The big problem with pay mid-teens for either the neat European Corrado 16V or the Nugget Yellow G60 I just looked at is, of course, that you’re into SLC territory. Mind, you, perhaps not the nicest SLC out there – but they’re within reach. Today’s example falls into exactly that category, as it’s priced right under the asks on the last two Corrados. Is it the one to get?
Volkswagen do Brasil’s attempt to revise the Karmann Ghia Type 14 took two very different directions. Both were based on the 1600 wagon, but they took very different directions. The Karmann Ghia TC looked like a restyled version of the original, while the SP2 looked a bit like a Type 4 and a 928 had a wild child.
‘SP’ referenced São Paulo where the SP and SP2 were produced. The early model had a 1.6 liter flat-4, while the SP2 moved up to a 75 horsepower 1.7 air-cooled flat-4 mounted in the rear. The proportions of the body styling seemed to suggest the opposite though, with the long, low hood and hatchback GT profile looking more like a traditional sports car than any VW had before. Other period designs were borrowed – the Volkswagen 411, the Porsche 924 and Audi’s 100 Coupe S all had similar angles.
Only about 11,300 of these ultra-rare, Brazil-only SP2s were produced. They’re about as legendary as air-cooled VWs get in the U.S., so when one pops up for sale it’s worth a look:
The black A1 GTI sold for $11,500 on October 30, 2021.
While not the fastest or the prettiest car Volkswagen ever made, the GTI represents the ethos of VW’s 1980s philosophy of cheap, fun-to-drive, and eminently practical cars for consumers. As they did when new, the first generation GTI also represented a car which gave much faster cars a run for their money. True, the 90 horsepower under the hood won’t scare a supercar. But what this car lacks in straight-line performance it more than makes up for in value.
You see, over the past few years we’ve watched the fan-favorites and driver’s cars from the 1980s increasingly price themselves out of the range of most enthusiasts. The esoterics are also forged in unobtanium today, and while there was a period where you could snap up cheap 80s products in Europe and import them, they’re going away, too. Sure, the M3 and 911 led the charge, but today a clean 190E 2.3-16 or Quattro will set you back some serious bucks. And then when you do get one, you need to worry about collector insurance, expensive and hard-to-source parts and whether you bought in a bubble.
The solution is still the giant-killer GTI. Find a clean one, and you’ll have a car that can be driven at 10/10ths still today and generate plenty of smiles, yet is relatively cheap to buy and very cheap to run. You’ll get thumbs up just like the 911 driver will. Maybe even more, honestly, because when was the last time you saw an A1 cruising around? Today I have two possibilities, from wild to mild. Which would you choose?
Volkswagen of America’s new “Fahrvergnügen” sales campaign in the early 1990s was, while a marketing ploy and a totally made up neologism, underscoring sporty changes at Volkswagen. The more serious 2.0 16V GTI I’ve already covered recently, but the same motor was available in the more fun-to-drive Passat here, too. Then there was the Corrado, which while it only had 8 valves sported a supercharger. You could that that G60 in the Passat in Europe, too.
Volkswagen’s popular smaller sedan had a healthy dose of upgrades though, too. In ’89, the Jetta GLI 16V had a special Wolfsburg Edition which had added the deeply bolstered Recaro Trophy seats and BBS RA alloys. These were color-matched to the Helios Blue Metallic paint outside. The seats and BBS wheels would carry over for the 1990 model year, but like the GTI the Jetta received the new 9A 2.0 16V and revised bumper/trim of all the A2s. Brakes were updated to 10.1? and dual tailpipes emerged from the new ‘big bumper’ A2 refresh. Central locking and a cassette player were standard, while you could opt for many power options including windows, mirror, anti-lock brakes, trip computer, cruise control and of course a sunroof.
Although the package was essentially quite similar to the GTI, I’ve never quite taken to the 2.0 GLI 16V in the same way. But it’s still very nice to see a clean example hit the market:
Hey, remember yesterday’s Gol LS?
1983 Volkswagen Gol LS
I mentioned that they made a pickup version of the Gol as well, which Volkswagen do Brasil sold as the Saveiro. It effectively followed the same recipe as the Rabbit Pickup; chop the front off of the normal car and make a somewhat usable back end. In the case of the Saveiro, the result was even a bit more bizarre-looking than the Sportruck, but nevertheless it’s neat to see one – and it’s perhaps no surprise that the seller of the Gol is also shifting this one:
This car sold for $7,000.
I have to admit that when I initially heard the details of the 337 Edition GTI, I was very excited. To me, it seemed like Volkswagen had finally gotten the message and brought us a modern interpretation of the car that I loved, the 1990-1992 GTI 2.0 16V. After a period of low performance 4-cylinder variants, the pokey 1.8T was now pumping out 180 horsepower and matching torque – finally, the car had the go to match the show. While the VR6 had continued into the fourth generation GTI, the accompanying weight, luxury items and electronic throttle meant that while horsepower numbers went up, the seat of the pants kick and thrill that was the hallmark of the original and 16V GTI – and even the Mk.3 VR6 – had been replaced by a stout highway cruiser. As if to answer critics and revisit the original formula, in 2001 Volkswagen introduced a stripped down, turned up version of the GTi called the 25th Anniversary edition, celebrating the original 1976 launch. For me, it was a return to form for the original hot hatch with some great updates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heading to the U.S., because of course we didn’t receive the GTI until the 1983 model year. But U.S. fans were taken care of too when the nearly identical GTI 337 was launched. Outside, it got some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels that looked stunning compared to the rather bland wheel styles that had adorned the GTI since the BBS RMs on the 16V. Behind those wheels were beefed up brakes and red calipers, because red is of course faster (or, slower in that case?). It also sported a new body kit that highlighted the lower stance – hunkering the GTi down over those great wheels. After a period of hidden tailpipes, a polished exhaust tip emerged from the rear valance – a nice change for sure! Inside, special details like brushed trim, red-stitched shift boot and special “Golf Ball” knob for the 6-speed manual and some awesome Recaro seats greeted you. And to keep weight down, no sunroof was offered. This was a sporty car that went like it looked for a change! Limited to 1,500 examples, it was an instant hit and apparently a good bet for a future collectable:
In early 1986, three models of the Golf were available in the US; the basic, no-frills Westmoreland model, the upgraded ‘Wolfsburg’ model with aero headlights, an upgraded stereo, wider body moldings, nicer cloth, and wheel trim rings, or you had to make the not unsubstantial jump in price to the GTI model. Replacing the basic 85 horsepower 1.8 was a high-compression HT 100 horsepower unit. It didn’t sound like a lot, but that did represent a roughly 20% gain in power. Signature red-striped trim announced that this was the performance variant of the hatchback, and you also got 4-wheel discs as a first in the U.S. range. Those brakes hid behind carry-over “Avus” (Snowflake) wheels, though instead of the machine/dark gray finish the A1 had, they were now all silver and with “Volkswagen” imprinted on flush covers. Sometimes GTIs were equipped with “Montreal” (Bottlecap) alloys which were also shared with the Jetta GLI. Application seems somewhat indiscriminate. The GTI also had an upgraded suspension with front and rear sway bars and a close-ratio 5-speed manual as the only transmission. Of course, the interior was also upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel borrowed from earlier GTIs, a multi-function display and specially-trimmed cloth sport seats.
In all, it was a substantial upgrade over the standard Golf, and you could of course further opt to include a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, and a nice radio. Early U.S. Mk.2 GTIs were only available in Mars Red, Diamond Silver Metallic, black, or Alpine White as seen here. Today’s example has a few mods but stays true to the simple formula:
Did I say I wish that Beetle Pickup was a more fun color? Well here we go. In 2002 Volkswagen launched the Color Concept editions of the New Beetle, which allowed specification of the funky Golf-based retromobile in several unique shades. Options included Snap Orange, Double Yellow, Blue Lagoon, Red, and or today’s example of Cyber Green, and you got not only the exterior shade but color-matched wheel accents and interior upholstery as well. Under the
frunk hood was the 1.8T, and here it’s linked to a four-speed automatic. But we get one of the more fun shades to consider, so let’s take a look:
Okay, the last converted Pickup was a bit of a letdown in everything but concept:
2002 Volkswagen Jetta Smyth Pickup
Well, as luck would have it, another popped up. This one is based on the much curvier Beetle, and as you’d probably guess (or can see) the results are as retro-inspired as the New Beetle was. So let’s check out the execution of this kit and what it’ll set you back today:
Although I’ve espoused my love of wagons and their do-everything nature, the reality is that I live in the suburbs and there are certainly some times (read: pretty often, actually) that I could use a pickup truck. But, if I’m completely honest, I’ve previously owned a big Chevrolet 2500HD pickup and I’m still not convinced that I’m a pickup kind of guy. Worse still, have you priced a pickup out lately? HOLY MACKEREL. A base Silverado starts at almost $30,000 and if you want things like…seats, and/or wheels, you’ll quickly need more than $40,000. When I see $40,000 asks on a pickup which a) I know will be rusting in 5 years no matter what I do and b) because it’s a GM, will almost certainly break, I get pretty annoyed. Worse still, the “Heartbeat of America” isn’t built in America. I know. I live right by the port where they all come in on a boat. Beside the steady stream of Fiats, Volkswagens, Porsches and Alfa Romeos, there’s a long line of Chevrolet and GMC pickups being driven into the United States for the first time.
So how about a pickup that’s a bit more my speed? Built in America with tons of European flare by utilizing recycled Audi/Volkswagen products, there’s always the Smyth Pickup: