Fiorally: A VW Rally Story – 2
[bd] You’ve been racing Volkswagens as long as I’ve known you. And you’ve built more than one. What does your VW addiction look like (still got that Corrado, too?) and why have you stayed with this particular make/model/platform?
Ha! Yes, I still have the Corrado, after all, to me it’s only a couple years old. There is something about the mk2 generation and the 80s VW/Audi generation that resonated with me. My soon to be wife was sold on the brand after she bought her mk4 Jetta with the 1.8T (although man did I hate the 09A tiptronic tranny). She’s since moved onto an EOS 2.0T which has the dual clutch DSG. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get her into a manual, however the DSG is the first tranny that’s made me rethink my preference!
The Corrado is somewhat of an experiment. My daily driver had been a 95 Miata for over 12 years. It has been and remains to be extremely reliable and fun to drive, however I wanted another vehicle to help take some of the commuting miles off it (I drive 70 miles a day for work). I figured if I can keep a mk2 Golf rally car running then a mk2 daily driver would be cake. At first I was looking for either a Golf or a Jetta, but soon the Corrado idea spawned and I fell down the rabbit hole.
Corrados, especially the early G60s, are notoriously unreliable. There’s a great quote on the VWVortex (a VW enthusiast forum) that states the Corrado likes to break when you least expect it would, like while parked in the garage as you sleep or watch TV. At that point, the mk2 Golf or Jetta seemed like the easy way out and I went looking for a Corrado; a G60 of course.
It took several months but I eventually find one and, of course, within a week it was on a flatbed being towed home from work. I had been planning on doing a thorough restoration and seeing it on a flatbed sped up initiation of the process. My take on the reliability is that although, yes, the G60 is somewhat finicky given it uses one of VW’s earlier attempts at electronic fuel injection and slaps a somewhat fragile supercharger onto the otherwise bulletproof 8V, most complaints are the result of people who either haven’t kept up with the maintenance on a 20 year old car, try to extract too much from the car in terms of boost, or both!
I did my research and think I found the sweet spot in terms of power gain and reliability. (Though that will still cost supercharge rebuilds every 20k miles or so.) It took about a year and 6000 miles, but I love the car, and no flatbeds have been called in that time.
For rally, I was more interested than driving a car than engineering one. The A2 Golf/Jettas are plentiful for a reason. It’s pretty much known how to build a reliable, light, and great handling car. Parts are still plentiful and can be sourced from various models depending on what you are looking for. At this point I just know the car so well that the only reason I’d consider another platform would be if it was no longer economical to keep the A2 running. Lastly, admit it, they look great too!
[bd] I suspect, like many of us, familiarity and experience come into play – I’ve got all these spare parts and know these cars like the back of my hand, so why would I switch? – but do you ever feel trapped by this experience; wanting to maybe try something new but feeling like it would more difficult than sticking with what you know? I know I have at times, but I wonder if every gearhead runs into this and think it’s an interesting topic.
Yup, indeed. Spare parts and mechanical familiarity is very important. Also availability of cheap parts – especially salvage yard parts – is crucial to keeping costs down for a one man rally operation. VWs are plentiful in So Cal salvage yards and although the the mk2s are starting to dry up (I always wonder where the ones I find even come from considering they are rare to see on the road), the parts most likely to be needed such suspension pieces can be taken from mk3s. In fact, the mk3 pieces tend to be beefier.
It might just be Rally Anarchy rubbing off on me, but I have this idea of doing RWD someday way back in my mind. For my skill, budget, and commitment level (in terms of throwing cars into turns), FWD better suits me. I can be reasonably competitive (not first but not last) and drive in a vehicle that’s forgiving (left foot braking FTW!). Also, FWD overall is less mechanically complicated (at least compared with 4WD) and thus is inherently easier to maintain and less expensive. RWD certainly seems more fun and more aggressive but I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge or have the skill level to be fast without balling cars up.
To be continued…
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