Junkyard Gem: 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

When Volkswagen — after decades of delay exacerbated by the huge expense of the Sparkarte payouts and Tatra lawsuits arising from the Type 1 Beetle’s origins — finally began mass-producing water-cooled cars, the 1973 Passat (known as the Dasher on our shores

) was the first to roll off the assembly line. The brand-new Golf aka Rabbit appeared the following year, and alongside it came a sporty Giugiaro-styled derivative. That car was the Scirocco, and I’ve found one of those first-generation machines in a Denver-area self-service yard.

By 1979, the Scirocco had to compete against such sporty Japanese coupes as the Datsun 310GX

and Honda Prelude, not to mention the 128 Sport Hatchback and even the Brava two-door from Fiat. American Motors even offered an AMX-ized version of the Spirit, which beat the Scirocco on price and came with a high-torque straight-six engine. Still, the Scirocco sold well enough here around that time.

This one suffers from some rust damage in the usual spots, in addition to being generally beat up.

This JVC cassette deck dates back to the middle 1980s, so it’s possible that this car has been nonoperational since Reagan was in the White House.

The interior is loaded with what looks like decades of rodent detritus, no doubt laden with hantavirus. I’ve seen worse, though— lot worse.

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

The German-language fuel-rating sticker is a nice Continental touch, though the RON octane rating 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 added 125 bucks to the purchase price (about $530 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars). This one has the base four-on-the-floor manual


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

You people know how to live!