: When less is more!

08-18-12, 03:23 PM
Several comments, in a recent thread, about how "beaters" actually provided more driving fun and enjoyment than the fancy, new, techno-wiz cars we all strive to own. Comments like "I didn't have to worry about if it got dinged," or "Ok, if I nailed a deer at speed, it was no big loss!," or "I could park it anywhere and not worry about it or something on it being missing when I got back," definitely resonated with me as I remembered one of the favorite cars that I have owned.

When I turned forty I began having a hankering for a light, sporty car that was fun to drive, with a manual transmission, that didn't burn a lot of gas, to use as a "runaround" car on weekends. So I set out test drive several candidates on the market at the time (we were just beginning to climb out of the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression) and the choices of fun cars was not too wide. After driving several, I narrowed the choice down to three specific 1983 cars: the Honda Prelude, the Renault Fuego non Turbo (Turbo was way to slow in city stop and go) and the 2nd generation Volkswagen Scirocco. Each had its' charms and were fun to drive with five speeds, light clutches and no power steering. In the end, despite my being pretty anti-Volkswagen for many years I ended up getting a Guards Red Scirocco with a black interior. This despite its' almost $3000. price premium over the other cars! When the chips were down neither of the other two cars could compare when the "fun to drive" factor was in play!

The 1983 Scirocco was decently executed (for its' day) simplicity in itself. The car was a "Wolfsburg Edition" which meant that it came fully loaded, the only option being whether you wanted a manual or an automatic transmission. Fully loaded meant it can standard with a manual sunroof, (what turned out to be) really great fully manually adjustable "Recaro" style seats, leather seat facings, an Alpine sound system (pretty snazzy for the time, and as it turned out irresistible to thieves), air conditioning (again manual, no automatic offered), special alloy wheels, fully carpeted (including the hatchback area) interior and .... horror of horrors manual steering and lightly power assisted brakes! The only power accessory that was available on the car were the power windows!

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Now to many this probably doesn't seem like a real beater and I wouldn't argue the point, but compared to the Lambo, Jaguars and Sevilles that had been in the garage over the last few years the Scirocco was definitely a return to the basics. And what fun it was! First of all it was a lot more fun to drive than the "heavy duty" sports and GT cars I was used to driving, With no power steering the road feel was great and being a light car the steering effort wasn't bad. You just set the air conditioning and forgot it, same with the non power seats. The manual 5 speed and light clutch made for quick and fun gear changes, which made the 94 horsepower 4 cylinder a lively and fun power plant. The seats were more comfortable than even the luxury cars in the garage. The "hatchback" hauling convenience was a real plus for weekend use as time went by. The gas mileage, despite the small tank, made for pleasure at the pump. We owned the little Scirocco, using it for weekend outings for seven years. I taught my wife to drive stick with this car and soon she was using it for her daily commute from the Wilshire District to Orange County, and back, every day. She too had been won over by the fun and beauty of simplicity!

It turned out that the red Scirocco had become one of our all time favorite cars and when the day came when it was time to send it to a new home we were really sad to see it go. As it turned out the son of my mechanic of many years bought and fell in love with it just as we had! He drove it for another ten years, and last I heard in 2009, it was still going strong and being enjoyed in another new home.

While many would not consider a new VW Scirocco a "beater" and to be I honest it wasn't really, but compared to the other "luxury" cars that we had had it definitely stood alone for its' simplicity, but also for its' fun. Being relatively inexpensive it wasn't a car that you worried about its' loss (you could always buy another), it was relatively cheap to run and repair (car was second only the Alfa 164 for being trouble free), was a versatile work horse, was fun to drive ..... but most of all brought a smile to you face every time you got in to drive!