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Frankly, I had. The type number, not the model as such. This is probably due to the fact that the 53i is far better known as the Corrado, which will be 30 years this year.

The Corrado is actually a car I can easily remember from when it was new – but I had just forgotten how long ago that really was. 30 years! The Corrado?!! I was almost certain that they had made a mistake, when I saw VW celebrate its 30 years at the VW stand at the Bremen Classic Motorshow. But of course there was no mistake there: As we know, VW does not make mistakes – unless one discovers them, of course. And the Corrado really was presented to the public for the first time back in October 1988 which is indeed some 30 years ago.

When Dave Leadbetter wrote his brilliant article Age is just a number, he mused back and forth on the subject of age and classic status, as well as the very good question of when did cars stop getting old? The Corrado I encountered in Bremen emphasised that question: Sure it is 30 years old – but is it a classic?

A boxer’s nose, a wedgy shape, a brutally stumped rear, wide fenders per original – and it all just blends so well together, that I’ve always found the overall proportions were the strongest feature of the Corrado’s design. Here in a proper Nineties colour and on wheels that are perhaps a little too big. A fate many a Corrado has suffered.

That seemed to be a most relevant question, as I stood there eying the perfectly preserved factory-delivered virginity of a grey Corrado featured on a stand at the Bremen Classic Motorshow. As I said, I’m finding it hard to understand my self, and the Corrado does not make it easier: I was honestly surprised at how modern it still appears.

On the other hand a completely stock Corrado actually borders on boring.

Or is it actually me who has simply misunderstood the whole concept of modern? I complained my distress only last week to a colleague after trying a merely seven year old car – and rejecting it because I could not live with its blue digital instruments.

At least the Corrado never suffered that: It makes do with analogue instruments, cables controlling the gearbox and chunkier bodywork than any modern manufacturer dares to put into production. I really like that.

It almost looked like new, the G60 on the VW stand in Bremen.

In fact I liked the Corrado when new and and I still like it now.

It’s just not the same as saying that I like it as a classic. As I challenged myself and thoroughly examined VW’s e insanely well-preserved exampe of a 1989 Corrado, I had to admit that its exterior design has aged really, really well. As well as wondering whether it was that which paradoxically makes me struggle to recognize it as a proper candidate for entering my own garage?

But then this…

…which is just plain boring. Full stop.

But let me admit, then, that I even feel that way about its predecessor, the Scirocco (especially in the facelifted edition), which remained in production until 1989: Even though it was way more old-fashioned back then and of course even more so now – that’s not really old nor classic enough for me either. And then here comes its successor, the Corrado, and is even more modern?

You can no doubt say many things about the Corrado, but it was not a bad car: Guess which one came out as a winner of this comparison test?

Yes, it did. And the fact is that it was cheaper than a Porsche 944, could beat it (in the G60 version with that special supercharger) in a comparison test and (unbelievably) is a rarer car too. Rarer than the Porsche 944 – really? Sure: Only 90,000 Corrados were built against more than 110,000 of the 944. This one fact actually does speak for the Corrado as a coming classic, as in modern terms 90,000 is a rather small production run.

My favorite of the lot is the 2,9 liter VR6-engined Corrado: The VR6 might just be VW’s most charismatic engine ever. Except for a certain air-cooled boxer engine, of course. But there are alternatives within the family, and both the G60 and VR6 were fast and well-honed coupés.

So to sum it up: I actually have no doubt that the Type 53i has the substance to become a nice classic car in it’s own right. I’m just in doubt whether it’s something for me. And not least, I am contemplating whether it has managed to overtake all my reservations, and has in fact already grabbed that classic car status before I even knew of it.

What will the esteemed ViaRETRO panelists say?

3 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Hmmmm… a thought-provoking extension indeed of Dave’s Age is Just a Number article.
    Claus, I very much share your sentiment when it comes to the Corrado. I too remember it being introduced back in late ’88. I really liked it back then, and to be honest I still do. But is a classic? Well, no I don’t think it is. At least not in my mind. Would I own one myself? I’m not sure. If I could actually find a really original and unmolested VR6, then I might actually consider it as a daily driver youngtimer. But as a pampered fair-weather classic car, no. Not even close to be honest.

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    The VR6-engine does a lot for me, @anders-bilidt : Great concept, sound – and of course power and torque. And I actually like the idea of one as a daily youngtimer. But then again – why?

  3. Dave Leadbetter

    Nice. But is it a classic? I’m going to say, on balance… very almost probably yes quite shortly.

    Here are my reasons:

    1. Everything I have read points to it being inherently quite good.
    2. It is very representative of the new coupes of the late 80s and early 90s, launched after the hot hatch trend should have seen them off – think Alfa GTV, Fiat Coupe, Ford Probe etc. Therefore it’s got some design significance.
    3. It’s possibly the last Volkswagen that appeals to me on any level.

    I think this is a car that in a few years will be a fully certified classic but is currently just on the edge. I may feel like an imposter if I turned up to a classic car show in one, but I can’t recall the last time I saw one in daily use. It’s that passage of time wake-up call again… And they do look rather good in that yellow colour.


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