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Cute And Cool: 1989 VW Polo

This 1989 VW Polo is almost channeling the spirit of the original Mini, what with basic equipment levels and a peppy little engine driving the front wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission. I have to thank Barn Finder Roger for spotting one of the coolest little cars that I have seen in quite a while. It is a cute and practical car that can either be driven and enjoyed as it is, or it could be given a light cosmetic restoration, and it would stand out more than it already does. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you will find the little Polo listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set a price of $4,900 OBO for the unique little classic.

This is a car that has plenty of practical uses. This body style went under several names (depending on which country it was sold in), but the owner refers to it colloquially as a “bread van,” which really feels about right. It is a 4-seater, but with the rear seat folded down and a fairly substantial opening through the rear hatch, it could potentially swallow some fairly bulky items. The paint is looking tired, but it would be very interesting to see how it would respond to a buff and polish. The 1983 vintage BBS wheels look absolutely perfect on the car, and it hunkers down nicely on height-adjustable coil-overs. It gives it a tough stance, but the suspension can be raised to give more ground clearance with relative ease.

Under the hood is a wonderful 1,043cc 4-cylinder engine, and a 4-speed manual transmission. This buzzy little engine only produces 44hp, but with a vehicle that weighs in at around 1,600lbs, it isn’t exactly a heavyweight car either. The owner does say that the top speed for the Polo is 100mph, but I don’t think that I’d be inclined to subject the car to that sort of torture too many times. Apart from those wheels and the uprated suspension, the Polo has received a decent list of recent work. This has included new shock mounts and bearings, new wheel bearings, brake calipers, discs, and pads, a new engine mount, and a new exhaust. The car also comes with a great collection of new spares, including a timing belt, water pump, and rear wheel cylinders. The original wheels and tires are also included as part of the sale.

When I referred to this Polo channeling the spirit of the Mini, you should be able to see what I mean when you look inside the car. This is motoring in a pretty basic sense for the era, with little in the way of luxury. The “Bel Ami” pack was largely cosmetic, and in addition to some external striping, it also included those rather funky door trims. The original seats would have matched, but these have been replaced with ones from a later Polo. It might still be possible to source the correct material to reupholster these ones if the new owner wants. The rest of the interior looks to be in really good condition. The Polo currently isn’t fitted with any sort of radio, and there is a blanking plate covering the hole in the dash. However, all of the original wiring and speakers are present, so rectifying this wouldn’t be a big job.

This 1989 Polo is just such a cool little car, even though it is not a muscle car. With that hunkered down suspension, and that great little engine, this would have to be a blast when pointed at a piece of twisting road. It may not have the sheer presence of a muscle car, but I would be willing to bet that it would get plenty of attention at a Coffee & Cars.


  1. SebastianX1/9

    This may not be the world’s most beautiful car (it’s hideous) but it is certain rare! I made it through the 80s without ever seeing one or hearing about it, and I actually knew someone who drove, when available, a VW Fox. Polo?

    Like 1
    • blyndgesser

      Though they have similar looks, the Polo and Fox aren’t really related. The US-market Fox is derived from the Brazilian VW Gol and has a longitudinally mounted engine, using a lot of old Passat/Dasher parts.

      Like 2
  2. Sinatra

    I saw this exact car at Radwood Philly last year- what a cool body style!

    Like 0
  3. RexFox Member

    There are plenty of Polos in Europe and Mexico, although probably not many of the older body style are still on the road. They always struck me as smaller, cheaper Golfs. I have rented a few though, and always enjoyed them. If I remember correctly, in Mexico, they are now called Gol (Golf without the F).

    Like 1
    • Rusty

      The current Gol has some things in common with the Polo, but last I checked they were both being sold in Mexico. The Polo was much better equipped, while the Gol Is a basic car. VW currently sells at least 3 different cars off about the same size in Mexico: Gol, Polo, and Vento. I believe the Vento Is made in India. The Gol was redone this year and I am unfamiliar with the new model.

      Like 0
  4. Zapp

    As far as I know, VW didn’t sell these in the USA. Looks like a grey-market special.

    Like 2
    • jim

      They never did.. This was just brought in under the 25 year rule..

      Like 0
  5. Daymo

    This is a originally-German-registered Polo (see the original number plate on the back door) under the American one.

    They were also referred to as a bread-van here in the UK too.

    Like 0
  6. boxdin

    Reminicent of a long wheel base ford fiesta too.

    Like 0
  7. Wayne

    The looks would be highly improved with a 2″ chop job.

    Like 1
  8. Mike

    I might be seeing things here, but from the side it looks like a squared off AMC Pacer.

    Like 1
  9. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think this is a beauty! Nice find, Adam, I would love to have this thing. I wonder if they’d trade for a Seville.

    Like 0
  10. Jim

    Drove an 87 Diesel Polo when I was stationed in Germany.. slower than frozen molasses, but got well north of 50 mpg and never let me down

    Like 0
  11. onree

    This Polo kind of reminds me of a couple of Ford Festivas (Kia Pride) that I’ve owned.

    Like 0
  12. Gsuffa Gsuffa Member

    My cousin in Germany had one. His had a 0.9 liter engine. This is a car for people who think a Golf is too big and luxurious. (See Tercel/Corolla)

    Like 0
  13. donek

    The engine looks more like a 1272cc NZ (Digijet multipoint injection). Nippy!

    Like 0

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