market flares and deep rockers. Like all of the A2s, new ‘Big Bumper’ covers integrated fog lights and brake ducting. Yes, they looked heavier than the previous slim bumpers, but they also matched the design well. Iconic round headlights returned, now with inner driving lights too. But arguably the best change was the addition of 15″ wheels – in this case, the BBS RM multi-piece units. New colors also were introduced, including the equally iconic and signature ‘Montana Green’. Inside the interior was bulked up with large bolster Recaro Trophy seats. To match the wicked looks, under the hood was improved with a new 2.0 version of the 16V motor. The 9A introduced CIS-E Motronic fuel injection, while the bore was increased from 81mm to 82.5 and the stroke from 86.4 mm to 92.8. Compression was increased slightly from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and the result was 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb.ft of torque at 4,400. The engine was still matched the the 2Y close ratio transmission with a 3.67 final drive. While the GTI 16V couldn’t match the Callaway Turbo GTI we saw yesterday on sheer acceleration, it was generally reviewed as the best GTI yet. Finding a clean example today is always cause for celebration, and this one looks ready to party. Does it hold up?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen GTI 16V on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1985 Volkswagen GTI Callaway Turbo with 34,000 Miles

It’s always a bit of a surprise when something unique and special from the mid-80s VW catalog comes along. Pre-16V GTIs are pretty hard to find in decent shape. But Callaway Turbo models with period BBS body kit and low miles? When I came across this listing you could say it wasn’t the only forced induction. Callaway was the American tuner of the 80s, building supercar-slaying twin turbo Corvettes that generated almost as much press for their acceleration as their propensity to melt down faster than Chernobyl. But on the less exotic end of the spectrum, Callaway’s turbo kits made VWs pretty potent machines. They switched from K-Jetronic to KE-Jetronic and dropped compression to 7.8:1 by adding a thick head gasket. Then on was bolted a turbocharger generating 10 lbs. of boost, pushing the GTI’s power from 105 to 150 in an instant. This resulted in low 7-second 0-60 times and a higher top speed. Callaway generally outfit his cars well with BBS body kits and wheels, and for good measure a Nissan 300ZX Turbo hood scoop for the intercooler on top of the motor too. They cost a pretty penny; a base GTI was only around $9,000 in 1985, but the turbo system in stage II configuration cost $4,000 and the BBS body kit another $1,000. Pop for some BBS wheels and tires and you were another $2,000 lighter, and some owners went farther with steering wheels, seat and radio upgrades. The result could be over $18,000 and few were sold, but then this GTI would give a more expensive Porsche a run for its money.

Amazingly, we’ve gotten to see a few of these rare GTI Turbos for sale over the past few years. Most recent was the all-white ’87 Neuspeed , but back a bit further we saw a nearly identical ’85 hit over $20,000. This lower mile example is on offer currently for only about half that amount:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen GTI Callaway Turbo on eBay

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1989 Volkswagen Jetta Diesel

The Jetta Diesel wasn’t a big seller in the U.S. early on as oil-burners fell out of favor in the mid-80s. Up through 1987, you had your choice of the 1.6 liter diesels with or without turbochargers, producing 68 and 52 horsepower, respectively. For 1988, both disappeared, yet oddly there was a run of ’89-’90 Jettas that reintroduced the 1.6 ME diesel prior to the launch of the new EcoDiesel model. While the diesel had been able to be selected in higher “GL” trim level earlier, the ’89-’90s were base model only and are fairly rare to find. But today a nice ’89 example has popped up for sale:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen Jetta Diesel on eBay

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1991 Volkswagen Jetta GL

In a recent ad campaign, I’ve been interested to see Volkswagen roll out its older Jettas to somehow link their DNA to the new model. That’s an interesting ploy, since most people I know who have had experiences with a Jetta of this ilk usually remember the calamity rather than the positive aspects of the model.

Back in March, I took a bemused look at the confusing Jetta lineup by considering the oddly placed Carat model. It fell somewhere in between the GL and Wolfsburg model, yet most of the major items remained optional. Today, we get to look at the base model – the GL. The GL and Carat shared the same motor and running gear, but instead of the ‘upscale’ wheel covers borrowed from the Passat, the GL had steel wheels with center covers and trim rings. It was one of the better looking wheel options Volkswagen had at the time, and though it was the base wheel it somehow looked neat. Inside the seats were not quite as upscale-looking as the Carat, but otherwise equipment on the two was basically the same. But there remains an inherent draw to the second generation Jetta even as a base model, and this clean GL looks ready for some serious swapping action:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GL on eBay

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