This 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco Was a Refreshing Taste of Champagne 

John L. Stein

As a budding gearhead, the transition from cars of the college years to those of the career years was instant and profound, as a steady paycheck enabled moving from cheap castoffs to cars costing thousands. In 1979, good employment thus netted me a nearly new Volkswagen Scirocco. After a coworker praised his ’76 model, based on the Rabbit but sporting a rakish Giugiaro body design, I joined the club with this mint, low-mileage 1977 Champagne Edition, which I’d found nearby for $4700.

Compared to the $300 Triumph TR6 it replaced, the 1.5-liter fuel-injected Scirocco seemed like a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The doors closed tightly, the sound insulation excelled, and the Platinum Metallic paint and interior materials were faultless. I had never owned a car with such stellar and fit and finish. And that tartan upholstery? Well, it reminded me of Jackie Stewart’s F1 helmet. I had arrived.

Some surprises eventually emerged, including that one door had previously been VW Lime Green. Annoyed, I called the seller, who confessed that the original had been stolen while the car was being serviced. (Aside: Who steals a door?) When I finally decided that the MacPherson struts were inadequate, I replaced them with Konis. The swap took all day and resulted in perceptibly different front and rear dynamics best described as “sketchy.”

1977 VW Scirocco rear 3/4 b/w
John L. Stein

No sooner had I gotten the Scirocco “dialed in,” however, than a move from California to Florida for grad school dictated change. The VW obliged, with a U-Haul box on its roof, a bicycle riding the tailgate, and my stereo, electric typewriter, slide rule, scuba gear, Igloo cooler, and current girlfriend all squeezed inside. The whole rig totally gave off a Grapes of Wrath vibe.

That Igloo came in handy, it turns out, as the air conditioning faltered in Texas, in August, making for one sweaty ride. But it wasn’t enough. The last straw for my passenger was camping in Texarkana, Arkansas, and witnessing an armadillo scamper past the tent at night, as cicadas sang loudly in the stifling heat. Adding to the sadness of the “See ya!” that soon followed was that I was now once again confined to a student’s budget, so the Volkswagen didn’t get the love it deserved. I eventually sold it, lazy A/C and all, plus a suspect alternator and a sticking odometer.

In 2018, I contested an SCCA autocross at California Speedway in a 2004 Mini Cooper S. Another entrant had a race-prepared first-gen Scirocco. When I told him I’d owned a sweet Champagne Edition for a time, he really lit up. “Are you kidding me?” he exclaimed. “Those are so rare!”

Another one bought right but sold too soon…

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Comments

    Rare indeed! I don’t remember seeing many 1st gen Scirocco’s at all. I saw more 2nd generation which was also rare.

    Bought my Platinum Metallic (did the clear coat come off the top of your fenders too?) ’80 Scirocco in ’81 with 50k on the odometer. It was my first “I have a job” car too. One year old and 50k? Yep. Dude lived at the Alabama/Tennessee line and commuted up I-65 all the way to Nashville daily for a year – the miles add up quick doing that! Car was mint and I enjoyed it immensely. Sold it a couple years later for something between 5 and 6 thousand and bought a Datsun 620 pickup for $1,200. The difference between the prices was enough to give me the rest of the downpayment for my first house. Hated to let it go, but it was for a good cause.

    Aah, hindsight; with all its accompanying wisdom and pathos…
    Your travelling-companion’s departure is what most affected me.
    She was hot — right?

    But $4700 for a 2-year-old VW in 1979… WERE you thinking?

    I bought one of the first Sciroccos in Dallas – a silver 1975. It spent more time in the shop until VW removed the catalytic converter so that it would run properly. After that it was pretty fast! AC was horrible in TX summers and the silver paint on the hood faded so bad in the first year it looked like it had the measles! Needless to say, I got rid of it and bought a 76 Dodge van and converted it to a palace on wheels!

    My first-ever new car was a silver ‘78 Scirocco that I shopped against a Fiat 124, and that replaced a string of student-era beetles. With the exception of major flooding in the cab every time it rained hard (sorted out by the dealer), it ran fine for 10 years and 110,000 miles before the mechanical fuel injection got flaky and unfixable. Yeah, the air was so so in Alabama too, but all in all it was a great handling, snappy little fox for the time. Sold it for a Corolla that lasted for 440,000 miles!

    Had a 77 for a very short time – drove cross county in summer without AC. Couldn’t stand it any longer so had the dealer in Las Vegas install one. From that point on I could not keep the battery charged – after dealer visits in many states, it was time to go. Nice car otherwise. Traded it for a Honda Accord Hatch – best car I ever owned.

    Right after buying my 1980 model, I went to an SCCA autocross event where I got absolutely trounced by another Scirocco. Went to meet that guy and ask how his was SO much quicker than mine… He told me to toss that K-Jetronic crap in the garbage. So a month or so later I mounted up a pair of used Weber side drafts and WHOA! What a difference! Great car.

    I had a 1978 Scirocco back in high school. We tore that thing up even took it mudding in a field and high centered it an a terrace. One day my “buddy” took the keys without me knowing. I showed up next to the local COOP and watched the fire department put it out as it burned to the ground.

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