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:
While the step up to the Mk.3 added a fair amount of size – and accompanying weight – to the Volkswagen Golf, the GTI emerged with the much more potent VR6 engine borrowed from the Passat and Corrado. While admittedly the power and the exhaust note was very appealing, and in hindsight the third generation Golf looks positively tiny compared to cars today, I have always lamented the loss of the what I consider the best GTI – the 1990-1992 16V model.
But, what if that model had continued? Well, it did – just not in the U.S.. What we have here is a 1994 GTI 16V from England. Replete with Recaro interior, blacked-out rub strips and fender flares, beefy wheels and dual-chamber headlights with foglights. But the best part is under the hood, where the 9A lived on as the ABF. With Digifant engine management power was up to 148 at a nose-bleeding 6,000 RPMs, while torque remained at 133 lb.ft but again higher in the range. One of these gems has turned up for sale on Ebay:
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about air-cooled models on these pages, and that’s a huge gap in Volkswagen’s history. It’s also not so long ago that VW continued to crank out brand new Beetles alongside their water-cooled replacements. The proliferation paved the way not only for the water-cooled replacement models I tend to favor, but some pretty awesome air-cooled examples, too.
Of those my favorite certainly must be the Type 34. I dissected Volkswagen’s first attempt to move upscale in an article on The Truth About Cars last year:
Volkswagen’s Other Karmann Ghia: the Type 34
Basically, like the Phaeton, the Type 34 was a sales failure. It was too expensive – costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature “razor” nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, the Type 34 only achieved about 42,500 units – less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. But we’re lucky to find one today in Michigan:
The seller “m3456y” on eBay has a secret. He manages to find some seriously impressive condition original A1 chassis cars – in particular, GTIs. I’ve looked at a few of them before, and they never fail to impress. In November 2017 there was a lovely white over red 1983:
1983 Volkswagen GTI
May of this year brought a beautiful black over blue 1984:
1984 Volkswagen GTI
And, another black ’84, this one with red interior:
1984 Volkswagen GTI
Each time I’ve been shocked by how clean the presentation is. Having owned one nearly two decades ago, mine was a wreck even then compared to these cars. It was full of miles, holes and mold with electronics and seat fabric that barely functioned. So every time I spy an A1 over this seller’s driveway pavers, it’s as if the clouds have parted and my long-since dead GTI has come back to Earth from Volkshalla, resurrected in much better shape than when I last saw it hanging from the cross.
Well, Mark’s back with another GTI, and this one is the best yet. It’s the most original with the lowest mileage we’ve seen in a while, and I bet it’ll blow your mind, too:
Every once in a while, eBay throw you a knuckleball – and this listing is more of a knuckleballer than you might expect. I usually search through chassis listings, and ‘Volkswagen Golf’ is usually on my list. This past week, though, an interesting ‘Golf’ turned up. What I noticed first was the wheels, which appeared to be OEM but of a variety I’m not familiar with. Wheels are something I take pretty seriously, so the wheels alone warranted further investigation. Looking closer, this ‘Golf’ was very strange. And, small.
Glancing from the screen towards my coffee, I needed to check if I was in some altered state. But no, it was the ‘Golf’ that was in an altered state, mostly because it wasn’t a Golf at all. It in fact was a Polo 1.2 TDi Bluemotion, and for some reason which I’m sure makes sense to someone, the seller not only has it listed on eBay as a Golf (probably because the ‘Other’ category is full of duds, mostly) but more perplexing, they’ve actually de-badged the Polo and added a Golf badge. Maybe they were tired of questions at the pump?
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-à-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…
Without a doubt, for me the best change ever to the GTI lineup was the revision in mid-1990 of the GTI 16V. The DOHC screamer was already a pretty potent performer, but Volkswagen pushed the desirability over the top for the end of the run. The result was what many – this author included – consider the best of the breed. The original may have been more pure, and subsequent models are a lot faster and more dependable. But none of them got it quite as right as the 2.0 16V.
Outside the GTI built on its legend with wider European-market flares and deep rockers. Like all of the A2s, new ‘Big Bumper’ covers integrated fog lights and brake ducting. Yes, they looked heavier than the previous slim bumpers, but they also matched the design well. Iconic round headlights returned, now with inner driving lights too. But arguably the best change was the addition of 15″ wheels – in this case, the BBS RM multi-piece units. New colors also were introduced, including the equally iconic and signature ‘Montana Green’. Inside the interior was bulked up with large bolster Recaro Trophy seats. To match the wicked looks, under the hood was improved with a new 2.0 version of the 16V motor. The 9A introduced CIS-E Motronic fuel injection, while the bore was increased from 81mm to 82.5 and the stroke from 86.4 mm to 92.8. Compression was increased slightly from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and the result was 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb.ft of torque at 4,400. The engine was still matched the the 2Y close ratio transmission with a 3.67 final drive. While the GTI 16V couldn’t match the Callaway Turbo GTI we saw yesterday on sheer acceleration, it was generally reviewed as the best GTI yet. Finding a clean example today is always cause for celebration, and this one looks ready to party. Does it hold up?
One of our favorite colors over here at GCFSB is Viper Green. Though it’s made a resurgence on recent PTS Porsche 911s, for me it really works the best on the clean lines of 1970s models. But few remember that there were actually two Viper Greens in the 1970s. There was the popular pastel tone most associate with the name, but Volkswagen also launched its Scirocco in the 1970s with a metallic version of the color. Code L96N was ‘Viper Green Metallic’, and it looks equally lovely here on this Type 53 Scirocco as it would when equipped as a Paint To Sample on a 911SC Targa.
But there’s much more to love besides just a color here. If Viper Green Metallic wasn’t rare enough to see on a infrequently seen first generation Scirocco, this particular one is a low mileage survivor with the color-matched Tartan green interior and appears in nearly original condition:
Update 8/30/18: The car has been relisted at $3,000 Buy It Now.
I keep chuckling as I come across A2 Jettas. I’ve already professed that they’re not my favorite, yet interesting examples continue to pop up and they’re simply too good to pass on. Today’s may buck that trend, however, as it’s a non-original, non-running example. So what’s it doing here? Well, because of how it was built and how it appears today, it was worth a closer look. With a 1.8 PL 16V swap, a great set of Ronal wheels and some other VW-chic mods, is this a Jetta worth saving?
Update 11/11/18: The seller has dropped the asking price to $50,000.
Update 9/12/18: The seller has updated their asking price to $54,000.
For decades, I’ve had a pipe dream of taking a Westy van cross-country. When I was a teenager, a family member had a late 80s Vanagon Westfalia, and we went on a camping trip in it. It was great! And while I’m certain time has diminished the drawbacks of our method of transport on that trip, the knowledge of that isn’t enough extinguish my desire.
Unfortunately for me, it seems like I’m not alone. #VanLife has pushed the value of these clever boxes on wheels up substantially. Clean T3 campers regularly hit the market in the same territory as late 70s 911s. Even the replacement T4 Eurovan Weekender – which just has a bed, and none of the real camping gear the earlier Westfalias had – command a substantial premium over a non-pop-top T4. By far, the Volkswagen vans are the most expensive products from their catalog.
So you can imagine that if we get a rare Euro version of the T4 over here, it’ll probably be worth a look: