By late 1981, my 1977 VW Rabbit, which I had purchased new in September of 1977, had been driven well over 100,000 miles. Although the car still ran well, and had never let me down during four years of ownership, it was starting to show its age.
Most disconcerting were the rust bubbles forming at the base of the windshield pillars. The upholstery was starting to wear, and oil consumption was rising. It was around this time that I began to think about a replacement vehicle, and another new Volkswagen was at the top of the list. The Scirocco had always been appealing, but the 1st generation car was tight inside, especially in the all-important hatchback area. The ability to carry my drum set was a top priority. Sometime in 1981 I learned that the Scirocco would be restyled for the 1982 model year.
In December 1981 I visited Douglas VW in Summit NJ, which was about a mile from the Volvo dealer where I was employed. They had the new Scirocco on the showroom floor, and I was smitten. Admittedly, the exterior styling was a letdown compared to the previous version, but the interior more than compensated for this. The dash, sport seats, upholstery, and ample trunk space were all factors in its favor.
Then I looked at the Monroney label. This new car stickered for over $10,000. It seemed like yesterday that I paid $3,599 for the Rabbit! The sticker shock was the result of rampant inflation, as well as a long list of standard and optional equipment which was not on the Rabbit: factory air, AM/FM/cassette radio, alloy wheels, rear wiper, and metallic paint. The Scirocco was a 5-speed, while the Rabbit made do with four, so I also expected fuel mileage to be a tick better.
After test driving the vehicle, I selected a car in stock with silver paint and a red plaid cloth interior. The Rabbit was sold for $1,000 to one of the techs at the Volvo dealership. My car insurance at the time was with Allstate, and they had sent me blurbs that they financed new car purchases, so I “conveniently” (and blindly) arranged a car loan with them.
Shock #2: the interest on the loan was 18%! Yes, I was in the car business; no, I was not savvy in the ways of new car purchases. Nevertheless, I wanted this car badly, so I plowed ahead and made the monthly payments.
Compared to the Rabbit, there was much to like. As mentioned above, the interior was especially plush. The sport seats fit me wonderfully. This car, lower than the Rabbit, handled better. I had A/C for the first time since the 1966 Buick. However, several design features did not put VW in the best light, and it took driving in the elements to discover this.
First, the front wiper. Yes, singular. The ’82 Scirocco had a single wiper, likely as a styling statement. It looked cool, but didn’t work well. As is the standard for left-hand-drive cars, the wiper parked on the passenger side, and wiped up and toward the left side of the car. The single blade’s tip would reach the middle of the left A-pillar, and would leave two large triangles unwiped in the driver’s line of sight. Several model years later, VW went back to two front wipers on the Scirocco. (Mercedes-Benz would solve this problem with an articulating wiper.)
The other issue was the standard rear spoiler, which sat several inches above the lower edge of the hatch glass. In the winter, this spoiler served as a catch for snow. Although the car had a rear wiper, it couldn’t remove the snow that piled up on the spoiler. If I were driving while it was snowing, the backlite would eventually become covered. My solution was to unbolt the rear spoiler for winter driving.
Other than these issues, this VW was as reliable as the first one. By 1986, there were over 100,000 miles on it, and I was ready for a replacement, but wanted to save money by buying something used this time. The Scirocco was advertised locally and sold to a young woman. I could not have known that it would be twenty years before I would again step into a new car dealership and purchase or lease a brand new car.
All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.