Bought new: The 1982 VW Scirocco

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.

My attempt at an artsy Scirocco shot.
My attempt at an artsy Scirocco shot.

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.

The all-important sales order; seems cheap now, but not in 1981.
The all-important sales order; seems cheap now, but not in 1981.

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.

It's not clean, but I was on a road trip.
It’s not clean, but I was on a road trip.

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.

That's me on the left, visiting college roommate Eric, Summer '84.
That’s me on the left, visiting college roommate Eric, summer ’84. Beards were in.

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.)

Another artistic angle, this time with fall foliage.
Another artistic angle, this time with fall foliage.

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.

My excuse is, the photographer asked me to pose like this.
My excuse is, the photographer asked me to pose like this.

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.

Dad’s 1957 Volkswagen Beetle

Difficult as it may be to believe, but there was a time when most American families had only one car. In the years immediately after World War II, as America became prosperous again, plenty of new cars were being manufactured and sold, and roadways were being built to drive these cars to and from the expanding suburbs. Yet the “traditional” family model remained: dad worked, mom stayed home to take care of house and children, and one automobile sufficed. This was reality for many baby boomers growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was no different for me.

In my family, by the late 1960s, all three children were in school, which was close enough for us to walk. Mom had started to work part-time in the evenings, and Dad was steadily employed in Manhattan, commuting via bus, ferry, and subway. While the Corvair did the job as the family carry-all, my father decided that he could afford a second vehicle. Did we need another set of wheels? Not really. Certainly because he always liked small cars, and possibly because he had been born in Germany, he got a Volkswagen, a 1957 Beetle sedan.

The 1957 VW. Note the antenna, hub caps, and whitewalls.
The 1957 VW. Note the antenna, hub caps, and whitewalls.

As the resident car nut, I loved the idea of another car. There was also the pride I felt in an ability to distinguish one year VW from the next. At a time when we were still used to sweeping styling changes every year from the American car makers, Volkswagen actually bragged that they did not subscribe to annual redesigns. So for most drivers, all these Beetles looked alike. Yet I knew my father’s car was older. The one-piece oval rear window and tiny tail lights were all dead giveaways, and no prompting was needed for me to point these things out to anyone within earshot.

It was a treat to go for rides. I enjoyed watching my dad work the shifter and clutch, although I had no interest in trying to understand the mechanics behind such maneuvers. The VW had no heater, so winter rides were always accompanied by the warning to “bring a blanket”. It didn’t stop me from wanting to go.

The '57 Beetle from the rear. Note the blue & gold NY plates. Both photos taken in our backyard on Staten Island.
The Beetle from the rear. Note the blue & gold NY plates. Both photos taken in our backyard on Staten Island.

Alas, after almost exactly a year, Dad sold the VW. He never said why. Perhaps his practical side woke up to the realization that we really did not need two cars, at least not yet. For years afterward, my father continued to brag about that Beetle, repeating the line that he “bought it for $275, and sold it for $275”.

Pretty good deal. Wish I had it today.

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.