Vintage Views: Volkswagen Scirocco

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Nov 15, 2021 | Volkswagen, Scirocco | Posted in Buyer's Guides | From the Feb. 2018 issue | Never miss an article

Sporty versions of common Volkswagens aren’t anything new. Half a century ago, the Karmann Ghia delivered sleek lines atop the Beetle floorpan. More recently, the Audi TT has presented the Volkswagen Golf’s underpinnings in fancy dress.

Between 1974 and 1992, that task went to the Scirocco. It might have been a pedestrian-looking Rabbit inside, but the Scirocco offered low-cut styling to the masses.

That Giugiaro bodywork went to the track, too. An advertising campaign referred to the Scirocco as “the racing Volkswagen,” and that was more than just marketing-speak. Volkswagen and the SCCA introduced the Scirocco/Bilstein Cup for 1976. This professional spec series ran for two years, replaced by a similar program for Rabbits in 1978.

Volkswagen also took the Scirocco Trans Am racing, fielding a pair of cars in the series’ small-bore class during the 1976 season. One car was driven by Bill Scott, the 1970 Formula Vee world champ and, later, the owner of Summit Point Raceway. Longtime pro Milt Minter drove the other one, capturing the manufacturers championship for Volkswagen.

Underneath, yes, the Scirocco was standard Rabbit stuff–or, if you were overseas, standard Golf stuff. That meant struts up front with a twist beam rear axle. It sounds primitive by today’s standards, but it was good enough at the time.

Volkswagen introduced the Scirocco to Europe for 1974, just before the release of the Golf. The sporty VW came stateside starting with the 1975 model year. Those first-year cars made do with just a 1.5-liter inline-four. Volkswagen bumped displacement to 1.6 liters the following year, with engine size fluctuating between 1.5 and 1.7 liters through 1981.

The big news came for 1982 with updated, more angular bodywork. Square headlamps replaced the round ones. Horsepower still didn’t top 100, but that would finally change partway through 1986, when the lineup was expanded to include a 16-valve model. In addition to the 123-horsepower engine, the Scirocco 16V also received Recaro seats, fender flares, an aero kit, bigger brakes, a tighter suspension and those iconic teardrop alloy wheels. Only a five-speed transmission was offered along with the 16-valve engine. The Scirocco left American dealership after the 1988 model year.

The model’s appeal is compromise, says automotive media darling Jason Cammisa, himself a Scirocco owner for 20 years. “The Scirocco’s mechanical identical-twin Golf is a practical, upright hatchback made for daily use,” he adds. “If you throw caution to the wind and turn the gain up on the design/appeal/sexiness fader, you wind up with a Scirocco.”

Practical Guidance

Collin Gyenes has been with Volkswagen prep house Techtonics Tuning since 1982 and offers some helpful advice.

Look out for leaking front windshields. They leak on the fuse box and also get the carpet wet, causing the floors to rust. Front windshields and body parts are very hard to find.

Parts for the CIS fuel injection are also becoming hard to get. The pin in the CIS fuel distributor gets stuck from bad gas. It can be hard to free up.

First thing you should do when you get it home is check coolant hoses, brake hoses, brakes and free play in the clutch cable–a tight clutch cable can ruin the crankshaft thrust washers.

You’ll also want to check history on the timing belt–especially for the 16-valve-engine cars–and the right-side engine mount.

Difficult cold starts and rough cold running can be caused by a clogged or failing warm-up regulator. Sometimes they can be cleaned out with compressed air.

The 8-valve Scirocco engines had solid lifters, so the Euro GTI G-grind cam would be a great first mod for those cars. For the 16-valve engine, a Euro cam set is a good bang-for-your-buck upgrade. Both 8-valve and 16-valve engines benefit from a performance exhaust.

The 1980–’81 1.6-liter California Volkswagens and 1.7-liter Sciroccos had only 60mm airflow meters. Upgrading to an 80mm airflow meter from a 1.8-liter engine is a great low-cost upgrade.

For the 1979 and older cars, upgrading the brakes to the Kelsey Hayes calipers and 9.4-inch vented rotors and pads from the Mk1 GTI is a nice touch. The Kelsey Hayes calipers’ brake pad area is almost double the early pads. Also, another great brake upgrade is the 10.1-inch front brakes from the 16-valve Scirocco.

Early Sciroccos with 1.5- and 1.7-liter engines can easily be upgraded to 8-valve, 1.8-liter engines, 16-valve Scirocco engines, or even the 1.8T engine.

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View comments on the GRM forums
markwemple UberDork
12/19/17 11:41 a.m.

Love the early Scirocco S!

jimbbski Dork
12/19/17 11:48 a.m.

I do have to say that I do like the Mk 1 model better then the Mk II and I have owned and raced a 1988 16V Mk II for the past 11 years.

My nephew bought a non-running Mk I with a Callaway turbo kit installed. I helped him  get that on the road and it turned out to be quite quick.

Since my nephew was young at the time his attention level for cars was short. Once they gave him problems he always seemed to move on to another car rather then fix what was wrong.

Other than the body parts any mechanical part is easy and cheap to buy.


Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/19/17 11:49 a.m.

I love these......ever since my Dad brought home one new in 1978.  I had one after college, and still miss it.   One day I'll  have another....... just like this one!  


93EXCivic MegaDork
12/19/17 11:51 a.m.

I loved autocrossing the Scirocco I started in. It was a hoot.

crankwalk GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/20/17 11:58 p.m.

“More recently, the Audi TT has presented the Volkswagen Golf’s underpinnings in fancy dress.”

Really? I remember when Audi TT’s came out and you could get them in AWD but not a Golf. Is the new TT like a Golf R 2 door now?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/21/17 9:04 a.m.
crankwalk said:

“More recently, the Audi TT has presented the Volkswagen Golf’s underpinnings in fancy dress.”

Really? I remember when Audi TT’s came out and you could get them in AWD but not a Golf. Is the new TT like a Golf R 2 door now?

Yes, the Golf and the TT share a common platform----- just as the Rabbit and  Scirocco did back in the 70's------ and the Karmann Ghia and the Bug did in the 60s.  

oldeskewltoy UltraDork
12/21/17 10:18 a.m.

I wrenched on these when they were new.  Carburetor models are pretty crappy, CIS models far better...   Had to be careful with fusebox - had a recall for leaking antenna, and a plug in the fusebox...  also had a recall for valve seals.   Very light, and nimble... fun little cars

TexSquirrel New Reader
1/8/18 3:34 p.m.

I used to race these(both Mk1 & Mk2) back in the late 80s and into the mid 90s.

I loved racing them!


aw614 Reader
10/3/19 8:23 a.m.

I grew up remembering the mk2 more than the mk1, but really want a mk1 eventually. Always felt the mk2 was ruined by the US bumpers.

Hmm Im curious if there have been any 07k swaps in a scirocco or rabbit...

klipless Reader
10/3/19 9:14 a.m.

And if you act quick, there's a nice looking track-prepped one listed on BaT that ends today (NMNA). It was even driven by Alexander Rossi.

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela GRM+ Memberand Digital Editor
10/3/19 10:20 a.m.

In reply to klipless :

Nice catch!

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/3/19 12:55 p.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin :

I would co-drive a car almost exactly like that in Autocross. It was a lot of fun. 



iceracer UltimaDork
10/3/19 1:35 p.m.

In reply to oldeskewltoy :

My introduction to the Scirocco was at a school held by VWoA.    This covered the Rabbit.

Yes the carburetor models were sad.   There was a major recall that covered a bunch of things, not just the carb.

I had to attend a school on it.

NGTD UberDork
10/3/19 4:22 p.m.

This occupied my garage one winter. It was a friend's and I was storing/working on it. I co-drove in it the following summer.


Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
10/7/19 8:14 a.m.

The Scirocco was one of the 'realistic' wants when I was 15 and hoping to get a car when I got my license. Still love the styling of them...

preach (fs)
preach (fs) GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/11/21 12:26 p.m.

Oooo, the staff is canoeing!  j/k Dave.


Back in the early 90s I hade a one-wiper 1982. I thought is was awesome. Then I put a 16v GLI motor in it. Awesome.

Sadly I traded it about a month later for a 1974 Jeep CJ5.

amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter)
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
9/11/21 3:33 p.m.

I had a mk1 and 2. Cool cars at the time but needy. There was something that needed attention regularly. 

chandler UltimaDork
9/11/21 8:47 p.m.

This callaway was a beast, when it ran. The wheels were from a biturbo spyder and it had a full Zender kit.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/11/21 8:54 p.m.

I miss these cars. 

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/12/21 9:50 a.m.

My latest waiting for the next autocross.

2.0 16v, ST coilovers, camber plates, poly bushed front and rear, braided stainless brake lines, no bumpers, no door cards, sunroof assembly completely removed. Future plans include roll cage and kirkey seat with harnesses for track day fun.

rattfink81 Reader
9/13/21 2:17 a.m.

I had a 83 with the single front windshield wiper. I loved the look and driving but the lack of headroom really sucked. I'd still own another one but I prefer the rabbits for a actually driving around on a daily basis.

rattfink81 Reader
9/13/21 2:19 a.m.

OHSCrifle GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/13/21 4:11 a.m.

current generation. Saw a few in Portugal this week. 

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