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VW Junkyard Gem – 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

Volkswagen’s decision to finally mass-produce water-cooled cars came after decades of delay, exacerbated by the high cost of Sparkarte payouts and Tatra lawsuits stemming from the Type 1 Beetle’s origins. The first water-cooled VW to roll off the assembly line was the 1973 Passat, known as the Dasher in the US.
The first-generation Golf, also known as the Rabbit, was released the following year. Alongside it came a sporty Giugiaro-styled derivative called the Scirocco. I recently found one of these cars in a self-service yard in Denver.

The Scirocco faced stiff competition in 1979 from Japanese sporty coupes like the Datsun 310GX and Honda Prelude. It was also up against the 128 Sport Hatchback and Brava two-door from Fiat. American Motors offered an AMX-ized version of the Spirit which was cheaper and had more features.

This one has some rust damage in the usual spots, as well as being generally beat up.

This JVC cassette deck dates back to the middle of the 1980s, so it is possible that the car has not been operational since Reagan was in the White House.

The interior is crammed with what looks like years of rodent droppings, no doubt teeming with hantavirus. I’ve seen worse, though— a lot worse.

This car’s 1,457cc straight-four had a 71-horsepower rating in 1979. That wasn’t so bad for a car that didn’t quite weigh 2,000 pounds.

The RON octane rating on the German-language fuel-rating sticker is a nice Continental touch, though it probably convinced many American Scirocco owners to use premium gas when they didn’t need to (91 RON is about the same as our 87 octane).

You could get this car with an automatic transmission, but that would have added $125 to the purchase price (about $530 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars). This one has the base four-on-the-floor manual, which is less expensive.

Back in the early 1980s, cartoonist Robert Armstrong showed how The Man would brainwash Mickey Rat into being a productive member of society by giving the once-rebellious rodent a Scirocco. I was suspicious of the Scirocco since I was in high school and this has stuck with me.