1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S hatchback coupe

I’ve liked the styling of the first-generation Scirocco since it was new. It was, of course, designed by one of the all-time masters.

“For the most discriminating and demanding sports car enthusiasts”

1981 was the final model year for the first-generation Scirocco, which was first available in North America in 1975. Though the Scirocco used the same platform as the Golf, it was actually released about six months before the Golf.

With its basic form penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro—who seemed to have a hand in nearly every 1970s Volkswagen design—the Scirocco debuted at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. Like the Karmann Ghia that it putatively replaced, the Scirocco was assembled by Karmann.

Classified as sub-compact by the EPA, the Scirocco was not a large car—its 155.7-inch length is more than a foot shorter than the 2022 Golf GTI. For 1981, the configuration of the Scirocco sold in North America moved to a slightly large 1.7 liter engine, transitioned the standard transmission from a four-speed manual to a five-speed manual, and offered a new Scirocco S package.

The Scirocco’s standard powertrain was the EA827 74 bhp 1.7 liter/105 ci inline four with fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual. A three-speed automatic was optional. With a curb weight of 1,892 pounds, 0-60 came in a little over 12 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 25 city/40 highway by the day’s standards. With a 10.6-gallon gas tank, a Scirocco owner could expect a range of 280 to 310 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Scirocco S pages from the 1981 brochure

Standard mechanical features on the $8,495 Scirocco (about $27,800 in today’s dollars) included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70SR13 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, a tachometer, a trip odometer, and front bucket seats were standard.

A new package for 1981 was the S, which included black trim, a red VW radiator badge and belt-line moulding, a larger front spoiler, light alloy wheels, and specially designed striped cloth sport seats. The S package was available in three of the eight standard Scirocco colors and cost $520.

Options for the Scirocco were few—a sunroof, a rear window wiper/washer, the aforementioned three-speed automatic transmission, and air conditioning.

The View From 2021

First-generation Sciroccos attract collector interest, and there is club support. They are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, on eBay Motors, and at online auctions such as Bring a Trailer that cater to the eighties car market.

Make mine Cirrus Gray Metallic, please.

Other Volkswagens I have written about include the 1983 Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe and the 1985 Cabriolet.

1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet

“Once again Volkswagen brings a breath of fresh air to the automotive world.”

For 1985, the Volkswagen changed the name of its Rabbit-based convertible in the United States from Rabbit Convertible to Cabriolet. One reason for the Cabriolet rename was likely its base price—at $11,595 (about $28,400 in today’s dollars) around 66% higher than the Golf hatchback coupe’s base price. Another driver was that the Cabriolet retained the Mk1 Rabbit as it’s basis, instead of joining the Mk2 hatchback coupes and sedans, new for 1985 in the United States. All Cabriolets were built by Karmann Coachworks, with most components supplied by Volkswagen—and all had a Karmann badge placed forward of both doors.

The Cabriolet’s standard powertrain was the JH 95 bhp 1.8 liter/109 ci inline four with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission was available. 0-60 times with the five-speed were in the 12 to 13 second range in the approximately 2,275-pound Cabriolet.

Volkswagen’s Cabriolet brochure boasted that it was “perhaps the most efficient way to drive from one place to another with the wind in your hair.” This statement was likely correct in 1985; with the five-speed manual, fuel economy ratings by mid-eighties standards were 24 city/29 highway (21/26 by 2020 standards). With a 13.8-gallon fuel tank, a Cabriolet owner could expect a range of between 290 and 330 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet brochure cover
1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet brochure cover

Standard exterior equipment for the Cabriolet included an insulated three-layer convertible top with a heated glass rear window, a boot for the top, tinted glass, and remote-controlled mirrors. Mechanical equipment included front-wheel-drive, a sport suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, power vented front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70SR13 tires (a size still readily available) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats, full instrumentation, and an electronic AM/FM stereo cassette with four speakers were included.

Options were relatively few: metallic paint, white sidewall tires, 13-inch light-alloy wheels, power steering, cruise control, air conditioning, and cloth sports seats. The Triple White Bestseller package included Alpine White paint, a white convertible top, and white seats. Later in the model year, the usual Wolfsburg Edition promotion was available, with 14-inch alloy wheels, leather sports seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The mid-priced four-seat convertible market for 1985—all in the $10,500 to $13,500 range—was suddenly rather crowded. In addition to the Volkswagen, potential convertible buyers could choose from the AMC Renault Alliance, the Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunbird J-cars, the Chrysler LeBaron/Dodge 600 K-cars, the Ford Mustang/Mercury Capri Fox-bodies, and the Toyota Celica. Despite this various and varied competition, Volkswagen sold an impressive 12,637 Cabriolets in 1985.

There is definite collector interest in the Cabriolets, and there’s also a lot of information on Cabby Info. Cabriolets frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this post, there’s an Alpine White 1987 Cabriolet with a white top, white bucket seats, a five-speed manual, and 94,000 miles for sale on Hemmings, for $6,995 firm.

Make mine Flash Silver Metallic, please.

Another Volkswagen I have written about is the 1983 Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe. I’ll have to get to the Jetta, the Scirocco, and the Vanagon at some point.

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had established it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3-inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it about a foot shorter than a 2019 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter/109 ci inline four with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection—an engine VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918-pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/36 highway (21/26 by today’s standards); a 10-gallon fuel tank gave a 210 to 280-mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $20,500 in 2018 dollars—well under what a 2019 Golf GTI S goes for) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires (a size still readily available) mounted on 14 x 6 inch “Snowflake” alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning (dealer installed), a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

The 1983 Rabbit GTI got good reviews (Car and Driver included it in their first 10Best) and sold well—Volkswagon built about 30,000 copies over two years at their Westmoreland County, PA plant. First-generation GTIs certainly have a following, but many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1/Concours condition is $18,200, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,000. Values are also up notably; that perfect #1 car was only $10,700 five years ago. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this blog entry in December 2018.

Make mine Black, please.

Updated in December 2018.