Celebrating Volkswagen’s addition of the DOHC 16V ‘PL’ to the GLI in 1987, and perhaps to in part justify its heady $14,000 MSRP, the company heavily upgraded the model over the standard Jetta. To match the additional power, Volkswagen offered many upgrades over the standard 8 valve GLI in 1987, the only year they were offered together in the U.S. market. A deeper front lip spoiler with brake ducting and rear spoiler added boy-racer looks. Though the wheels remained 14″ x 6″, the new “Silverstone” design you know as “Teardrops” looked cooler than the bottle-cap inspired design on the 8V. A swept-back Fuba roof-mounted antenna continued the speed theme and became the signature Volkswagen look for some time. Inside 16V badges on the dash and a higher red line prepared you for the thrill ride while heavily bolstered half-cloth, half-leatherette Recaro Trophy seats hugged you.
But in 1989, Volkswagen kicked it up another notch with a special edition of the GLI. Part of the group of six special ‘Wolfsburg Edition’ models for the year, the highlight was definitely the Jetta. Outside they were painted LA5Y Helios Blue Metallic – a color borrowed from the much more expensive Audi Quattro. They featured color-matched BBS RAs in 15″ x 6″. The mirrors were color-matched too. Inside the Recaro seats received special diagonally-striped cloth, while the luxury quotient was upped as well with power windows, locks and mirrors, a sunroof, air conditioning, and stereo with 6 speakers and cassette all standard. This took the Jetta GLI’s price up over $17,000. Although the next model year adopted some of these upgrades as standard, the special-toned and limited edition ’89s known simply as ‘Helios’ have always had a cult following:
Okay, $22,000 is a lot for an old hot hatch, even if it’s the ‘original’. When I was perusing some cars to consider, I noticed that there was a point where Mk.2, 3, 4 and 5 prices were all pretty equivalent. In fact, you can just about buy all four of these cars shown below for the same price as that Kamei X1 GTI. It raises an interesting question; what generation is the one to get at this price point? Certainly a lot depends on priorities – if, for example, you really want a fun daily driver or you’re looking for more of a weekend warrior show car. But let’s look at this group and see which has potential:
Over the past year, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about the Volkswagen Arteon. These reviews tend to focus around two main points; that the Arteon is quite nice, and that the Arteon is quite expensive – at least, for a Volkswagen. The model starts at $35,000 and if you add a few options it’s not hard to crest $40,000. I did manage to find a SEL 4Motion under $40,000 but it has few options. The 2.0T is rated at 268 horsepower in base form, and you can select front- or all-wheel drive variants and a ton of tech as the price climbs, but initially they’ll all be offered only with an 8-speed ZF automatic. Although outwardly it looks a lot like an Audi A7, and indeed features the same hatchback configuration, like the previous few Passats and Passat CC it is based on the Golf MQB platform.
All this got me to thinking; is it really that radical a departure from the last CC?
‘It’s like déjà vu all over again!’
Only a week after looking at another example of my favorite GTI – the Montana Green 2.0 16V – we get another of my personal greatest GTI hits. Again, it’s one that’s pretty hard to come across at all, never mind in good shape. In this case it’s Ginster Yellow last-year Mk.3, and yet again after claiming it’s hard to find one, one popped up pretty recently:
1998 Volkswagen GTI VR6
Since I just covered what made the Mk.3 tick, I won’t do so again, but let’s dive a bit into this example. The last one, as it turned out, may have had some issues which prevented it from really being a top-tier example. Is it the same with this pristine and lightly modded one?
With a sharp rise in values accompanying much greater interest in the late 80s and early 90s cars, I have to say I’m not surprised to see the trickle of clean Mk.2 GTIs coming out of the woodwork. It’s the best time to sell one since they were effectively new, after all. Recently we’re looked at two nice 1.8 16Vs, a 2.0 16V, and even a few mint early 8V models. Today, another Mars Red ’85 has popped up worth considering:
After its unceremonious and unexplained exit from the U.S. market with the introduction of the third generation Golf in 1993, the GTI came roaring back in a big way for the 1995 model year. Sure, it was bigger, bulkier and well…roundier, but it came with a bunch more gusto thanks to the addition of the VR6 motor as seen in the Corrado and Passat models. The single-overhead cam, twelve valve head lacked the race-bred feel of the Mk.II 16V, the new motor more than made up for it with the addition of two more cylinders. Good for 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque, it swept the hot hatch from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and produced a 15.5 second quarter mile at over 90 mph. But much like the original, the GTI was more than the sum of its numbers, with drivers enjoying the great 6-cylinder soundtrack which accompanied the waves of usable torque.
Of course, like all VWs from the period, it was expensive. Really quite expensive. A base GTI VR6 rolled out the door in 1995 at $18,875, and with a few options it wasn’t difficult to breech $20 grand. Yet that was still only a little more than half the money it would take you to grab a same-year M3, which offered only a bit more motivation and cornering prowess. Catch the pesky BMW driver off-guard, and they’d be unlikely to easily out-drag you. So you could either look at this model as a really expensive Golf or a really cheap BMW. That was what the legendary GTI had always been about, and this was a resounding return to form and continuation of the brilliance that was the GTI 16V, even if they felt (and, looked) completely different:
Walk into a Volkswagen dealership in the early 2000s, and it was clear that the brand had taken the people’s car upmarket. The Mk.4 Golf/Jetta looked decidedly more modern than the Mk.3 holdovers from 1998. The 2001 introduction of the B5.5 Passat splashed chrome, leather and wood all over the mid-range sedans and wagons and offered exotic-sounding performance from the wild optional W8. But it was this car that really signaled VW was operating on a different plane; not only did they bring over the D1 platform Phaeton, but with it they brought the monstrous 6.0 W12.
While to many the Phaeton looked like a reskin of the D3 Audi A8 and indeed the two did share some componentry, the D1 platform was actually shared with VAG’s other subsidiary Bentley. Both the Continental GT and later Flying Spur shared the infrastructure, meaning the Phaeton enjoyed extreme levels of refinement, ride quality and fit/finish that weren’t typically associated with “the people’s car”. While all the luxury added up to north of 5,000 lbs without passengers and it lacked the twin turbochargers the Bentley boys got, the Phaeton W12 was still the fastest car in the VW showroom in 2004. With 420 horsepower driving all four wheels, the Phaeton was capable of effortless and nearly silent 5.5 second 0-60 runs and could break 200 mph unrestricted.
While it sounds great, there were two drawbacks. One was that to nearly everyone your Phaeton looked just like my Passat. And while a loaded W8 4 Motion Variant Passat was really, really expensive, you and your significant other could drive out of your local dealer with not one, but TWO fully loaded Passats for the price of just one W12 Phaeton. It’s no surprise that the U.S. market wasn’t ready for a $90,000 Volkswagen, and a scant 482 were sold here before the model was yanked. But today, that means you can get these market-busting models for pennies on the dollar:
I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice“.
In fact, it’s fairly common for lightning to strike the same place twice. Check out tall buildings, for example. Still, humans like to think that the odds of a rare event happening twice in a short amount of time are statistically very low. And, if I’m honest, I’m not immune to that belief. That brings us today’s Volkswagen. If this 1989 GTI 16V looks familiar, you’d be forgiven for thinking I just covered it. I, too, thought it was the same car I looked at back in February.
1989 Volkswagen GTI 16V
After all, what is the statistical probability of coming across another perfect condition, LY3D Tornado Red 1989 GTI 16V after seeing one just two months ago? Apparently it is quite good. Because while they look similar and both in impossibly good condition, February’s VIN was 1VWDC0179KV009402 while today’s is 1VWDC0176KV016260. The last one sold at $8,322 – frankly, quite a deal for what that car was. Today you’ve got a second chance if you missed out – but you’ll need to bring more money to the table…
Here’s another alternative air-cooled Volkswagen from Brazil. We saw the Brasilia recently – Volkswagen do Brasil’s answer to the Golf platform and intended to extend the life of the Beetle platform. Here was their attempt to modernize the Karmann Ghia – the infamous SP2.
‘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. But it was probably Volkswagen do Brasil’s own Karmann Ghia TC (Typ 145) that looked the most similar.
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:
Do you ever wonder ‘What if VW had decided to make the Golf platform develop from the Beetle rather than the Audi 50?‘
Me either. But it’s an interesting thought exercise, and what’s interesting is that we actually have an example of what could have been. That’s because Volkswagen do Brasil did produce a hatchback successor to the Beetle, and here it is – the Brasilia. The Brazilian branch of VW utilized a Karmann Ghia floor, a 1600 cc Beetle motor and borrowed the styling from the Type 4s to create a small 3- and 5-door hatchback.
It was reasonably successful, too – Volkswagen do Brasil reportedly sold somewhere north of 1,000,000 of them over a ten year production cycle from 1973-1982. They were sold primarily in Central and South America, never making it past the Rio Grande officially, but kits of the Brasilia were also sent to Africa. The Brasilia remains the only mass-produced air-cooled rival to the Beetle, amazingly. Today, an absolutely pristine example is up on eBay: