Introduced in 1974 and based around the floorplan and mechanicals of the Volkswagen Golf, the handsome Scirocco coupe was actually launched six months before the Golf to iron out teething issues before commencement of the high volume hatchback. More details found in the design history article.
The first incarnations of the Scirocco were driven by the new VW/Audi 1571cc overhead camshaft engine coupled with an all-synchromesh 4 speed gearbox or 3 speed automatic driving the front wheels and fuelled by a carburettor. Like other German cars of the 1970s, Sciroccos were relatively well equipped, the first 1974 TS models sporting 13″ alloy wheels, quadruple halogen headlamps, twin two speed wipers, reversing lamps, rear heated window, reclining front seats with integral headrests, full carpeting and a centre console all as standard specification.
In mainland Europe, the Scirocco was also offered with VW’s smaller block engines, initially the 1 litre unit and later the 1.3 engine. Externally these cars are identified by large square rectangular headlamps rather than the quad round lamps and 13″ steel wheels. These are few and far between these days.
For October 1975, the engine capacity had been increased to 1588cc and for aerodynamic reasons the twin windscreen wipers were replaced with a distinctive single arm that swept the entire screen. This would be a Scirocco feature and be carried over into the early versions of the Mk2.
In October 1976, for the 1977 model year, the TS was replaced by the GLS. The GLS was mechanically identical but featured interior and trim revisions of vinyl and cord upholstery (replacing the tartan of the TS), part carpeted door cards, laminated windscreen, tinted windows, standard rear wash/wipe and revised control stalks, steering wheel and ventilation system. Externally the GLS carried a plastic front spoiler.
A year later major external revisions were made to the indicators, wrapping them around the front wings and the addition of plastic bumpers that reached the wheel arches (replacing the chromed metal units with thier shorter end caps) and black B-pillar trims. On the continent, the exciting new fuel injected version Scirocco, the GTI, had been released and was available as a left hand drive import in the UK until the right hand drive version arrived in 1979 known as the GLi.
The GLi was powered by the same 1588cc fuel injected engine found in the Golf GTi and was reckoned to be as good, if not better than the Golf, due to the Scirocco having a lower centre of gravity and a more slippery shape. The 1979 GLi was joined in the UK by another fuel injected model, the Scirocco Storm that was a top of the range model featuring leather sport seats and door cards, plush carpeting that continued into the boot and a black instrument panel. Externally it was identified by flatter versions of the GLS alloy wheels and a large front fibreglass airdam. Both GLi and Storm also featured the GTi front ventilated brake discs. 1979 also saw internal revisions for the GLS, replacing the seats for cloth covered versions with headrests and revised patterns.
For the 1980 year the fuel injected Sciroccos gained a five speed gearbox and all models were fitted with electronic ignition as standard, replacing the points featured on the carburettor models. The GLi became the GTi in late 1980, borrowing the ‘nine-spoke’ style alloy wheels from the Golf GTi and the storm gained unique multi-spoke alloy wheels. Storms were further treated to a passenger side door mirror.
The Mk1 was replaced by the Mk2 in late 1981 in Europe and late 1982 in the UK. Volkswagen had built about 527,000 Mk1′s in total.
Mk1 Sciroccos are a real drivers car. You ‘lie back’ in the drivers seat, sitting low to the ground and feedback from the drive gear is engaging. The engine loves to rev and the drive crisp and steering precise and predictable. The carburettor models are not particularly quick by modern standards but are light and enjoyable to drive with plenty of scope to make the most of the gearbox. Fuel injected cars are quicker and perkier than the carb models, fast and a hoot to drive that can still catch out modern sports models.
Mk1′s can be a tight squeeze for the taller driver and rear passenger leg-room is pretty much non existent in this 2+2 coupe. Interiors are generally hard wearing and functional.
Engines are shared with thousands of other vehicles from the VAG range, so are of good pedigree and long lasting. The straight four 8-valve Scirocco engine can run well into 100,000 miles before a major overhaul is necessary. Long life is made easier by regular oil and filter changes (around every 5000 miles). Oil filters should have a non return valve -genuine VW filters always do.
Bottom ends are extremely strong and only fail in isolated cases. The cylinder heads are similarly hard wearing but can often suffer from valve-stem oil seal failure, identified by blue tinted smoke from the exhaust. All Mk1s have solid lifter tappets which can make their presence known by become noisy and clattery, regular oil changes will help to keep them in check but adjustment or replacement is possible with the right tools. The Cambelt should be checked every 5000 miles and replaced every 60,000 miles. Maintenance is fairly straightforward with most service parts easily accessed. The cylinder head and oil sump can be removed with the engine in situ. Routine servicing should be carried out around every 6000 miles.
Check all coolant items. The radiator should be in good shape with little damage to the fins and not leaking. All hoses should be free of splits. Hoses are easy to obtain and replace. Water pumps are usually hard wearing but can fail, look for telltale crystalised coolant around the outlets and coolant weeping. Thermostats are located at the bottom of the water pump. With early cars, core plugs can deteriorate and leak. Antifreeze should contain corrosion inhibitors and be used all year round, with flushing and refilling every three to five years depending on vehicle usage.
Manifolds are connected to a downpipe via six bolts, ensuring that replacing a downpipe is fairly straightforward. Genuine VW systems are long lasting and the system itself consists of a downpipe, a middle box, an over-pipe that clears the rear axle and a rear box. Connections, clamps and rubber hangers ensure easy replacement. Manifolds do have a reputation for cracking but this may be exaggeration in practice.
Transmission and Drive Gear
The four and five speed rod-change gearboxes are well documented to be very hardwearing. Synchromesh can be a tad stiff with first and second gears from cold but should be ok once the car has warmed up. If persistent, a gearbox rebuild may be on the cards. Sloppy gear change can be rectified by replacing the nylon bushes that are at the pivot points of the selector rods. This is an easy DIY job. Clutches can last beyond 70,000 miles and well into 100,000 miles. A slipping clutch will be the most obvious sign that it needs replacing but a crunchy reverse selection may be a sign of poor clutch adjustment.
Automatic gearboxes should engage smoothly and the kick-down be operational. Jerky or hesitant up-shifts are indicative that the auto-box is on the way out and a rebuild will be very expensive whilst second hand boxes can be difficult to track down.
Driveshafts are long lasting and it is an unlucky owner that snaps a driveshaft. Telltale ‘clicking’ on full steering lock will indicate worn CV joints. CV boots and track rod ends demand visual inspection for splits and perishing. Worn wheel bearing will make themselves known by a low droning noise that will get worse.
Its worth mentioning here that clutch cables can pull through the bulkhead on RHD cars. Though inconvenient, repair panels are available.
Brakes are typical of the period but not as poor as the reputation of VWs of this era suggests. Contemporary reviews of the vehicles often praised trhe braking system, and criticism came later as the Mk2 Scirocco and Golf Cabriolet carried the design into the early 1990s.
Brakes consist of 239mm discs on the front with a floating calliper. Carburettor cars have solid brake discs, whilst fuel injection models have ventilated better performing discs. The latter can be retrofitted to the former. Front pads can wear rapidly and callipers can occasionally seize if not looked after. Drums are at the rear and must be removed to inspect the condition of the rear shoes and cylinders. Rear cylinders can weep and in extreme cases seize -if this is the case the rear drums will be very hot.
Fluid is taken to the front callipers and rear cylinders via hard lines and flexy hoses. A full inspection should be undertaken at least yearly to make sure that the flexy hoses are not perished and that the hardlines are not terminally rusty. On early Mk1s (pre ’78) the rear brake lines run inside the car, post late ’78 the lines run underneath the car. Check that sloppy jacking by a previous owner has not damaged the pipes.
On RHD cars the pedal is connected to the brake servo and master cylinder via a cross linkage -this can be a weak spot and adjustment can help dial out some of the sloppiness of the brakes. The braking system can be upgraded on all Mk1 cars, but the first act should be to replace discs, pads, shoes drums and cylinders and replace the fluid to reinvigorate a vehicle with poor performing brakes. You will be surprised at how much difference this actually makes.