Cars Of A Lifetime: 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco – Fahrvergnügen

When I was nine or ten years old, I was a great admirer of foreign cars. My friend Dan and I would be on a constant look out for the newest or coolest offerings from Mercedes, BMW, and especially VW. We had heard about the Scirocco but had never actually seen one. So when we spotted one in a parking lot one day we had to stop and gaze at it in sheer awe. I told Dan that someday when I grew up I would get one.  “No way, those have got to be super expensive” he said. Did I let that deter me? Yes, yes I did.

Flash forward 15 or so odd years; reality had set in, I now knew that the Sirocco was merely a tarted up Rabbit. But I also knew it was cheap, and as you may know dear readers, I am one cheap guy. So when I saw one sitting in front of my friend’s VW junkyard for sale, I knew it would be mine.

It had been given to him as scrap, but had no major problems! And with a price tag of four hundred bucks, who could say no? Certainly not I! It was maroon-ish (actually “Brazil Brown Metallic”), had a sunroof (crotch wetter), and the typical alloy wheels, and did I mention it was $400?! After I got it, I was amazed at the power it had. It was certainly faster than my ’78 Rabbit, but to this day I can not say why, since it was basically the same (1.6 liter 4 cyl. engine, Bosch K Jetronic fuel injection,5 speed manual transmission) underneath the skin.

The only photo of my actual Scirocco

Of course, I immediately set about making modifications to the suspension and drive-train. Firstly adding a lower front strut bar, then a back strut bar to increase the torsional rigidity of the chassis. Next, I put on a bigger throttle body, lightened the fuel/air regulator plate spring, and added an engine oil cooler. After that, it was lots of little tweaks, but of course since I am so cheap I never did much that would cost much. So alas, no VR6 swap, no supercharger, or cross-flow cylinder head even. But it really did go like a winged mammal rapidly exiting Hades.

So what did I do with it? Race the fahrvergnügen out of it, what else? In fact I liked driving it so much that early one Sunday morning I just started driving South. I ended up in Sisters, OR, where I immediately turned around and drove back to Salem. I averaged over 80 mph that trip! How could I do that you ask? fahrvergnügen. Why would I do that? fahr…... Wasn’t that terribly irresponsible driving? Yes it was, and I would not repeat such a stupid thing today. But then I probably haven’t had as much fahrvergnügen since.

I had some pantsverscheissen too. Spin-outs, and three and two wheel experiments. I vividly recall one memorable incident. Rounding a 90 degree, 25mph corner at about 60mph. I was showing off as usual and came into the corner too fast. By the time I realized that fact it was far to late. As we started to plow straight toward the curb, àl a front wheel drive, I looked over and saw my friend in the passenger seat. He was holding onto the dash with white knuckles, and his face was the color of Alaska in December. I knew I was going to strike the curb but decided to try and power out anyways, what else could I do?

I pointed the front wheels the direction I wanted to go and pinned the gas pedal to the floor. To our shock we missed the curb, by maybe an inch. The tail swung around and kissed the curb and then swung back; I counter steered, pedal still floored, and we came out straght and alive. We exchanged looks of surprise and relief and my friend exclaimed to my surprise that I was the only person in the world he would trust to drive like that. So of course I let him think it was all part of the plan. He is a very trusting sort.

One problem I experienced most severely in that car was the red sports car syndrome (even though it was “Brazil Brown Metallic”). Thanks to Giorgetto Giugiaro It just looked fast, so even when driving down the street, obeying all traffic laws, and minding my own business ( it did occasionally happen!), any cop even remotely within view would immediately get behind me and start looking for a reason to pull me over. “I didn’t see you signal back there”, “your license plate light looks pretty dim”, etc. I got pretty tired of it and eventually just started parking or “low speed eluding” whenever I could. But I plead guilty when I was, such as the $300 ticket for going 80mph in a 45mph zone.

At one point I bought an 80’s BMW 318i thinking that it would be a step up from the Sirocco.  It was not, in comparison it felt like a 1977 Chrysler Cordoba. The handling was much squishier, the engine had less pep, and the interior was also mush squishier.  I sold it immediately to an Irish fellow who thought it would be a big upgrade for him from his Carolla.

During the time we had this car, we also had my first son. The Sirocco was my prime mover then so it was the car we buckled him into when we left the hospital. I remember thinking one thing, I have got to change my driving habits completely! And so I did, the Sirocco was the last car I got a speeding ticket in.

I drove that car until it began to smoke like a Siberian chimney and then I traded it straight across for a rusty 1968 International Scout. I still love that Scirocco, but I have no use for such a machine, nor for that matter did I then, nor does anyone really, but that was never the point of the Sirocco was it?