Buying guide – how to buy the best VW Scirocco. A stylish Seventies coupe that’s easy to run? Look no further. Words: Adam Towler. Photography: Tom Wood.
£3k VW Sirocco?
Read our top five tips first
► 1974 Model Year: Launched in Germany early in the year, it doesn’t hit the UK until November. British Scirocco is only available in 85hp TS form, with a 1471cc inline four-cylinder and four-speed manual or three-speed auto.
► 1976 Model Year: Revised 1588cc engine for TS in the UK, now with a single-arm windscreen wiper. Small reduction in turning circle. Reverse gear selection moved, as is the brake pedal.
► 1977 Model Year: TS becomes the GLS in the UK, with vinyl and cord seats, plus part-carpeted door cards. Plastic front spoiler added.
► 1978 Model Year: Restyle, with wraparound front indicators and plastic bumpers stretched to wheelarches. B-pillars now black.
► 1979 Model Year: Big news is the arrival, in right- hand-drive form, of the fuel-injected 110hp engine as used by the Golf GTI, and badged as GLI. Seatbelt anchor position changed and new cloth seats introduced. VW UK introduces the Storm model, based on the GLI, only available in Silver-Green or Black. It has a deeper front spoiler and larger wheels, while inside there are leather Recaro seats and a leather steering wheel.
► 1980 Model Year: All injected models receive a five- speed gearbox, and every model now has electronic ignition. The GLI becomes the GTI towards the end of the year.
► 1981 Model Year: The MkI dies in Europe at the end of the year, but lasts until late 1982 in the UK. A revised Storm model is launched, available either in brown or blue.
► Buying: Whatever the engine and badging, expect to pay £4500 for a concours MkI, while good cars can cost £3000. Expect to pay £600 to £1000 for restoration projects.
Ant Thomas: Rust Republic
Ant runs VW specialist operation Rust Republic, with the early water- cooled VWs its core business and Sciroccos a particular passion of his. Originally a collector of Sciroccos himself, Ant left his civil service career to start the firm as his involvement in the cars snowballed. He now offers servicing and restoration including mechanicals, bodywork and painting.
Sean Fleetwood: Scirocco Register
Sean is a key member in the running of the sciroccoregister.co.uk club, and is predictably a huge fan of Scirocco MkIs. The club is very active, with a useful forum and a new international Facebook page.
olkswagen introduced its pretty Golf-based coupe in 1974, some six months before the introduction of the mould-breaking Golf hatchback. It’s said this was to allow the crucial components of the new Golf an extended public test session, but the Karmann-built sports coupe gathered a faithful following of its own.
These mechanically simple coupes make a desirable classic buy; they’re cheap and easy to run, and entertaining to drive thanks to a low kerbweight and responsive engines. There’s little to spoil the experience, as long as you can find one that hasn’t rotted away.
Rust, rot, call it what I you will, but by far the biggest enemy I to the prospective Scirocco MkI buyer I is rusty panels and chassis. These cars suffer from an unfortunate combination of cheap steel and rot vulnerability in the basic design, and of course, they’re approaching, or have reached, their 40th birthday.
Our experts don’t mince their words. ‘The absolute key thing to look at is the body,’ says Ant Thomas of the aptly named Rust Republic. ‘MkIs really do rust - everywhere. On a slightly brighter note, panels for the bottom of the car - the platform, if you like - can still be sourced, because it’s pure Golf MkI.
The main thing to check is the mounting points for the rear trailing arms; it’s a vital spot,’ continues Ant, ‘and any rust here can be terminal or very expensive to fix. Then check the inner and outer sills - if the outer has gone the inner will have too - particularly if the drain holes have become blocked; lift the carpet and check if the inner wing is still attached to the floor. The front valance and slam panel can also rot, detaching it from the main body, and the wings go at the bottom leading edges, around the indicator, the bottom rear corner and along the top edge where it bolts to the inner wing. The bonnet can rust at the leading edge, too. Look around the engine bay, particularly where the front engine mount attaches to the front panel and around the suspension turrets, and check the bottom corners of the windscreen and in the rain tray below the scuttle panel.
‘Doors rot at the bottom of each side. To check, open them and examine the undersides where the metal is double-skinned and folded to house the rubber seal. Don’t forget the area around the rear side windows as well, and the rear wheelarches - these can go very badly, and you need to look at the inner arch to check it hasn’t spread. The boot floor is another common rot spot, as well as the spare wheel well, and the rear hatch isn’t immune either.
Finally, look at the lower rear corners where the quarters meet the rear panel, and their lower edge underneath. Even if the cars have been stored they will probably have rusted somewhere.’
It’s a sentiment that Sean Fleetwood, of the Scirocco Register, agrees with. ‘Check the fuel filler neck as well,’ he adds, ‘As these can rot out.’ This can result in water contaminating the fuel.
Finding interior trim pieces is very difficult. Rust is a menace with the Scirocco - make sure to check everywhere, because it doesn’t take much to make a project unworkable.
‘They’re cheap and easy to run, and entertaining to drive thanks to a low kerbweight and responsive engines’
2 Body panels
Our second point is closely related to the first, in that if you’re suffering from point number one you’re probably going to need some of number two, and your problems may well be about to increase ten-fold. The fundamental chassis of the Scirocco is Golf MkI, so finding these parts - floor sections, sills for example - is easy, but the rest of the panels are a problem. ‘Anything unique to the MkI is almost impossible to find,’ says Sean. ‘VW Heritage in the UK has the concession for VW classic parts in Germany, and it’s where most of us go now.’
‘Anything above the sill line is hard to find,’ says Ant. ‘Door bottoms, lower rear corners and rear wheelarches can be sourced from the aftermarket in Germany, but trying to find the later 1978-1981 wings is impossible. So we have to repair them instead, or we put a shout out on the forum; occasionally they do come up on eBay.’ Adds Sean, ‘There’s lots of fabrication needed on my restoration.’
Don’t dismiss lightly a worn or missing interior on a project car - the Scirocco’s internal appointments are as rare as its exterior panels. ‘Decent dashboards are very rare to find, and UV light over time makes them split,’ says Ant. ‘Door cards for early cars are also rare, but seats are not too bad: the materials are hard- wearing. The early tombstone-style seats with the tartan fabric are sought after.’
One ray of light, says Sean, is that the Scirocco Register sent a car to Newton Commercial, which replicated the carpets, insulation and soundproofing materials, so all of these are now available. Seat fabrics have yet to be reproduced; but even so, it’s an example of how active the Register is in keeping these cars on the road. Autoglass still stocks windscreens for the MkI.
4 Suspension and steering
As with any old car, worn or broken components in this area will have a huge effect on how well, or otherwise, your Scirocco drives.
The good news is that parts supply is strong so it shouldn’t be too hard to sort a tired car. Rusty springs and leaking dampers should be easy to spot and resolve, and hard, brittle MacPherson strut top mounts will make the suspension crash over bumps.
Rear top mounts rarely need replacing, but the car will benefit from new beam bushes, as these will have suffered if not replaced in the recent past. New parts or Polybush replacements are available, as are complete wishbones pre-bushed. Finally, steering rack mounting bushes can contribute to sloppy steering; but again, these are easily replaced. The rack itself is long-lasting, so may not be the cause.
5 General mechanicals
Engines and gearboxes are likely to be in better condition. ‘Gearboxes are hardy,’ says Ant, ‘but may be a bit noisy around the 120,000-mile mark.
‘The engine’s bottom end is bulletproof if looked after, but the cambelt should be changed every 40,000 miles and the valve stem oil seals can wear, which will make the car smoke on the overrun. The Solex carburettors fitted to earlier cars are pretty good but they often get replaced by Webers, and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system is also usually reliable, although leaks and worn items in the system can create hot-starting problems.’
Both Ant and Sean highlight the problem of the corroded fuel filler neck, which leads to the fuel system ingesting rust and dirt that then plays havoc, causing damage particularly to fuel-injected cars.
Overall, the ready parts supply and tough, fairly simple mechanicals of the Scirocco are a real cornerstone of its appeal. These are cars that can rack up significant mileages, are usually very reliable, and can be worked on by any owner with some basic mechanical knowledge.
MEET THE OWNERS
‘I thought it was just a small hole in the sill’
Mark bought his 1978 GLS from his brother in 1995, and used it as a 'daily' before rust took hold. 'I thought it was just a small hole in the sill, but it turned out to be much worse than that!' The restoration took 10 years, but in 2010 it was ready for his wedding. 'It's just rust that's the issue - I've put plastic wheelarch liners in mine from the later Golf MkI to keep them clean and protected.
‘I've got no problem with jumping in it and driving to Scotland - the mechanicals are tough and really easy to get hold of, but the wings are just so hard to find. It's responsive to drive - there are no computers between you and the car, and although people moan about the brakes, if you press them harder they're fine.
It is a bit noisy on the motorway - even though I have a five-speed gearbox fitted - but when I get home I always have a big smile on my face.’
Marshall really likes Sciroccos. After all, he has seven at the moment, and has probably owned 20. 'I like the Seventies styling; the boxy, wedge shape. I liked it the first time I saw it, and I've had one ever since.
'Just watch out for the rust,' he says. 'They all rust in the same places - they just rot away.'
Marshall has brought cars back from Germany. 'It's straightforward bringing cars back, and it’s a helpful, friendly community. We’re a niche between the air-cooled group and the GTIs. Insurance is cheap, tax is not very much, and the engines are bombproof.
’Wings and doors are very hard to find - we buy them when we see them. I’ve noticed that prices for cars seem to be going up. It used to be that a rusty car would go for a few hundred pounds, but they're a few thousand now, and rare parts have quadrupled in money recently.'
Tony has owned his 1980 GLS since 2010, having owned a Scirocco MkII for the last 20 years. 'I've liked them since I was 15,' he says 'and I've always wanted a MkI but it was a case of money and finding the right car. One came up for sale and it was just the right car. I've had a couple of problems with it but it has been fantastic: I did a 400-mile round trip in it over the weekend just past.
'The MkI is just a great car to drive, it really puts a smile on your face. People often point at it and give you a wave or a thumbs-up. If I pull into a service station people come over and ask about it.
‘It’s back to basics - you can feel everything through the steering and it’s a car you drive, rather than the car driving you. I probably average 35-40mpg and insurance cost me only £77 for the year.'
When Karmann went bust the body panel presses began to be destroyed, so nothing remains for the Sclrocco MkI
UK engine range less diverse than European market
There are two key modifications available to MkI Scirocco owners: improving the chassis rigidity and the braking system.
The former is wise, says Ant Thomas. The single most important modification is fitting a lower strut brace to connect the two wishbone mounting points together. It really sharpens the handling.'
As for the brakes, opinion is divided. Folklore suggests that Scirocco MkI and Golf MkI brakes are pretty awful, but both Ant and Sean maintain that if the system is in good working order then it's more than adequate by standards of the period.
However, you can fit the larger servo and master cylinder from the Golf GTI 16v MkIl or, if you can find them, the larger discs and calipers can be purloined from Audi coupes of the mid-Eighties.
The 280mm discs from the VW Corrado G60 will also fit, but you'll need to run 15-inch wheels with them. Golf 16v discs can also be fitted to replace the drums at the rear, with the only fabrication required being a holder for the flexi-hoses.
A Jetex-made stainless steel exhaust is another popular modification, but in recent years the market for Scirocco MkIs has moved away from massive engine conversions and more to restoration, preservation and originality.
SPECIFICATIONS 1974-1981 Volkswagen Scirocco MkI
Engine: 1471-1588cc, 8v, SOHC, inline 4-cylinder
Max Power 85-110bhp
Ma Torque 86-103lb ft
Transmission Four- or five-speed manual, three-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion
Suspension Front: MacPherson strut, coil spring, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
Rear: torsion beam, trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Front: discs (ventilated on fuel injected cars)
Top speed: 103-115mph;
Fuel consumption 26-33mpg
NEED TO KNOW
Body restoration: £4000+
Secondhand dashboard: £400
Seat retrim £300+
Engine rebuild: £1000+ for OEM parts
Gearbox rebuild: £500
Suspension refresh with new springs/dampers and bushes: £600+
Supply and fit of new front wing: £300
Who can help
Rust Republic: rustrepublic.co.uk,
C&R Enterprises (servicing and tuning): candrenterprises.co.uk, 0115 978 5740 VW Heritage (parts): vwheritage.com, 0843770 4596
The Phirm (servicing and tuning): thephirm. co.uk, 08454 505760