Magnificent MKI: 1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S

Although sharing many parts, including the drivetrain, with the somewhat common MKI Rabbit/Golf, the first generation Sciroccos are much harder to come by.  Being the last year for this body style, this example sports a 5 speed manual transmission as a standard feature, and a Golf sourced 1.7 liter four cylinder as opposed to the earlier 1.5l powerplant.  This California native 1981 VW Scirocco is available here on craigslist for $5,000, and while it is now located in the rust belt state of Wisconsin, it remains rust free, albeit a little faded from the California sun.

In the rear of this Scirocco, more than anywhere else, the similarities to the Golf are evident.  The rear hatch and window have a similar design, which was completely changed with the introduction of the MKII.  In fact, if the tail light assemblies look the same as a Rabbit or Golf, its because they are interchangeable!  There are many other interchangeable with the Rabbit/Golf as well as the Jetta, which both share the VW ‘A1’ platform with the Scirocco. From this view you can see the only visible indication of the slightly upscale ‘S’ package, which included A/C and five alloy wheels, including the full size spare.  Something that distinguishes this U.S. spec Scirocco is the massive bumpers, front and rear that were a true sign of the times in the late ’70s and early ’80s when these cars were built.

The engine bay of this VW has managed to stay quite clean throughout its roughly 138,000 miles.  This run of the mill Golf sourced four cylinder was available in a few different horsepower configurations, but they all seem to be in the high double digit range.  While you won’t win any races (except maybe against a Rabbit of the same vintage), you should still be able to expect a sporty ride from a lightweight car with a manual gearbox.

While the only interior picture included in the ad does not show everything, there do not seem to be any noticeable tears, stains or missing parts.  Although there seems to be a carpet dash cover, so expect some possible cracking and sun damage to the dash pad.  How would you put this rare Volkswagen to use, a very economical yet fun and eye catching summer daily driver, or restore and only drive to car shows?

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  1. kelly g.

    been looking for a solid mk1 scirocco for years. so much fun to drive.

  2. MikeG

    I had a pro modified mk1 in high school, lowered, Bilsteins, sway bars, overbore, headers, Ansa exhaust etc. It would stay up with my Dad’s 911SC just fine on the track and I beat my Uncle’s brand new ’83 Camaro cross-fire injection in a short drag race, (boy was he mad). Used to track it in SCCA events and had a picture of her rounding a chicane on 3 wheels, which happened quite often. Boy did I miss that car when I sold it….

  3. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    This is going back a ways in my foggy memory (like to when they came out) but I believe Giugiaro said he took a Golf and visually flattened it as the starting point for the Sirocco. Buddy of mine had one in high school, and it was brutal for me as a 6-footer. I had to literally put my head in the sunroof opening to drive it. Today I guess you could avoid that by driving in the “gangster lean” position.

  4. rdc

    Always like the body style. However, this is too mechanically similar to the piece of crap 1974 VW Dasher that I bought new.

  5. nessy

    The first generation Scirocco “wedge” shape designed by the well known Giorgetto Giugiaro, built from 75 to 81 was by far one of the nicest looking VWs ever. This one being the final year 81 in red plus an S model is aok in my book. The newly styled 82 bubble model was just not the same, although the 87/88 16 Valve model is becoming a special interest car now.

  6. michael

    ‘never driven on a salted road’… seems rust didn’t care about that statement. I always liked the Mk I , too bad this one is in such bad shape

  7. SunbeamerStu

    Affordable windshields are near unobtanium. Every owner seems to be on the lookout for one.

    Most other parts are easy to source because of their sharing with the Rabbit.

    A fun car to drive. No rocket acceleration, but lightweight and corner friendly.

  8. Steve65

    It’s missing most of the “S” model front air dam. They had a tendency to break off and leave just a stub.

    I had one of these for a while in the early 90s. It was fun to drive, but less fun than the Le Car that I had at the same time. While the Scirocco would outperform the Renault, it did it grudgingly, with a harsh motor that didn’t like to rev. The Renault would just sing until it stopped pulling, followed by an upshift.

    • Cj

      Thanks for posting that picture Steve65! I owned that car new in 1979 (well, one like it). It was the “Champagne Edition” and came with a front spoiler which the VW body shop referred to as “the snowplow.” When I damaged it (in a snow storm!) they recommended removing it altogether, which I did. The car had an annoying habit of blowing a fuel pump fuse and either not starting or drifting to a halt. Another Scirocco owner tipped me off to the solution, which was just to always carry extra fuses wherever you went!

      • Steve65

        Mine was identical to the pic I posted, only 200k miles tireder and a LOT less shiny.

        Somewhere in a box I have a series of photos (remember film?) of the instrument cluster as it rolled over 200k with the tach at redline and the 85mph speedo needle buried.

        I removed most of my airdam on a curb. The remaining bit almost looked like it was supposed to be like that, so I left it.

  9. Mikey MO

    That would be a cool car to make a diesel would get 60+ mph due to the body size and shape

  10. KevinR

    A couple of points: the taillights are NOT interchangeable with those from a Rabbit/Golf. Also the 1.7L was good for 79hp new, which isn’t what I would consider to be “high double digit range.”

    VWs from this era tend to rust if you look at them the wrong way, and there’s a whole lot of ocean air to be found in California. I wouldn’t trust a claim of no rust without verifying things for myself.

    These cars are a lot of fun for the people who can fit in them. Mechanically, they are a breeze to maintain. However many of the Scirocco only bits have become unobtanium, so plan on spend lots of searching time and lots of money to replace those if needed.

  11. David Miraglia

    had one briefly. Loved the car but the tranny failed and I had to junk it.

  12. Wolfgang Gullich

    No one connected that Guigiaro designed both the Mk 1 Golf and Mk 1 Scirocco yet… The cars that really made his career take off

  13. pursang

    Bought one New in 1979, Brazil Braun Metallic over a tan cloth interior. Handled great, even with so little power. Reliable except for fuse box that would short out internally due to carbon tracks. Car did not have inner fender liners, so rust would doom these prematurely.

    Was in California a few years ago at a C&C and saw a silver one, heavily modified with a VR6 transplanted into it.

    A great styling that still looks fresh today.

  14. Rolf Poncho 455

    Why those big ugly bumpers the only thing I dislike
    about the U.S laws here in South Africa the same
    cars small steel bumpers looks a lot nicer see pick same gose for the scirocco

  15. Joe Howell

    The girl I married had a 75, it impressed my brother so much he bought a new 81S. At $10,000 they weren’t cheap but his was way nicer than her bare bones 75 as they plusher. We bought a new 84 Wolfsburg Edition and then traded that for a new 87 16V. I kept that car for 17 years and 132,000 miles. Always garaged, it was like still like new. I sold it on Ebay in 2004 and have regretted it ever since even though a Porsche sits in it’s place.

  16. Alan (Michigan)

    These still make decent ice racers. An under-engine pan is a must though, as snow will pack into the timing belt cover and cause skipped teeth, with the resulting issues….

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