VW’s classy early-’90s coupé is becoming more appreciated as a classic. But finding an original car can be a headache...
Dubbed a ‘future classic’ by none other than BBC’s Top Gear
Determinedly more up-market than the Scirocco with which its production overlapped, the VW Corrado started life as a possible Porsche design. It was based on the Golf Mk2’s underpinnings, and the first cars for the UK in 1989 had either the 16-valve 1.8-litre engine with 123bhp, or the supercharged G60 derivative with 158bhp. Either way, there was style as well as substance, with an attractively rounded two-door coupé body assembled by Karmann in Osnabrück.
Changes in 1992 saw the 1.8 replaced by 2.0, and the G60 give way to the 2.9-litre VR6. The VR6 took on suspension elements from the new MK3 Golf, including a wider front track. Front ends were re-designed across the range, with widened wings, new bonnet and bumper, and fewer grille slats. When production ended in 1995, about 9000 Corrados out of 97,521 built had reached the UK.
Engine 2661cc/V6/SOHC per bank
Power (bhp@rpm) 190bhp@5800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 181lb ft@4200rpm
Top speed 145mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The corrado always appealed to buyers who delight in fitting bodykits and making other modifications. There were good and bad bodykits, and you’ll see both. It’s your choice whether to avoid or tolerate them.
Bodykit or not, check that the standard elements of the body are in good condition. While the Corrado’s mechanical elements are pretty reasonably priced in the VW tradition, body panels are not. You’ll be looking at over £500 for a new rear bumper, for example.
Also remember that Corrado owners have often been rather enthusiastic drivers, so you should always check for evidence of crash damage that’s been repaired. The most obvious signs will be rippled metal in the inner wings or the boot floor.
Check that the rear spoiler does its party trick of extending above 45mph; double-check by using the manual over-ride switch on the dash.
The 16-valve 1.8 and 2.0 engines give less performance than the more powerful types, but are solidly reliable. There was an eight-valve 1.8 model, too, but it’s very rare and largely unloved.
The supercharged G60 was available in the UK for just over a year. It gives much better mid-range acceleration than any of the others, and is basically a 1.8-litre four-cylinder, but its weakness lies in the belt-driven supercharger, which can give up the ghost after high mileages. The supercharger needs regular health checks, so find yourself a good VW specialist. Worn parts need to be renewed if you want to avoid catastrophic failure.
All VR6 engines use oil, and their timing chains eventually stretch; check when the tensioner was last replaced. Head gaskets also go at around 60,000 miles, sometimes provoked by overheating after seizure of the electric cooling fan motor. VR6 cars are also more likely to have been abused than other Corrado types.
The suspension has MacPherson struts at the front, plus trailing arms on a torsion beam axle at the rear, with anti-roll bars at each end. It’s all familiar and robust stuff, so your main checks should be for worn bushes. However, beware of modified suspensions; there are reputable specialists around who do top-quality improvements, but there are also back-street bodgers.
Most cars have a five-speed manual gearbox, but a four-speed auto was offered as an option on the VR6. On the manual, listen for worn synchromesh crunching as you engage second, and make sure that the gears don’t jump out of mesh on the over-run. Wheels are a favourite for upgrading. The originals were 15-inch alloys, but many owners have switched to larger sizes.
The early dashboard, switchgear and steering wheel are bland Passat items, so interiors are often modified. The 1993 and later cars had extra gauges and new switches, plus a more stylish three-spoke steering wheel.
Seats have plenty of shape and give good support, but favourite is the leather upholstery that added a touch of luxury and came as standard on the end-of-production Storm models in 1995. The standard striped or later ‘domino’ cloth is fairly hard-wearing, but it’s the leather that will be easier to replace if it’s been damaged. Electric windows and an electric sunroof were standard on 1991 and later cars, so check that they function correctly.
The Corrado’s main attraction is that it’s a pocket performance car with good looks. It’s an affordable proposition either as a weekend toy or as an everyday "coming classic", and handling is simply enormous fun. Parts are not hard to find, there’s a strong on-line community of enthusiasts (from all around the world) for moral encouragement and practical help, and there’s a good chance that one day – but not just yet – the prices of really good cars will start to rise. No doubt about it, though: the G60 and VR6 models are the ones most likely to see long-term interest.