Saving the best for last: Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

The basic bones of the Volkswagen Scirocco were over a decade old by the time of the 16-valve version, but the 16V was definitely a case of saving the best for last. The fastest factor A1 platform VW of all, it was a serious upgrade from the existing 8-Valve version it joined in the showroom.

The 16V gave the Scirocco 30% more power and slightly revised looks with it’s monochrome body kit. It also telegraphed many pieces of equipment that would later be swapped into other A1 VWs – the 1.8L 16V engine most of all but also larger brakes and other pieces. At the time, however, it was a way of extending the life of an aging design.

The Mk2 Scirocco was styled in-house under the direction of Herbert Schäfer; a project which began as far back as 1976. The original Scirocco, styled by Giugiaro at ItalDesign, was only about two years old at that time, but its styling had been mostly completed in 1971.

Getting the A1 cars (EA398 Scircco and EA400 Golf/Rabbit) into production had been a Herculean task, with the Scirocco debuting first, at Geneva in the spring of 1974. The original Scirocco had all the virtues of the A1 platform – it was light, nimble, and a joy to drive; though it wasn’t very powerful – particularly in the U.S. where emissions controls prevented selling some of the higher-spec engines.

Replacing the Original

The Mk2 took shape in 1977 and smoothed out the looks of the car, also making it slightly larger and more capacious inside. ItalDesign also presented a follow-up car, but VW chose Schäfer’s in-house design. The Mk2 debuted at Geneva in 1981, arriving in the U.S. months later as an ‘82 model.

Underneath, there wasn’t that much new about the Mk2 – there was no need to re-engineer a great chassis or a good engine family, but coupes are about being stylish and the new car looked more contemporary for 1981/82.

As before, American versions were slower. In Europe, VW offered a 1.6L 112-hp GTi, but the fastest U.S. model was the 1.7L 90-hp Wolfsburg intro’d in 1983. In 1984, this engine became standard in the U.S. and remained so until 1987.

Sweet Sixteen

In the face of newer and faster competition, VW finally offered a seriously fast Scirocco in mid-1986 – the 16V. At the heart of the new car was a 4-valve-per-cylinder, 1.8L version of VW’s proven EA827 engine family. It now offered 123-hp in U.S. form.

16V heads, new to production cars in the ‘70s, became much more common in the late 80s. Their freer breathing and better burn wrung more power out of many older engine designs with no sacrifice in MPG.

The 16V was not just an engine upgrade, however. It also got a body kit (introduced in Europe in 1984) and upgraded 10.1” discs up front and 8.9” discs in the back, as well as some other minor tweaks.

Considerably faster than the 8-valver, the 16V briefly revitalized U.S. interest in the Scirocco and prepared the ground for what VW envisioned would be the Scirocco’s replacement – the more upmarket Corrado then in development. “Interest,” however, did not translate into sales. Mk2 sales peaked in 1984 in the U.S. at about 17,000 units.

In 1988, only the 16V model was offered in the United States, but there were still a few left over in 1989 despite VW officially dropping it from the lineup at the end of ‘88. Those who did try it were rewarded with a pretty quick car for the time – for a non-Turbo, the 16V would do 0-60 in just under eight seconds.

Though partially supplanted by the Corrado, the Mk2 continued into 1992 in European markets.

This particular Scirocco belongs to Jason Camissa, who’s owned it now for 23 years.

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