1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet Étienne Aigner Edition

As I explained back in 2017, towards the end of their lengthy production run, the Volkswagen Cabriolet broke into a three-tier model platform. All shared the same basic underpinnings, but each had a unique trim. The base model and best seller had cloth interiors, with the latter being opted with the ‘Teardop’ Detroit alloys, air conditioning and cruise control. Opting for the upscale Boutique model got you a matching leather interior to your white exterior. These packages had replaced the mid-80s Wolfsburg and Carat packages.

1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet with 23,000 Miles

However, there was a fourth trim model available in 1991; the Étienne Aigner Edition. Étienne Aigner is famed for high fashion leather products aimed specifically at women. So, you guessed it, this Cabriolet featured a cloth interior. As with the other upscale Cabriolets, this was an entirely appearance-based package, full of special details and badges. Étienne Aigners also differentiated themselves from the normal Cabriolets by being equipped with the Fuchs-made forged 14″ Le Castellet wheels and were available in three special colors, Midnight Blue Metallic, Mangrove Green Metallic or Bordeaux Red Pearl Metallic, each with a special color-matched interior fabric and top cover:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet Étienne Aigner Edition on eBay

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1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

So I’ll start off by saying that we usually try to find the best examples of cars that we can. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or even to have particularly good vision, to note that the Volkswagen Golf in the picture above is NOT the best example out there. In fact, we recently looked at what may be one of the best Mk.3s left out there – albeit an odd one – just a few weeks ago:

Riders Wanted: 1993 Volkswagen Golf Ryder with 31,000 Miles

However, if you know anything about water-cooled VWs, you also know that the car above is quite special. It was not because it had the best spec, or the most power, or the highest price tag; in this case, it was all about the marketing and it’s one of those cases where an oddball becomes incredibly endearing to a very small group of people. If you were to buy this car and turn up at a ‘normal’ automobile enthusiasts’ home, they’d probably think you’d gone mental with your recent purchase. Full of rust and mis-matched panels, as well as likely a lot of miles and even more likely a ruined interior – not to mention what is sure to be a host of mechanical woes – this Golf probably looks to most like it’s ready for the wrecking yard. But turn up at a VW show in this car even in its partially destroyed state and all eyes would be on you, because this is a Golf Harlequin, and in the world of water-cooled, that’s a pretty special thing:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin 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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Riders Wanted: 1993 Volkswagen Golf Ryder with 31,000 Miles

In Tuesday’s post about the GTI 20th Anniversary Edition, I mentioned that often the U.S. was left out of the special model production cycle. That was very true for the many limited editions of every generation of Golf. Of course, we did get some special Golfs – the Wolfsburg Edition being the best known, but there was also the Mk.2 Golf GT and, of course, the Harlequin, Trek and K2 models for the third generation. But with clever names like the ‘Driver’, ‘Match’ and the myriad of band-themed Mk.3 Golfs, most were left in Europe. One other model which was a bit of a head-scratcher was the ‘Ryder’.

Of course, Google ‘Golf Ryder’ and you’ll get all sorts of information about Tiger Woods. While the Driver was, like the Golf GT, a de-contented GTI, the Ryder was more confusing. In Mk.2 guise, it got the 4-headlight setup of the GTI, but little else. It had a 1.3 inline-4 barely motivating it, and came to market with steel wheels and manual everything. It did have a special diagonal stripe black interior and a sunroof, but otherwise the only thing you got were badges. They really were playing into the theme that, if you were a driver, you got the more driver-oriented ‘Driver’ model apparently. This was more for people who just wanted a ride in some sort of transportation.

For the third generation, the Ryder returned, but again was even a bit more confusing. Displacement was up to a stock 1.4 rated at 59 horsepower (woooooow!) and it was good for a 16.3 second 0-60 time! Gone were the GTI headlights, replaced by the standard single-chamber stock Mk.3 units. Also not present were painted bumpers, and the steel wheels no longer sported the upgraded trim rings from the Mk.2. The Ryder badges did make a reappearance, but the once standard sunroof didn’t. Also not appearing as standard kit was a radio, air conditioning, cruise control, fog lights…in short, this was about as basic of a Golf as you could get. But since we didn’t get them here, it’s neat to check one out – and what must be the best one out there for sale has appeared in Florida:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Golf Ryder on eBay

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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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1993 Volkswagen Golf VR6

What is the price for rarity? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, enthusiasts will sometimes go to extremes to have something just a bit different than the norm. Take today’s Golf. Like the 1989 Volkswagen GTI I looked at a few weeks ago, something odd will stick out to the brand faithful that will probably go unnoticed by nearly everyone else. First off, for the U.S. market, the VR6 was limited to the GTI range. This looks like a GTI with the dual chamber headlights and foglights, VR6 badges and BBS wheels. But another minor detail then rears its head – or, in this case, rears its doors. That’s right, this is a 5-door Golf VR6 from Europe. Look closer and you’ll notice items such as the textured flares, deeper chin spoiler and fender mounted directionals that differentiate ROW A3s. So what will getting into this rare-to-see VW cost you today?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Golf VR6 on eBay

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2006 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDI

Update 7/3/18: After not selling a month ago for $5,900, the seller has raised the price to $6,500.

Recently, my mechanic picked up an interesting car. It’s a Golf GLS 2.0. Immediately, it’s a car that most will dismiss as being perhaps the least exciting Volkswagen produced in modern times, if not the least reliable. He tossed me the keys when I turned up with a broken front spring in the Passat (Thank you, Rhode Island Department of Pothole Management Transportation) .

Stepping into the Mk.4 from the B5.5 Passat, you’ll feel instantly right at home. The two share a majority of switchgear and the layout is identical. However, the quality of the Golf is lower, and it’s immediately evident the moment you turn the key. There’s less noise isolation, there’s more plastic, and the feel of the car is not as refined as the Passat. There are fewer options, too.

However, there are redeeming qualities. I can get the 1.8T in my Passat to return well over 30 mpg. But, to get those numbers you really have to go easy on the throttle. Not so in the Golf, which returns well over 30 mpg seemingly regardless of what you do with the loud pedal. And though the Mk.4 has gained a reputation for being unreliable, what immediately struck me was that everything still worked. Cruise control, power mirrors, seat heaters, air conditioning, radio, sunroof – it was all working on this relatively loaded GLS model. That was especially curious when I looked at the odometer, because still on its original engine, his 2003 Golf had an almost unfathomable 273,000 miles on it – yet it looked, ran and drove like it had less than half that amount.

For a car he picked up for around a thousand dollars, I’m not sure what more you could ask, so I decided to keep an eye out for one to pop up. It did, in nearly the same configuration as my mechanics. Except it is the more desirable turbo diesel model, known for going ultra long distances on nearly no fuel. So is this the one to get?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDI on eBay

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1991 Volkswagen Golf Country

I was in Stuttgart in 1998 when what I thought was someone’s version of a good joke rolled by me. It was a dark green Mk.2 Golf; not particularly abnormal since they were still mostly less than a decade old and Germans notoriously care for their cars better than most other nations. However, it was about a half-foot taller than it should have been, equipped with some cool looking Speedline wheels, brush guards and a spare tire mounted to the rear. Germans have an odd sense of humor, so it seemed to fit that this was one mullet short of a Hasselhoff Fan Club. I had no idea that I was looking at a factory model; remember, this was in the infancy of the internet and as an American, knowledge of every single European model of the Mk.2 was hard to come by. But the “Country” graphic scrolled down the side gave me a clue, and after some research I found out that this was more than just a one-off.

Though the idea sounds simple enough since parent company Audi had an all-wheel drive system that was ever so popular, mounting that longitudinal transmission and drivetrain into the transverse engine Golf was impossible. Instead, Volkswagen contracted Steyr-Daimler-Puch to design a viscous coupling setup for the Golf with a new independent suspended rear. Like the contemporary Quantum (Passat) and Vanagon setups, it was dubbed “Syncro”, though outside of all-wheels being driven the three systems shared almost nothing.

The result was a few fan-favorite models. Performance types love the Quattro-inspired Golf Rallye, Golf G60 Syncro and Golf Limited models. But undoubtedly the most recognizable Golf to wear the Syncro badge was the jacked-up Golf Country. Utilizing an already heavily modified Golf Syncro, Daimler-Steyr-Puch installed some 438 unique pieces to create the light offroading Golf way before the Outback was conquered by Subaru. Since new, they’ve always commanded a premium and have been the object of lust for American Volkswagen fans who like to do things just a bit different. Now legal for import, they’re popping up time to time:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Golf Country on eBay

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS

Update 6/1/18: The seller has dropped the price from the original $6,995 asking price to $5,995 today.

Continuing on the Volkswagen theme, and with the Roman Catholic-based holiday also in mind (our Orthodox friends celebrate next week!), let’s take a look at Volkswagen’s first foray into water-cooled products. The Golf was, of course, not marketed as the Golf in the United States, but the Rabbit. Ostensibly, the ‘Golf’ name followed in the convention of VW’s other wind-based products (Scirocco, Passat and Jetta) since Golf is German word for “Gulf” – it has nothing at all to do with the game, though a set of clubs would fit nicely in the back. But Volkswagen still won’t tell anyone why they changed the name to Rabbit in the United States. More concerning, they changed the name to ‘Caribe’ in Mexico. That’s a Piranha. At least our market had a more friendly mascot?

While the Beetle was certainly a tough act to follow be sold alongside of, the modern, convenient and completely practical Rabbit sold in droves at a time when fuel-conscious Americans were looking for solutions to their 19 foot long Lincoln Mk. V’s inability to clear 6 mpg. It’s 7.5 liter V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor managed to squeeze a massive 208 horsepower out of all that capacity. And that was the optional upgrade engine. Standard was a 6.6 liter version of the Cleveland V8 rated at only 166 horsepower, yet not really getting any better fuel economy. Of course, the Mk.V needed these giant motors as it was itself a giant. Curb weight was close to 5,000 lbs. So while the Rabbit seemed fairly insignificant in its stature by comparison, the reality was that it was a much better choice for most motorists.

To capitalize on the popularity, Volkswagen moved production of Rabbits from Germany to the United States for 1978. The move was signified by a shift towards rectangular square-beam headlights, just as we saw with yesterday’s early A2 Golf. Sales soared when gas prices did, too: between 1980 and 1984, Volkswagen sold over 620,000 Rabbits from Westmoreland. The sold a further 77,000 Rabbit Pickups – a creation solely aimed at North America, and now sought by some Europeans.

Because there were a lot of Rabbits produced, finding examples for sale even today isn’t all that hard. But low values have meant that restoration is really out of the question unless it’s your labor of love. However, things are beginning to change…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS on eBay

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1985 Volkswagen Golf with 29,000 Miles

Continuing on the theme of basic Volkswagens, as I mentioned in the A2 Jetta post I have a soft spot for the Golf. I’ve twice owned them; my last was a ’98 K2 4-door and my first Volkswagen was just like this car. It was a 1986 Westmoreland-built Golf. Compared to most of the cars that come across these pages, the Westmoreland Golfs aren’t really very special. They were very basic models. But they were also unique in their trim, and they were only built in the configuration you see here for two years. Of course, that really only matters to Golfphiles, but it’s a neat bit of trivia, anyway.

I covered the details of these models when I last covered a Westy Golf back in July, 2017. Basically, the easiest way to tell them apart from German builds are the wheel covers and the grill with sealed-beam rectangle headlights. That particular ’86 was mega impressive, as it had only 44,000 miles. Well, today’s ’85 has even less:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Volkswagen Golf on eBay

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