Just as usable as a VW Golf, but more stylish and cheaper, the Scirocco has a low profile – which is completely undeserved
• Project £400-600 • Good £1700-2250 • Concours £3800-4500 •
• Most expensive at auction: £4950 (1.8-litre 8V)
Running costs ★★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★★
When the original Volkswagen Scirocco burst onto the scene in 1974, it was instantly admired for its svelte Giugiaro-penned lines. This Golf-derived Karmann-built coupé effectively replaced the Beetle-based Karmann Ghia and looked as though it came from another age – which of course it did.
By the time a heavily revised Scirocco appeared almost a decade later it was overdue. A more refined, better packaged car was desperately needed and the Mk2 Scirocco didn’t disappoint.
Disappointingly, since the Scirocco Mk2’s demise it’s started to fade into obscurity. While it enjoys a cult following in certain circles, the German coupé has a lower profile than many more established classics and as a result the Scirocco remains resolutely affordable.
Your AutoClassics Volkswagen Scirocco inspection checklist
UK buyers could choose from 1457cc, 1588cc (then 1595cc) or 1781cc engines, while European buyers also got a 1272cc option. UK engines are all part of the same VW ‘big-block’ family (as fitted to the Golf and Jetta) so they’re interchangeable with each other, although the ancillaries vary between units. Few 1.5 cars are left, while 1.6s are outnumbered by 1.8-litre cars.
These engines are tough, but after 100,000 miles or so the valve guides wear, leading to oil being burned, necessitating a rebuilt head. Injected cars can suffer from an inability to idle properly, because of an air leak in the rubber intake boot, which thanks to constant exposure to heat can perish and crack.
The oil pump on 8-valve engines is weak so it’s worth replacing it every 100,000 miles as a precaution; the rare 16-valver features a much stronger pump. The cambelt should have been replaced within the last 25,000 miles, so replace it as a matter of course if you’re not sure.
Automatic Sciroccos are rare. Most survivors have a four or five-speed manual transmission; in the case of the latter there were two versions available including a ‘4+E’ item with an overdrive top gear for better economy.
All these gearboxes are tough, but eventually second-gear synchro wears out, so check there's no crunch into second, especially when cold. The rings don’t deteriorate once the wear starts so some owners just live with it, helped by the fact that once warm things improve. All of the various manual transmissions are interchangeable with each other.
If there’s oil seeping from the gearbox, that’s more of a problem as it means a rebuild is required if the transmission isn’t to self-destruct. The first sign of problems will be a very noisy top gear or popping out of fifth altogether, as this is the first ratio to run dry.
The bulkhead can crack through constant flexing, where the clutch cable passes through. A stick-on repair panel is available; it’s best to use a cut-down Golf Mk1 item though, as it’s a better fit.
Suspension and brakes
The Scirocco’s fine handling is one of its most alluring features; if anything is awry it should be immediately obvious. Woolly steering is usually down to worn top mounts in the front suspension; a worn steering rack and tired suspension bushes also lead to vague steering.
Rear-wheel steering stems from perished rear axle location bushes, which form the pivot point for the rear suspension. When they wear, knocks from the back end result, with the steering effect only coming into play once things have got really bad; replacing with Powerflex polyurethane items gives the best results.
The Scirocco’s brakes are fine if properly maintained, which means fresh fluid every two years and properly adjusted rear drums. However, on right-hand drive Sciroccos there’s a linkage between the brake pedal and the servo, as it was engineered for left-hand drive originally. The various joints can loosen or wear so it all needs to be kept adjusted and lubricated if the brakes aren’t to feel rubbish.
The newer the car, the better it’s likely to have survived intact; not just because it’s newer, but because VW’s rustproofing became more effective as time went on. The key areas to check are the obvious ones; sills, wheelarches, front valances and the leading edge of the bonnet. The rear axle and suspension mountings also need close inspection.
Most Sciroccos have a body kit, which can hide corrosion, so look for evidence of rust bubbles, although it’s not necessarily obvious if there’s any rot behind the plastic. You’ll get a good idea by feeling the inside of the rear wheelarch lips though. Sometimes the sills are used instead of the correct jacking points to lift the car, so check for panel damage on the underside.
Most panels are available new, as VW is producing them once more. But not everything is offered; some rear panels are scarce, for example.
The interior trim is generally hard-wearing, but problems usually arise from water leaks into the cabin. Common culprits include bulkhead grommets, sunroof drain tubes and the seals for the rear lights, hatch and boot lock. The leaks lead to damp carpets and water stains on the door cards. If left, condensation will get everywhere, wreaking havoc. Replacement panels and seats are scarce for some models but plentiful for others.
The electrics are generally reliable if the cabin hasn’t got damp, the sole exception being the electric window switches. The fusebox sits below the glovebox; if water gets in it will cause problems, but it’s all available new or used.
- 1981: The Scirocco Mk2 debuts in Europe.
- 1982: The first cars arrive in the UK, in CL (1457cc), GL (1588cc) or GTi (injected 1588cc) forms; later in the year the GTi gets an injected 1781cc engine.
- 1983: The 1588cc engine is superseded by a 1595cc unit and the GL now has a 1781cc engine.
- 1984: The CL is redesignated GT, the GL is now a GTL and the GTX replaces the GTi, with a sportier exterior.
- 1987: The Scala arrives with a 90bhp 1781cc engine.
- 1988: The GT gets a carburetted 1781cc engine
- 1989: The GT becomes the GT II with smoked rear lights and colour-coded body kit
The Scirocco is one of those cars that will become almost extinct at some point – and only then will classic car fans realise it’s too late. If you want practicality, style and strength in one affordable package, few cars deliver like the Mk2 Scirocco.
Less rust-prone than its predecessor, so with a better survival rate, the Mk2 Scirocco is also completely usable in the cut and thrust of modern traffic. For everyday use you’re best finding something with an injected 1.8 engine – although the four-pot lump is eminently tunable if you want a bit more go. Indeed, it’s easy to upgrade just about every area of the Scirocco, thanks to the number of Golf parts fitted.
While some Mk2 Sciroccos are now cherished – and as a result they have cash lavished upon them – there are many examples which are hanging on by a thread. And while any Scirocco will go twice round the clock if it’s looked after, many have been heavily abused while others have been clocked. So it’s worth buying a car with as much history as you can find. And look after it.