Normally I write fairly verbose introductions, covering the history of a particular model or some interesting tidbit about its history. Sometimes they’re my personal connections to the cars. I’m sure on more than one occasion you’ve wished I’d just shut up a bit so that you can get to the car. Today’s that day, because the presentation and condition of this 1978 Volkswagen Scirocco are so staggering I was literally left mouth agape looking through the photo reel. Enjoy:
We’ve had plenty of Volkswagen A1 chassis to look at recently, from the neat Jetta Turbo Diesel we’ll be seeing again soon through the string of very awesome Sciroccos from both the first and second generation. I’ve also looked at quite a few GTIs, from the second, third and fourth generation. But for all that love, I’ve somehow managed to avoid combining the two and covering what is arguably the most famous modern Volkswagen – the original GTI.
Today I hope to rectify that with today’s last-year example of what many consider to be the original ‘hot hatch’. While the U.S. example was somewhat watered-down and had chunkier styling than the truly Spartan 1976 design, it was still a revelation in performance and universally heralded as the benchmark by which all other sporty economy cars would be based moving forward. At a time when there were few do-it-all type cars, the GTI managed to be nearly all things to all people; it got good fuel economy thanks to a relatively miserly 1.8 liter inline-4 with efficient fuel injection. It looked neat, thanks to 14″ alloy wheels, wide fender flared and blacked-out detail work with red accent stripes. It was functional and flexible, with fold-down seats and a (for its size) spacious hatch area to transport goods. It was usable year-round, with front-wheel drive allowing for decent snow traction. And the sport suspension, heavily bolstered seats and close-ratio transmission made the whole package an athletic alternative to the norm, allowing practical-minded men and women to fling their family car through corners with aplomb. Near universal was its appeal, and infectious were the ad campaigns, which in the Volkswagen tradition used short phrases to capture attention like “They’re going fast” and “Serious Fun” – even the oft-used “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
“So what do Germans do for fun? They love to drive. Preferably in a Volkswagen GTI. Because the GTI is designed to be fun. Not fun in the sense of a dashboard cluttered with all sorts of doodads. But fun in the sense of a precision machine that respects and answers its driver’s every wish.
Hyperbole? Certain, this is advertising after all. But it pointed towards the beautiful simplicity of the design, the functionality of the package, the elegance of the execution. The GTI didn’t pretend to be a Corvette like the Opel GT, or a luxury car like the Passat. It wasn’t competing with Mercedes-Benz, or even really Porsche, on any level. And that allowed the characteristically unfun Germans to let their hair down and have a bit of a ball:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTI on eBay
Like the Scirocco duo from earlier this week, Volkswagen’s “large” chassis has become an obscure name long gone from these shores. The Dasher premiered VW’s use of the shared B1 platform. Marketed in the rest of the world as the Passat (a name, like the Scirocco, for a type of wind), Volkswagen opted to use a name closer to its stablemate Rabbit and came up with “Dasher”. From 1974 through 1981, the B1 laid the foundation for larger watercooled Volkswagens in three configurations; two-door hatchback, four-door hatchback and wagon. Also like the Scirocco, the design came from Giogetto Giugiaro and was forward-thinking. Power came from the EA827 derivatives, with a relative modest 1.6 inline-4 gas motor and later diesel options available. In 1978, the B1 was refreshed and gained quad-round headlights and other light revisions, visually matching the Scirocco lineup a bit more. They’re obscure and relatively rare to see at all these days, but this survivor has popped up on eBay in a no reserve auction:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Hatchback on eBay
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.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay
Though it lived a short life in the United States over only two production years in 1990 and 1991, the Audi Coupe both started before that run and continued after in Europe. Along with the rest of the B lineup, the Coupe was refreshed for the “new” B4 lineup after 1992. Most notable in this production cycle of 2-doors was the introduction of the convertible model, the new V6 engine and of course, the fan-favorite S2. However, for those with a more modest budget and interested in better fuel economy, you could still get a EA827-based motor in a 2-wheel drive configuration. Displacing the same 2 liters an with 16 valves clattering away, the 138 horsepower front driver wasn’t much of a match for the girth of the B4, but it was cheaper than the 5-cylinder quattro models: