A few weeks ago I took a look at a pretty wild, and fairly famous, first-generation Volkswagen Scirocco. Replete with period details and a Callaway turbo kit, it was a hit for sure as it was when it was the signature car for New Dimensions.
First Dimension: 1978 Volkswagen Scirocco Callaway Turbo
While in some ways the mods took away from the beautiful simplicity of the Giugiaro design, it was still a trick car and brought strong bids, selling finally for nearly $15,000. That money is quite close to the 1981 Scirocco I looked at last year. Completely original and very pristine, it sold for over $17,000. Clearly, the market for these cars values both stock and well modified examples highly.
1981 Volkswagen Scirocco
In light of that, today I have an interesting comparison to consider. First we’ll take a look at a fully original, very clean and proper survivor 1980 Scirocco, then we’ll gander towards a full-on show car powered by a R32 VR6 and a claimed 400 horsepower – about five times what it came with originally. Will the bids follow the historical trends?
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.
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.
In an article I penned for The Truth About Cars last week, I covered some of the development of the Wedge Era and how those spectacular show car designs channeled their design language down to more pedestrian models. One of the stars of that article were the cutting-edge looks from Giugiaro’s ItalDesign – the firm, and man, responsible for some of your favorites such as the basic shape for the Audi Quattro. But while the Quattro launched its brand into the luxury realm and redefined the 80s, the undisputed German star of the wedgey wonders was the BMW M1.
Like the Quattro, the M1 redefined and refined BMW’s core mission, helping to launch the Motorsport division along with the 3.0 CSL and 2002 Turbo. While Giugiaro had also had his hand in the M1’s design, the genesis of the shape lay in the much earlier Paul Bracq designed Turbo concept. Bracq, in turn, had undoubtedly been influenced by the late 1960s creations of both Giorgetto Giugiaro (at Ghia and ItalDesign) and Marcello Gandini (Bertone), as well as the efforts and splash rival Mercedes-Benz had made in 1969 with the C111 concept and record setter.
But while Daimler was hesitant to enter serial production with such a departure from their tried and true sedan designs, the M1 proved to be just the spark BMW was looking for to ignite the fire in driving enthusiast’s minds. It was, at the time, the Ultimate Driving Machine:
The Audi Quattro was not nearly as dominant in World Rally as pretty much every article you read says it was. That may sound shocking, but in the years the Quattro “dominated” the WRC, it only won the driver’s and constructor’s championship together one time – in 1984. In 1983, Hannu Mikkola won the driver’s title in a Quattro, but the constructor win went to – wait for it – a rear-drive Lancia 037. In 1982, Audi’s design won the constructor’s championship, but again it was rear-driver Walter Röhrl in an Opel Ascona that captured the driver’s title. Those shortened, screaming, flame-belching bewinged monsters you’ve seen on numerous clips? Well, the truth is they were never very successful, as the much better balanced Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 swept the end of the Group B period up. If you want real dominance in that era, though, you need to look at the Lancia Delta Integrale, which captured every title from 1987 to 1992.
But the Quattro was evocative. The sound was memorizing. And even if the recipe was perfected by other makes later, it was Audi’s design that revolutionized the sport with unfathomable speed and aggression. So compelling was the Quattro, that long after Audi had retired from Rally and was now dominating race tracks, plenty of enthusiasts were trying to recreate the magic on their own:
It’s hard to believe that the Volkswagen Scirocco has fully entered into mid-life crisis. When I was born, my family was lucky enough to have a few “classic cars”. My father, for example, still drove me around in a 1966 Mustang – considering the number which sold, probably not an unusual occurrence. But while those memories seem as fuzzy as the television broadcasts from the period, consider for a moment that when I was born, that “classic” Mustang was 11 years old. My current daily driver is 14 (technically, 15, soon to be 16) years old, so as I tote my son to school in the back of the Passat I’m wondering if his experiences will feel the same as mine did. Of course, in the 1970s cars seemed to age much more quickly; to the point that when I was forming most of my car-related memories in the 1980s, the Volkswagen Scirocco was well into its second iteration and a fair amount of the original models had already left the road. Survivors are few and far between, as mostly rust took them off the road. Finding a survivor – especially a pre-refresh Scirocco like this 1977 – is quite rare:
Just three days ago we looked at an impressive 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco. Condition was great and it was full of period details, but I mentioned I’d prefer a stock example. My wish came true, as an absolutely stunning original 1981 came to market immediately after. Looking splendid in Alpine White over Gazelle cloth, it is presented in near stock configuration and really lets the near perfect lines Giugiaro penned show through. The 1980 failed to meet its reserve at $10,100, but this auction is a no reserve deal with very active bidding. How high will this perfect ’81 go?
Period modifications can be pretty hit or miss, and when you’re talking 1980s cars, it seems most weren’t on target. Sure, the AMG widebody and Ruf cars are spectacular, but many more suffered the ignominious fate of having tacky tacked-on plastic bits, wild and poor paint jobs, and “performance enhancements” that more often than not led to a protracted period of non-running conditions. But once in a while a period piece pops up that looks special, and this 1980 Scirocco spotted by our reader Wojciech is just that:
Coming across a low mile, “time capsule”-esque Porsche isn’t a particularly rare thing. While it’s hard to conceive of a time when they were considered cars rather than investments, even when new the high entry price and exclusivity of buying a top-tier German car meant that quite a few were treated more as prized possessions to be preserved rather than as transportation. Though less frequent, the same goes for Mercedes-Benz models, as we roll across quite a few pristine and original low mile SLs, S-Class and even less expensive models. Certainly, it is less common among BMWs and downright atypical to find a low mile, original and unmolested Audi, though one wonders if recent market trends have inspired a generation with disposable income now to buy and squirrel away brand new RS, M and AMG cars in cocoons to emerge in a few decades as a retirement fund. It’s all a bit nuts if I’m honest.
But a Volkswagen? Low mileage, original time pieces are beyond atypical. When they do surface, they’re not always the most desirable model, either – Grandpa’s 1979 Rabbit in all-brown, for example. Sure, it’s got only 11,000 miles on the clock but it’s like donning a polyester suit and slapping on a fake mustache to go to a Halloween party as Ron Burgundy. No, no, I’m sure you do the best Will Ferrell impersonation in the world, but the situation is a bit worse than the plotline to Anchorman 2. But once in a while something comes along that is truly special AND cool:
The Volkswagen Passat [née Quantum (née Dasher)] has always been a bit of the odd-man out in the Volkswagen lineup, but each successive generation has offered something special – even in the U.S.. As Paul wrote up last week, in the B7 you could get a TDi manual – something of an oddity in the marketplace last year, as automatic whirring hybrids have ruled the minds and pocketbooks of middle management for the last decade. The B6 had a fantastic hidden gem in the 3.6 4Motion; an unappreciated car in general but perhaps the car Audi should have built. The B5? It was the car that finally made the Passat successful in the U.S., and introduced the cool if too complicated W8 4motion package. The B3/4 had the you-can’t-kill-it-unless-it-rusts 1Z diesel and sonorous VR6 motors. The B2’s trump card over the Audi 4000 it closely resembled was the Syncro Wagon. And the B1? Well, if you wanted a 4-door Volkswagen hatchbach that was a bit more substantial than the Rabbit on offer, briefly your wish could come true: