A quirky looking car loved by Volkswagen fanatics across the globe, this 1987 VW Scirocco has more than its looks going for it thanks to its engine swap.
Anyone who denies that the Volkswagen Scirocco is iconic has got to be a Volkswagen hater. The mono wiper, the fastback-style hatch, its funky name, those are all things that make it recognizable by even casual European car fans. Eduardo "Lalo" Hernandez from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico took all of that and went further by incorporating a modern, turbocharged 1.8-liter VW BEA engine swap. Ironically, this swap means it gained one more valve and a turbocharger but kept the displacement.
“I bought it fifteen years ago from my neighbor,” Eduardo recalled, “I remember that he was in a hurry to sell the car and needed the money. To be honest, I didn’t like the car at first, because I was not a fan for that specific platform. I wanted to help my friend, so I bought the car.” However, his feelings changed when he saw the restorations and performance done to other Type 53Bs across the Atlantic in Germany. “I was amazed, and all I wanted was to start with my project. I was totally hooked on my Scirocco from that point on.”
“In the beginning,” Eduardo told us, “I noticed that the vehicle was incomplete. I started looking for parts at the junk yards. All I wanted was to have a functional car, but I always had it in mind to keep it as original as possible.” You’ll see that Eduardo’s Scirocco sports a Zender Z400 rear wing. The original full Z400 kit included boxy, widened fenders for the front and rear that allowed for much wider or more aggressive offset wheels than stock. We have to say, though, this milder Zender kit looks much more befitting of a street driven Volkswagen Scirocco.
Fortunately, the kit still allows for a slightly more aggressive wheel setup than stock. Zender recommended 15x7 +30 offset wheels with a 195/50R15 tire. Eduardo went beyond that with these HRE 505 wheels in 15x8 front, and 15x9 rear with Toyo Proxes tires in 195/45R15 all around. It’s not a hardcore stretch in the front, but the rear is far more pronounced with the rim of the wheel protruding out from the tire’s lip protector.
Inside, the Scirocco is guided around corners using a 320mm MOMO steering wheel design. The wheel is super small compared to most steering wheels but looks perfect for Eduardo’s car.
The analog gauge shows the pedestrian past that this Scirocco lived. Interestingly, it is all metric with a kilometer per hour speedometer. That also means this chassis has seen only 82,611-miles. If you’re not familiar with VW layouts, you’re probably realizing that the turn signal indicator is for both sides. This was typical for Volkswagens until the introduction of the Mark III Golf/Jetta, which was around 1993.
Unfortunately, the stock dash doesn’t let on to a lot of other information. So, Eduardo went with a set of Autometer Pro-Comp gauges for water temperature (in Fahrenheit), oil pressure, and wideband air/fuel ratio readings.
Shifting the VW MQ350 six-speed transmission is a breeze with the CAE aluminum race shifter. The shifter is lengthened and put up on a pedestal to put the shift knob closer to your hand. This is done to make the movement from steering wheel to the shifter shorter but doesn’t lengthen the throw of the shift. A Clutch Masters kevlar clutch grabs just right when you release the clutch pedal while a Peloquins USA 02A differential keeps the front Toyo tires turning true during hard acceleration.
The Recaro LX seats with their net-style headrests fit in well with the looks of the 1980s and early 1990s Volkswagens. While the rear seats are gone, you can still see the handhold loops used to help passengers get into the back and climb out and over the front seats.
For some added safety for spirited drives, Eduardo’s Scirocco features a bolt-in Autopower six-point roll cage. It’s great in the fact that if you want to remove it, it can simply be unbolted and is made to work with the factory seat belts. You can also spot the Neuspeed rear tower brace in the cargo area.
Now we see the transplant that really makes this car amazing. This engine is the BEA 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder from the first-generation Audi TT, the Type 8N. This version is the 225-Powerstroke DIN rated one, and there is only one way to tell the difference between it and the 180-PS version...
How, you might ask? By looking at the turbocharger. The 180-PS uses the Borg Warner K03 while the 225-PS uses the K04 turbo. While all engines utilize a forged crankshaft, the 225 has 20mm wrist pins to deal with the additional boost pressure.
From the turbine outlet, the spent fuel and oxygen flows out through a custom exhaust system with a Remus single outlet muffler.
The stance is made by a set of KW Variant 2 coilovers that not only allow for height and preload adjustment but also rebound firmness. These are aided by a set of Neuspeed and Autotech swaybars.
To not spoil the looks of the Zender kit while parked and not need to remove it totally, the rear plate can fold down and hide away. Clearly, it’s only for show purposes.
“Throughout these 20 years as a Volkswagen enthusiast,” says Eduardo, “I have had the opportunity to meet several friends who have inspired, supported, and driven me. That is all thanks to the fact that we share the same passion. I would like to thank each one of them, my wife and children, my parents, my friends and especially my car club, Westside Mexico.”
Overall, this Scirocco project has been a great experience for Eduardo, even when parts had been hard to source. “In the last 2 years my car has attracted attention of people who really appreciate the time and effort that you invest in your project,” he said, “I am very grateful to those who have rewarded my car, I have really enjoyed going to the car shows Mexico and the US. I have been awarded trophies several times, but, in my very personal opinion, being recognized by enthusiasts has been more gratifying than any show award.”
“In 2003 the Scirroco was a fast car for its age,” Eduardo explained, “it was thirteen years old and this car ran faster than its opponents because of the power to weight equation, and the Scirocco was very well balanced in comparison with other cars that had the same engine.” Now with its new engine and new lease on life thanks to Eduardo, it’s even better than it originally was.
The Scirocco was always an enjoyable car that had a performance-minded weight and power along with its unique looks. Eduardo found out what other owners of these wonderful cars did when they were less than a few decades old, “Its weight was much lighter and the Scirocco was better because of that,” he told us before we parted, “I think that’s one of the main differences from the other similar platforms. Without hesitation, I would do it again, just in less time so I can enjoy more of it.”
It’s not a rare vehicle, but you’ll just attract people to you just because it is a Scirocco. It’s a car that always seems to have a story to tell by everyone that stops by. You can’t help but love this odd-looking car, but when you make it perform, you have an instant winner from car shows to track days. When you do that, people fall in love with the Scirocco all over again, and they begin to try to find their own. That’s exactly what happened when Eduardo first purchased this car: he didn’t like it but soon fell in love when he saw what others did and the community surrounding it. Now, he’s doing the same for new fans and sharing the love of the quirky little hatchback.
Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
If you like this Scirocco, you can find additional Volkswagen content at volkswagen.fcpeuro.com, as well as more build features like this one here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS