Introduced in 1988, the Volkswagen Corrado took one look at the motoring world’s socks and blew them all the way off. We weren’t expecting it. It came from nowhere. Yes, we had the Scirocco, but that was a dainty, gentle machine. The Corrado was different. It was a muscular, purposeful machine that took the cuddly, friendly image of Volkswagen at the time and made it meaner and more determined. It was a stout, wide, low machine that looked like it was hoovering up the road even when it was parked. The design was clean and unfussy, too, which only served to make the Corrado seem like a car from the future, not 1988. In fact, looking at it now, you can see why it lived into the age of the Mk3 Golf – it could hold its own in the model range, it didn’t look dated at all.
The Corrado was based on Volkswagen’s A2 platform, which is what you’ll find under the panels of an Mk2 Golf. However, it was just the platform it borrowed. There is nothing Mk2 Golf about the Corrado apart from the VW badges. It was front-wheel drive and could, on paper at least, seat four. In reality though, it was a 2+2. If you want one, think of it as a two-seater, as even pre-teen children won’t thank you for wedging them into the rear seats. There’s not a lot of space back there. That said, thanks to being a hatchback rather than a coupe, the Corrado was and still is pleasantly practical. You’re not getting a washing machine in there, or that new 55inch plasma, but you’ll get a ‘big shop’ in the boot without issue.
Anyway, rear seats and boot space were not the reason you went out and bought a Corrado in 1988 and they’re not the reasons for looking at them now. You’re looking at a Corrado because it’s cool, and because you so passionately hope it drives as well as it looks. We’re happy to report that it does. The Corrado is not a Golf in a sporty outfit. It is an out and out sports car. The lower centre of gravity and better weight distribution made for a car that handled with poise and commitment. It was a sharp, direct and rewarding car to fling around. And if you got one with the right engine, it was fast, too. Damn fast.
The 1.8 four-cylinder engine was okay, but not electrifying. The 16-valve had 134bhp and was mated to a four-speed manual ‘box. It was peppy enough, and would shunt the Corrado to 130mph, but it didn’t make you tingle. Neither did the 2.0 cars, available in 8-valve (114bhp) and 16-valve (134bhp). No, for real thrills you needed the 1.8 8-valve with 158bhp. Fewer valves but more ponies thanks to being supercharged – this was known as the G60 model. And then of course there were the VR6 cars with a 2.9 six-cylinder engine and 188bhp. With dollops of torque and a soundtrack to die for, the VR6 was the one to have. Many would say it still is.
Of course, there is no escaping the fact that early Corrados are 31 years old now. As such, if you are lusting after one, there are some things you need to know. Obviously carry out your old car checks, as you would with any classic, but also take the time to check out these five very Corrado-specific things…
1) Rear Spoiler
Get the Corrado above 60mph and the rear spoiler will pop up on some electric motors. How. Cool. Is. That? Of course, it’s only cool if it works, which is a rare thing to find these days. The best case scenario is that you get the car up to speed and the spoiler works. Happy days. The next best scenario is that you have to manually activate the spoiler via the switch on the dash. If that’s the case, the modulator is toast (the bit that tells the spoiler what speed the car is going). New ones don’t exist, so it’ll be a case of looking for the best used one you can.
Then you’ve got the problem of the spoiler doing nothing even with the use of the switch on the dash. Try the switch again, can you hear the motors activating? Chances are the mechanism is gummed up with years of filth and is stuck. If there is no noise, it’s going to be a wiring issue, so check the fuses and then if there is no joy there, bust out the multi-meter and get checking. If there are no signs of life, you need to haggle at least £150 off the car.
2) ABS pump
Not all Corrados were fitted with ABS, in fact it was just the VR6 and the later-build G60s that had it as standard. Outside of those models, it was only available as a cost option. If you’re looking at a car with ABS, check it works when safe to do so. Stand on the brakes and bring the car to a halt. There should be no drama or other histrionics. If the wheels lock up, then the ABS doesn’t work.
This can be for a myriad of reasons. Get in the car and turn the ignition on, does the ABS light come on then go off? If it does, that at least means the system is trying to do something. If there is no light, it could be an unscrupulous previous owner taking the bulb out – it happens. Points of failure could be the ABS reluctor rings on the wheels/hubs, that have broken, or the pump itself could be shot – that’s going to need a specialist to repair it, or a new (used) pump. Haggle accordingly.
The good thing about the Corrado is that, generally speaking, mechanical parts availability is impressive. Thanks to sharing parts with the Mk2 and later, Mk3 Golf, most suspension, brake, engine and chassis parts are readily available. Sadly though, the same can’t be said for the Corrado’s pretty bits. Add in the fact that people liked to modify them and you’ve got a recipe for a nice big bowl of unobtanium.
If the car you’re going to look at is anything other than standard, you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking for parts. You need to check for rusty wings, dents, shoddy repairs, missing or broken trim – if you can or should be able to see it, you need to check it. Fewer than 100,000 Corrados were built over its seven-year production run, and of those, the G60 and VR6 cars had different wings and front bumpers. As such, there is a community-wide hunt for good quality spare parts.
4) Heater matrix
When sitting in the car, look at the carpet around the centre console, specifically towards the rear of it. Are there any signs of discolouration? Any damp? How does the car smell when you sit in it and shut the door? It should smell like German quality and possibly Lynx Africa. It should not smell like damp. If it does, this means the heater matrix has started to fail. Not only does that mean you’re going to have a hard time staying warm, it also means you’re going to have to rip out most of the dash, replace the carpets, change the coolant and more. Parts are available, but it’s a massive job.
Because of the enormity of the job, a lot of owners will ignore it. And if you ignore water getting into a car it means only one thing – rust. So again, this is something you’re going to need to look out for if there are any whiffs of dampness.
If you’re looking at a G60 model – because why wouldn’t you be – you’re going to need to have a look at the supercharger. The ‘G-Lader’ supercharger fitted to the G60 is of the scroll design, and on its own it’s actually a fairly hardy bit of kit. However, that’s only the case if it’s been maintained properly. There is no hard and fast rule, but specialists will tell you to change the belt every 50k or so.
Other than the belt, the supercharger’s biggest point of weakness is the ‘screw’ within it. The apex seals can wear and fail, and with it, you lose all boost. You can’t see inside a supercharger, but there are a couple of things you can do. Firstly, get the car running and put a long screwdriver on the supercharger body. You should hear a drone/ whirring noise that changes in pitch if the engine is revved. If you hear any rattle or metallic sounds, you’re in trouble. Also, if you can, detach the boost pipe between the supercharger and the intercooler and look for any signs of oil. A tiny bit is to be expected, but a thick coating means things are going wrong. You’re going to be into £1,000+ territory to put it right.