Remember what I just said about being at the mercy of what’s available? So here comes another Volkswagen, but I promise this one won’t disappoint. That’s because unlike the other examples which were fringe favorites, here’s the bad boy everyone wants – the GTI 16V.
For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 – the PL – to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.
To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the “Silverstone” (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and – of course – 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.
Over the subsequent two years there weren’t many changes to the GTI 16V outside of the “big door” single pane glass change and revised grill of all A2s in ’88, as it’d undergo a major overhaul and bump in displacement for the ’90 model year. This particular GTI is also unique as one of the very last Westmoreland built GTIs, as production closed in ’88 and shifted to Puebla. And this ’89 must certainly be one of the best left out there:
I can say with utter confidence that I’ll never own a Scirocco II. Here’s the weird part – I’m not exactly sure why.
It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the design, though how it came about is somewhat suspect. Volkswagen canned Giugiaro as the replacement designer for the exceptionally beautiful and unique first generation car, moving in-house to Karmann for the second go at the Golf-based sport coupe. The result looked suspiciously like Giugiaro’s Italdesign Asso di Fiori from 1979, though – the car that became the Isuzu Impulse. Two years later, and Viola! the Scirocco II debuts from Karmann with a near identical shape. On top of that, the mechanicals continued to be based upon the first generation Golf, while the A2 series went upwards in refinement. To me, because of the short wheel base and long overhangs – especially highlighted with U.S. spec bumpers – the second-generation Scirocco has just never looked quite right. The visually similar Audi Coupe was better balanced both in design and driving characteristics, and ultimately there wasn’t a huge price gap between them. A 1986 Scirocco 16V, with a few options, was yours for about $13,500 – only about $2,500 shy of the basic Coupe GT. But the performance nod went to the later 16V version of the Scirocco.
There’s something that’s just so right about the 1990-1992 GTis. The bigger bumpers gave a chunkier, more menacing look than the 85-89 cars had, and the swap to the 4-headlight grill worked so well. More power and bigger, better BBS wheels made these the best GTis in the eyes of many VW faithful. By 1990, the GTi 16V had gotten fairly expensive so Volkswagen reintroduced a more budget-conscious 1.8 8 valve version. It wasn’t a total poseur, though – Volkswagen made an attempt to differentiate the entry level GTi from the standard Golf. With 105 horsepower on tap (5 more than the standard Golf) and a 5-speed close-ratio gearbox, they channeled a bit of the original A1 GTi even if they didn’t sing up high like the 16Vs did. There were other subtle differences between the 16V and 8V; externally, they looked very similar except that the 16Vs wore appropriate 16V insignia front and rear and on the slimmed down side moldings. The 16Vs also got the larger and wider BBS RM multi-piece wheels with wider flares, while the 8V model wore the 14″ “Teardrop” alloys that had previously been the signature of the 16V. Both now wore roof mounted antenna and integrated, color coded rear spoiler with 3rd brake lights and color coded mirrors, along with the aforementioned 4-headlight grill, deeper rocker panels and integrated foglights. The 16V got beefier Recaro Trophy seats, while the 8V was equipped with the standard sport seats. Both wore the same sport suspension. And, both models now had the passive restraint “running mouse” belts. Today we’ve got one of each to look at, so let’s start with the big brother:
Spotting of any first generation Scirocco is cause for celebration these days. Styled by the legendary Giugiaro, the front drive, watercooled sport coupe brought Volkswagen into a new market, ostensibly replacing the Karmann Ghia. While underneath the slinky 2-door body was relatively pedestrian underpinnings of the Mk.1 Golf/Rabbit, the styling of the Italian giant brought a level of prestige to the budget economy range. Some 42 years after it originally launched, the short and squat Scirocco still looks unique and different, a perfect combination of curves and angles that makes me smile every time one crosses my path:
1987 saw some serious upgrades for the original “Hot Hatch” GTi. Externally, you’d have to be a seriously devoted Volkswagen fan to pick them all out. The body and trim remained effectively the same as they had been in 1985 and 1986, but new “Teardrop” alloys replaced the leftover “Snowflake” (also known as “Avus”) and “Bottlecap” (also known as “Montreal”) wheels that had adorned the earlier models. Squint closely at the front, and a new deeper chin spoiler sat under the bumper with two brake ducts. The GTi sported a new spiky hairdo as well, with a new roof-mounted Fuba antenna which would become signature for the model going forward. But the change that enthusiasts really liked was under the hood, where eight more valves made their appearance on the venerable 1.8 mill that had powered the GTi. That new motor was announced on every side of the car with new “16V” badges adorning the front, rear and side trim. Horsepower increase was relatively modest – about 13 more horsepower over the high-compression 8V that the car ran in 1985 and 1986. But the letters DOHC were magical pixie dust for wannabe racers in the 1980s, and the entered you into the coolest club out there – Club Twin Cam. Everything sprouted Twin Cams in the 1980s, but it brought the GTi up a notch in performance to compete with the new crop of Hot Hatches it had helped to sprout. 0-60 was now achieved in under 8 seconds – a serious feat for an economy car at that time. The new 16V GTis would be available – as before – in only four colors; Diamond Silver Metallic, Dark Blue Mica, signature Tornado Red or my favorite, Red Pearl Mica (LE3P) that this low mileage example is shown in: