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Junkyard Gem: 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco


When Volkswagen — after decades of delays exacerbated by the hefty costs of Sparkarte Tatra payments and lawsuits stemming from the origins of the Type 1 Beetle—eventually starting to mass-produce water-cooled cars, the 1973 Passat (known as the Dasher on our shores) was the first to roll off the assembly line. The Golf aka Rabbit only appeared the following year, and alongside it came a sporty Giugiaro-style derivative. The car was a Scirocco, and I had found one of those first-generation engines in a supermarket in the Denver area.

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In 1979, the Scirocco had to compete with sporty Japanese coupes like the Datsun 310GX and Honda Prelude, not to mention the 128 Sport Hatchback and even the two-door Brava from Fiat. American Motors even offers an AMX version of the Spirit, which beats the price of the Scirocco and comes with a high-torque straight-six engine. However, Scirocco was quite in demand here at the time.

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This one suffered some rust damage in the usual places, apart from being generally beaten.

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This JVC cassette deck is from the mid-1980s, so it’s possible this car hasn’t been in service since Reagan was in the White House.

The interior is filled with what looks like decades of rodent detritus, no doubt laden with hantaviruses. I’ve seen worse, though— a many worse.

The 1,457cc straight four engine in this car was rated at 71-horsepower in 1979, which isn’t too bad for a car that doesn’t quite weigh 2,000 pounds.

The German fuel rating sticker is a nice Continental touch, although the RON octane rating may convince many American Scirocco owners to use premium gas when they don’t have to (the 91 RON is about the same as our 87 octane).

You can get this car with an automatic transmission, but that adds $125 to the purchase price (about $530 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars). This one has a four-story basic manual.

Back in the early 1980s, when brilliant cartoonist Robert Armstrong wanted to show how The Man would brainwash Mickey Rat into becoming a productive member of society, he gave the once rebellious rodent Scirocco. This has stuck with me since I was in high school, so I remain suspicious of Scirocco.

You people know how to live!

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