Volkswagen Scirocco

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Volkswagen Scirocco Series 1

1974 - 1982
4 cylinder
1100 / 1500cc
4 spd. MT / 3 spd. AT
Top Speed:
109 mph
Number Built:
2 star
Volkswagen Scirocco Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


If it were only a replacement for the Karmann Ghia, the Scirocco would not have been very important: but obviously a giant like Volkswagen did not produce a special all-new car just to replace the marginal Karmann Ghia. The significance of the Scirocco lay in the fact that it was soon to be followed by another model using basically the same platform but having a roomier and more practical body. That is the car Volkswagen management would become a successor to the Beetle. And it was for that reason that the Scirocco was such an important car.

Volkswagen got off to a great start too, employing the services of Giorgetto Giugiaro for the design. Despite its wedge-shaped nose the Scirocco was very short, even for being a 2+2 rather than a real 4-seater: total length was only 151 inches, including an appropriately sized hatch/boot. Access to this was obtained by a rear hatch which automatically raised the articulated parcel shelf behind the rear seat. The shelf could be removed easily to increase capacity, and you could fold the rear seatback forward too. It was, for the time, an almost perfect combination of city runabout, shopping car and lively, sporting GT - at least when the 1500cc engine option was selected, as it was claimed to have a 109-mph top speed and to accelerate to 60 mph in little more than 10 seconds, curb weight being 1660 lb.

Scirocco Engine and Transmission Options

On the European market five powertrain combinations were offered, comprising three engines (1100cc and 50 bhp DIN, 1500cc and 70 bhp DIN. 1500cc and 85 bhp DIN), the differences between the latter two being compression, carburetor (2-bbl for the more powerful version) and exhaust system (twin outlet manifold in the 85-hp model). All were mated to a 4-speed. all-synchro box, and the well-known VW automatic was available with either of the 1500-cc engines. The entire driveline was identical to that of the Dasher and Audi Fox, except that the differential was driven by spur gears rather than bevel gears and was on the side of the clutch housing.

The entire engine was set just ahead of the wheel centerline and slightly inclined to the rear in the case of the 1500 models, to the front in the case of the lighter 1100 to give the same weight distribution in either case. Whereas the 1500cc engines were inherited from the Dasher-Fox range, the smaller 1100 unit, though also having a belt-driven overhead camshaft, was entirely different and VW's own development. It featured a crossflow alloy head and was originally developed under the Lotz management to power a completely different, entirely conventional car - this model scrapped long before the Scirocco was released.

From the differential the front wheels were driven by unequal-length hollow shafts with constant-velocity joints at each end. The two shafts were of different diameter so that despite their different length they would be twisted by equal angles when the driving torque was applied. The vacuum-assisted brakes (disc front, drum rear operated by diagonal twin circuits) were outboard front and rear. Front suspension was by wide-base A-arms and MacPherson struts, the geometry featuring the by 1974 well-known "negative wheel offset" to obviate any deviation from a straight line should unequal braking forces be put through the front wheels. Steering was by rack and pinion with a universally jointed safety steering column, and there was no front anti-roll bar.

In contrast to the Dasher-Fox range's beam axle, the Scirocco's rear suspension was independent and was both very simple and very clever. The wheels were carried by pure trailing arms, suspension movements being controlled by spring/diagonal shock absorber units. The clever thing about the suspension was that the rear trailing arms were joined by a welded cross-member of L-shaped cross section with a gusset providing additional stiffness. The whole unit was carried in one thick rubber bushing on each side, providing excellent road-noise insulation at practically no penalty to the accuracy of the trailing-arm location, the two pivot points being spread across the entire width of the platform. The gussets effectively assisted the trailing arms in resisting side loads, but as the L-section cross-member into which the side loads were fed was rigid only in beam but had very little torsional stiffness, it effectively acted as a rear anti-roll bar. Steel-belted radial tyres are fitted all around (155SR-13 except 85-hp models, which had 175/70SR-13 tyres) on 5J rims.

Behind the Wheel of the Scirocco

The "top" version - that's the one with the 1500cc engine - proved an extremely lively and entertaining drive, according to road testers of the day. It was very safe to handle, with final understeer under power turning to just about neutral on lifting off. Handling was responsive and there was comparatively little roll on bends. The steering was geared slightly on the low side but was very accurate and practically devoid of power-steer effects, though pulling to the right under full acceleration, because of the slightly different angles (in front view) of the unequal-length halfshafts, could just be detected when accelerating hard, hands off, in 1st or 2nd gear. It could not be felt if you were not actually looking for it; neither did it have any noticeable effect on the return of the steering when coming out of tight left or right bends.

The not easy problem of providing a pleasant gearchange with a cross-mounted engine was successfully solved by the Volkswagen engineers, and noises from the three-point-mounted engine remained pleasantly subdued, even when pulling hard - though it is not by any means silent when getting near 6000 rpm. Road-noise insulation was very good and wind noise never became objectionable. Sitting in the rear seats head room was scarce and leg room not much better, but journeys up to one hour's duration would have been acceptable. For children up to 12-13 years, however, the room provided was more than enough.

Except for the mechanical units, the Scirocco was not made in the Wolfsburg factory or any of its subsidiaries, but rolled off an assembly line installed at the Karmann factory, where the body was made.
Volkswagen Scirocco
Volkswagen Scirocco
Volkswagen Scirocco
Volkswagen Scirocco

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