The cars we loved.
There was a time in the early 1980’s when everyone who sold some kind of performance car made a version of it with a turbocharged engine. They seemed to be everywhere: Audi, Ford, Mitsubishi even Chrysler. Volkswagen was one of those manufacturers who resisted, even though sister companies Audi and Porsche sported the occasional turbo model. VW’s most likely candidate for corporate blessed forced breathing could have been the sporty Scirocco. The second generation model had hardly rolled off the docks before tuner companies’ began offering performance parts for the Scirocco. It wasn’t until Reeves Callaway stepped in with his popular turbo kits that the ultimate Scirocco would be born.
Unlike other do it your-self kits that Callaway sold, the conversion work for the Scirocco was done in-house at the Callaway facility in Old Lyme, Connecticut. This approach allowed Callaway to tune the Scirocco in a holistic way, improving the cars straight line and cornering performance. This approach also won Callaway the partial blessing of VW of America, or at least a few of its dealers in the Northeastern US, where the Callaway Scirocco was only available. A warrantee was offered that complimented the standard VW issued one, allowing buyers to service their cars at VW dealerships. Despite the increased performance, emissions and fuel economy figures were kept close to the original car’s eliminating the need to re-classify for EPA standards.
The ease at which the conversion fitted with the standard Scirocco on paper was due to the application of a rather small turbo that fit neatly in the engine bay as if came that way from Wolfsburg. Callaway normally did outrageous conversions that boosted power to nearly double in some cars with aggressive ground effects to match (85 Mustang). With the Scirocco, Callaway only added eight pounds of boost to the 1.8 L in-line four, pushing horsepower from 74 to 117. A bolstered suspension with Blistein shocks, thicker anti-roll bars and 15 in wheels and wider tires rounded out the mechanical upgrades. The interior was left stock, except for the turbo gauge added to the right of the instrument cluster and three spoke steering wheel. The Callaway Scirocco is best identified by its unique 15in alloy wheels with multiple holes, that aided brake cooling while lending the Scirocco a slightly Asian look. Special graphics denoting Callaway were added to the bottom of the class hatch area while the side featured a prominent multi stripe that accented the Scirocco’s wedge design. True to Callaway’s previous business model with user modifications, parts of the kit could be implemented separately, omitting some features like decals and wheels.
The changes, however small had a big impact on the performance of the already light and nimble Scirocco. O to 60 was achieved in 7.7 seconds while top speed was improved by 24 mph to 126 mph. These were big numbers in 1983, where many more expensive sporty cars would have had difficulty keeping up. At almost $17k, the Callaway Scirocco was not cheap. The refinement of the stock car was preserved, but now offered a level of performance that approached the Camaro/Firebird while getting 28 mpg on regular unleaded gasoline. Today, turbocharging has become sonimous with VW, but its application when combined with a diesel engine has been more to increase efficiency than simply boost performance. The Callaway Scirocco was all about boosting performance through horsepower and a few choice tuner enhancements. Multi valve engine technology would boost power and performance in future models of the Scirocco, leaving turbocharging behind until the 90’s.