#TBT: 1981 Volkswagen Scirocco

Remembering VW’s stylish sports coupe

As the crow flies, 857 miles feels like a lot – about as much road as you’d travel driving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, or Atlanta to Topeka, Kan. Most new cars rack that many miles up in less than a month, but for one car from the Volkswagen Group of America’s historic collection, that’s all the miles its collected in 36 years.

The Scirocco hatchback occupies a unique place in Volkswagen history. Envisioned in the early 1970s as the replacement for the Karmann Ghia, the Scirocco aimed to provide a dash of sportiness and handling capability to the VW lineup even if its engine power was less than overwhelming. With a squared-away look courtesy of ItalDesign, the Scirocco launched in the United States in 1974, offering a 70-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Unlike European models, the U.S. Scirocco sported quad circular headlamps to meet different lighting regulations.

Volkswagen Scirocco

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By modern standards, the Scirocco looks small and seems slow on paper, but in that era its agile handling and relative affordability made the Scirocco a top performer among its peers, and drew fans around the world. Between 1974 and 1981, VW sold just over 500,000 Scirocco vehicles. The United States would see several engine upgrades throughout the first-generation model run and a number of special editions, including the “Sidewinder” cars with unique graphics and body add-ons.

In 1981, the last year of the original body style, a VW dealer service manager from Johnstown, Penn., bought a Guinea Blue Scirocco and promptly began treating it like a museum piece. Stored indoors, and given annual maintenance to keep it in running order, the Scirocco collected almost all of the 857 miles on its odometer before it was bought by Volkswagen Group of America in 2006. Today, you can catch it at one of the several VW festivals held every year, still in pristine condition – a piece of history with many miles left to travel.