Until fairly recently, “collector-quality Volkswagen” was pretty much an oxymoron unless you were talking about some rare air-cooled packages like the T34 Ghia or a 23 window microbus. But an explosion of 1980s products means that we’ve seen Mk.1 Sciroccos and GTis break $20,000 or more, and even an odd Mk.2 GTi come close to the same amount. If you’re trying to break in to the 1980s collector scene for Volkswagens, you might be a little late to the party. Not much from the 1990s makes the same impression, save one car – the Corrado. Unlike pretty much every Volkswagen ever made, these expensive sport coupes were prized since new and generally have avoided the pitfalls of downstream VW owners who tend to neglect and abuse them. As a result, we regularly get to see all-original, pristine low mileage Corrados that always amaze me. So throw on some flannel and crank the Soundgarden, we’re taking a trip back in time to 1994:
Update 10/18/19: This Corrado sold for $5,650.
While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned to…another antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two “new” models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.
The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrado’s profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true ‘Operation Copy Giugiaro’ plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me – especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasn’t made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a ‘Poor Man’s Porsche’ rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.
Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity. This model was thoroughly overshadowed by the VR6 and GTI, so values sunk quickly. Often they landed in the hands of those not able to afford the expensive repairs. And, no surprise, the result is that finding clean G60s is pretty tough today – but they don’t get much cleaner than this Alpine White one:
Update 7/2/19 – this GTI 16V sold for $12,900.
Back in April, my favorite GTI popped up for sale – a 1992 9A 2.0 16V version in signature Montana Green Metallic. While not perfect, it certainly looked good enough to contemplate jumping in on:
1992 Volkswagen GTI 16V
But alas, before the auction ended it disappeared and we didn’t get to see what the final price would be. Fast forward two and change months and here we are again; a lightly modified GTI 16V in the color I love. With far less mileage on the clock and a lot of recent work, this one looks primed to score – and with the reserve off, bids are flying. How much will this iconic hot hatch fetch today?
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:
I continue to be a bit grumpy about the Corrado market. Recently I recounted my story of encountering the Corrado G60, deciding ultimately that today it’s not the car I lust after. In part that’s because of its more desirable replacement, the SLC. Yet I have issues with that model as well, speaking back in July about not only how these cars were expensive when new, but often nice examples have pretty ridiculous asking prices vis-Ă -vis what you’re getting compared to alternatives today.
That brings us to today’s 1992 Corrado SLC. It presents better than most on the market today with only 74,750 miles. It’s a nice color combination of all black and wears the original BBS wheels. Unusually for these cars, there’s even what appears to be a pretty solid history of maintenance and a detailed hand-written log. Sounds great? Well, then there’s the price…
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?
When it launched in the late 1980s as a replacement to the ancient Scirocco, the Corrado was Volkswagen’s attempt to appeal to the Porsche crowd. With the supercharged G60 motor that may have been somewhat farcical, but when VW dropped the narrow-angle 2.8 liter VR6 into the nose of their 2-door Coupe it became more of a reality. Though on paper it didn’t have much more power, the VR6 was better suited to the design and weight of the Corrado. Zero to 60 plummeted nearly a second and top speed went up to a then-impressive 137 mph. But it was the all-around flexibility of the motor that proved the winner; torquey at low revs yet happy to head towards the redline, the Corrado finally fulfilled the promise of being a budget P-car.
Unfortunately, there was a price to pay. The base price for a Corrado in 1992 was nearly $22,000. Add a few options in and you were paying more than you did for a Porsche 924S four years earlier. To put it into even more stark perspective, the base price of a much quicker, nicer, more efficient, better cornering, better braking, more technologically impressive and significantly safer GTI today is only $26,415 some 26 years later. As a result, Corrados and especially the SLC have always held a cult status and higher residual value than the rest of the lineup. Today, as they head into collector status, many have been priced out of the market – a trend I’ve looked at several times, with asks of $20,000 and occasionally even more. So it’s refreshing to encounter a reasonable condition driver-quality example that’s priced within the reach of the group these cars appeal to:
Update 11/28/18: This Corrado G60 sold for $3,650.
If you’re into the small, sporty coupe, the other alternative to the 924s I’ve written up if don’t have the big bucks to buy a super clean 944 is Volkswagen’s answer – the Corrado. While that may generate a chuckle from some, if you breakdown the numbers, the Corrado was pretty close to the recipe of the outgoing 924S. Adding the G-Lader supercharger to the 1.8 liter inline-4 gave the Volkswagen similar punch; 158 horsepower and 165 lb.ft of torque with about 2,700 lbs to motivate. It was a 2+2 hatch as well, with more practical seating in the rear and plenty of storage space. The 195-50-15 tires gave plenty of bite, making the Corrado the equal of the 924S through corners, too. And early on it was even a bit cheaper than the 924S had been because, you know, it wasn’t a Porsche. It’d cost about $20,000 out the door; expensive compared to the GTI, but then this car was really intended to compete in a more upscale market.
Like the 924S, there are foibles. There’s a more potent version that’s quite a bit more popular in the later VR6, though it should be noted that just like the 944, by the time the SLC VR6 models bowed out of the marketplace they were 50% more expensive than the 1990 launch version. It can also eat up a lot of money in repairs, especially if the supercharger that made the package get up and go has got up and went. Also like the 924S, asking prices are usually out of line with market value, and there are quite a bit more abused ones out there than clean examples. I last looked at a clean, but at least partially (and poorly) resprayed example in November:
1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60
The asking price was originally $5,200, but it eventually sold for just under $5,000. That puts it squarely in line with the price of those two 924s from last week. Today, we get to look at another Tornado Red with dark gray/red stripe velour manual. While it has more miles on it, it looks clean and importantly is a no reserve auction:
Update 7/10/18: Now with a lower $9,000 no reserve opening bid, much better photos and a black leather interior, the neat Jasmin Yellow Corrado 24V VR6 has been relisted relisted here
Update 3/11/18: The seller of this unique Corrado has relisted it again on a no reserve auction, but now with a higher $12,500 starting price.
Update 11/1/17: I was taken to task for my critique of the pricing on this example. The builder and many of his avid fans chimed in to offer more history and background of the build and its thoroughness. Additionally, the seller was able to point toward the $10,000 recent sale of a similar 24V modified Corrado to justify his pricing. It’s a comp that I hadn’t seen and certainly backs up his starting price argument. Thanks for the input to all our readership who know the seller and the build better than I did! -CJ
1992 was an interesting year of change at Volkswagen. At least for the next decade, it signaled the end of the hot water-cooled EA827-derived 4-cylinder models that had made it popular once again as a modern, efficient economy car that was capable of plenty of sport, too. 1992 was significant in this regard, because although the engine labored on for a bit, alongside the twin-cam, high-revving 16V GTI and GLI or the gutsy G60-supercharged Corrado came the new VR6 power unit. Displacing 2.8 liters, the new engine went without exotic forced-induction or peaky twin cams. Instead you just got low-end grunt and great noise, and 170-odd stampeding horses running across the front of your Volkswagen. In short order, the Passat, Jetta, GTI and even the EuroVan all moved to six cylinders.
1992 was even more notable because for the U.S. market it was the sole year where both the G60 and SLC VR6 were available together in the Corrado lineup. It was also unique because of the tones available; Corrados had been available previously in Nugget Yellow LK1B, but in 1992 it moved to Jasmin Yellow LK1D. It then promptly disappeared from the color catalog after few were ordered, making it one of the most infrequently seen tones on an already seldom seen car:
My first thought when I saw this car was literally “Holy Crap. A reasonably priced Corrado!”
And then I saw the salvage title.
But let’s not dwell on that yet. Let’s consider what we have here first. The photos paint the picture of a pretty nice, mostly original Flash Red Corrado SLC. It retains the original Speedline wheels and Baja-1000 ride height. It’s got leather inside, the big complaint of comments on the the last Corrado SLC I looked at. But the big draw must be the price, which at $6,500 is just very reasonably priced in my mind. The last Corrado SLC I considered? Same color, cloth interior, near same miles – $18,995. It’s like the ‘Cult of Corrado’ have decided “Hey, this is basically the same recipe as the E36 M3, and they’re increasing in value, so my car must be worth a lot.” Logical? Well, no one ever said passionate car enthusiasts were logical. In fact the whole idea of sitting around, pontificating about theoretical car values seems inherently illogical. When someone buys it, obviously that’s the price it’s worth, right?
But I digress.
Perhaps the asking prices for Corrados are more in line with their premium stature. Since new, they have demanded a premium; the SLC hit the market in 1992 at $22,000, and tick a few option boxes and you were quickly in Audi money. But you could look at this car as an expensive Volkswagen, or (as magazines did at the time) as a budget Porsche. Instead of the E36, the natural comparison to this car probably should be the Porsche 968. And you can’t get a decent one of those for $6,500…