It’s always neat to see an early GTI pop up, and today’s car is like a “greatest hits” combination. The ’85 and ’86 GTIs were unique in that they had a different grille and windows than the ’87-up model, and there was obviously no 16V version. The later 16V got a deeper front lip, and the 2.0-powered cars from ’90 up got the four-headlight grille and Recaro seats. They’ve all appeared together here because this particular car is powered by the later 9A motor. For good measure, it’s also got Team Dynamics wheels, coilover suspension, Corrado brakes, and an aftermarket exhaust system. Neat!
In early 1986, three models of the Golf were available in the US; the basic, no-frills Westmoreland model, the upgraded ‘Wolfsburg’ model with aero headlights, an upgraded stereo, wider body moldings, nicer cloth, and wheel trim rings, or you had to make the not unsubstantial jump in price to the GTI model. Replacing the basic 85 horsepower 1.8 was a high-compression HT 100 horsepower unit. It didnâ€™t sound like a lot, but that did represent a roughly 20% gain in power. Signature red-striped trim announced that this was the performance variant of the hatchback, and you also got 4-wheel discs as a first in the U.S. range. Those brakes hid behind carry-over â€œAvusâ€ (Snowflake) wheels, though instead of the machine/dark gray finish the A1 had, they were now all silver and with â€œVolkswagenâ€ imprinted on flush covers. Sometimes GTIs were equipped with â€œMontrealâ€ (Bottlecap) alloys which were also shared with the Jetta GLI. Application seems somewhat indiscriminate. The GTI also had an upgraded suspension with front and rear sway bars and a close-ratio 5-speed manual as the only transmission. Of course, the interior was also upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel borrowed from earlier GTIs, a multi-function display and specially-trimmed cloth sport seats.
In all, it was a substantial upgrade over the standard Golf, and you could of course further opt to include a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, and a nice radio. Early U.S. Mk.2 GTIs were only available in Mars Red, Diamond Silver Metallic, black, or Alpine White as seen here. Today’s example has a few mods but stays true to the simple formula:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen GTI on eBay
Replacing a car universally heralded as the second coming of the automobile certainly wasnâ€™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 Giugiaroâ€™s original design, but several aspects of the Herbert SchÃ¤fer replacement mimicked another Giugiaro design â€“ 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 â€“ 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, â€˜Bottlecapâ€™ 14â€³ alloys and blacked-out fender trim, a rear spoiler above the window and aerodynamic headlights. Dynamically, the GTI received the new 100-horsepower â€˜HTâ€™ 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. This one looks to be saved from obscurity, and a few tasteful mods have it looking ready to impress:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen GTI on eBay
Watch out Quattro, here comes the Golf!
While in the 1980s if you bought any of the branded ‘quattro’ systems you basically got the same drivetrain no matter what model you jumped in, the same was not true at corporate sibling Volkswagen. To add all-wheel drive to its lineup, VW had to incorporate three distinct systems all of which fell under the moniker ‘syncro‘. As just discussed in the T4, the T3’s system was a viscous coupling setup sending power forward with twin locking differentials. The B2 Passat shared its platform with the Audi B2, so there the all-wheel drive syncro was really just a re-badged generation 1 quattro system. But in the A2 chassis, a different viscous coupling setup engineered by Steyr-Daimler-Puch helped to transfer power rearward from the transverse engine when the front wheels slipped. The engineering was pretty trick, but underneath it all it was pretty much just a standard Golf – albeit one with potential.
So in the late 1980s when Volkswagen Motorsports wanted to enter Group A racing with the new all-wheel-drive Golf, it needed to build more than just race cars if they wanted a mean motor in it. It was homologation at its finest. Okay, maybe not, but build more they did, with at around 5000 road-going units planned of what was dubbed the Rallye Golf.
Defined by its rectangular headlights with cooling slats underneath, the Rallye continued the I’m a race car on the road … SHHHHHHH! theme with typical 1980s box-flared fenders. The Sebring alloy wheels were also seen on U.S.-bound Corrados. Despite the racer looks, the extra performance of the 1H G60-supercharged, 1.8-liter 8-valve inline-4 rated at 158 horsepower wasn’t enough to overwhelm the additional mass of the rear drive system, and, consequently, a well-driven GTI 16V would be quicker to 60 and around a track. But BOXFLARES!
Consequently, though the Rallye may not win the VW drag race, it won the hearts of enthusiasts. This tribute plays into that with a visual recreation of the Rallye – lacking the viscous coupling setup, but with a lot more motivation under the hood:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Rallye Golf Tribute on eBay
The 1987 launch of Volkswagen’s fabled 16 valve motor into the Golf lineup created an interesting transition. VW had a high performance version of the GTI now, but it was also a bit dear at $12,000. So, VWoA decided to continue running the less-expensive 8 valve version for alongside for one more year (this was mimicked in the Jetta GLI lineup, as well). This split lineup would resume in 1990 for the GTI.
However, for the ’87-88 model year, VW added a third Golf performance version. Labeled the GT, outwardly it shared many characteristics with the early A2 8V GTIs. The same 14″ alloy wheels were there, black fender flares, special interior fabric, a 4-spoke sport steering wheel and red-splash decals front and rear. However, if you looked closely there were several differences to the GTI. The GT didn’t have the red-stripe trim outside of the more illustrious GTIs. Nor did it have the rear spoiler, sport seats, or a few other unseen details of the same-year GTI like uprated suspension and 4-wheel discs. So why get one? Well, first off it was a bit less expensive than the GTI. And, underneath it carried the same close-ratio 5-speed manual hooked to the high-compression RD 1.8 8V from the GTI. But the real benefit of the GT was that it came in more colors, with more doors (there was no 5-door GTI in the U.S. yet, nor for a while) and with an available automatic (again, not for the GTI). Of course, by the time you selected all of that stuff you were in GTI pricing…which meant that few GTs sold, and they’re very rare to see today: