Images thank to dani-mk2-g60
The VW Golf/Rabbit mk2 has always held a little special place in my automotive hall of honour. When I was 17, I wanted a Golf/Rabbit mk2 GTI so much that I had saved all summer for that particular car; weekly checking Autotrader for local obtainable GTIs and purchasing the VW Golf magazine monthly. Unfortunately, that teenage dream was to pass, and I ended up with a racing green Renault RSI 1.8 mk2. It was a much newer car which my family were keen to remind me but just as quick. It was great fun blazing its way around the B-roads of Cornwall (UK) but could never match my mk2 Golf/Rabbit GTI in gleaming white or red dream.
Anyways, so when years later I discovered the VW Golf/Rabbit G60 and Golf/Rabbit Rallye G60 you can imagine my excitement levels.
The Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit G60 and VW Golf/Rabbit G60 Rallye are special limited edition mk2. VW created these cars in limited numbers to meet the homologation rules for Group A rally series. The Golf/Rabbit G60 was based on both the 8 and 16 valves mk2 GTI and used a G-Lader turbo to give this unique car extra power. Rallye was launched in 1989 and featured boxed arches, 1,763cc 160bhp 8-valve engine and a mud chomping Syncro all-wheel-drive system. The G60 was a precursor to the mighty mk4 R32; the G60 Limited was for many years Volkswagen fastest hatchback.
So now we know what this unusual Volkswagen lets look at how this 1980s Veedub beast came to be;
VW mk2 Golf/Rabbit
The mk2 Golf/Rabbit was a super popular model for Volkswagen; it helped establish the company within the hatchback sector. It was a car which any 1980s kid will remember as the safe, dependable family hatchback with an upper-class pretence. Not quite a BMW, but much classier than a Vauxhall Astra or Ford Escort of the same period.
Schäfer at Volkswagen took the glories 1970s Giorgetto Giugiaro Italdesign mk1 design, added extra practicality, and a produced a car which would have fitted quality in a class above a generation earlier. It’s progress and something VW has continued to replicate with every new edition.
VWs mk2 Golf/Rabbit put into production between 1983 and 1992 was a loved model which lead to a typically unfair media reception for the replacement mk3. Selling more than 6.3 million hatchbacks, the Golf/Rabbit mk2 was an apparent sales success for VW.
There was a wide range of models, from the lukewarm 1,043cc (44hp; 33 kW) to the enthusiasts choice Golf/Rabbit GTI 1,781cc 16-valve (102 kW; 137 hp). Or should we say 8-valve (82 kW; 110 hp) depending on your preference 😉
The Golf/Rabbit underwent a mid-life facelift in 1990 typically called the “Big bumper” which gave the model a large plastic bumper which was first introduced to the GTI models and then later across the full range. It is safe to assume that this was both a style and safety upgrade.
By the end of production in 1992, the Golf/Rabbit had featured several special editions; which included Golf/Rabbit Syncro, Golf/Rabbit Country, Rallye Golf/Rabbit, Golf/Rabbit Limited and Golf/Rabbit Mk2 citySTROMer.
At the breathing heart of the G60, is the supercharger. The G-Lader turned the sedate looking VW Golf/Rabbit G60 “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and super boxed arched VW Golf/Rabbit Rallye into road mashing hatchbacks.
First seen in the Volkswagen Polo G40, the G-lader supercharger was no regular box of tricks. This ingenious supercharger uses Scroll-type design, meaning that the G-lader supercharger uses a displacer plate; these plates are spiralled to increase the supercharger performance.
Aftermarket tuners like the G-Lader design as it is a robust design and has been known to perform well to customisation. Crank powered superchargers are also recognised for there zero lag, and impressive cooling, which is a characteristic of turbo-powered cars of this era.
If you are lucky enough to own a G-Lader vehicle, you will know that supercharger maintenance is essential. VW initially marketed the G-Lader engine as a low maintenance lifetime which coursed much owner frustration at the time and reported reliability issues. However, this wasn’t a supercharger issue per se but the way VW had sold their range, ultimately leading to the replacement of the G60 and G40 models with larger capacity engines.
The G-Lader technology later adapted for the commercial transporter lineup and became popular within Volkswagen diesel engines.
The first supercharged Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit GTi was released in 1998, featuring the popular 8-valve. The first G60s produced 118kW 158hp, which when combined with a package weighing just over 1200kg must have made an entertaining drive.
This hatchback combined the sleek VW Schäfer design with an engine which propelled the supercharged hatchback from 0 to 60mph in just 7.8 seconds. That was was an impressive performance stat for cool-looking 1980s hatchback.
However, many lucky Golf/Rabbit G60 owners tuned their G-Lader cars, giving a lot more power which must have been incredible in a front-wheel-drive 1980s hatchback without luxuries such as traction control.
In 1990 the ultra-rare Golf/Rabbit G60 Limited joined the party featuring a 16-valve GTI engine which upped the power to 154kW 207hp and featured all-wheel drive. While the G60 is a rare beast, the Golf/Rabbit G60 Limited is even rarer with only 71 models coming from Volkswagen Motorsport.
For ultimate boxy style and exclusivity, the Volkswagen Rallye Golf/Rabbit has to be high in your Veedubs wishlist. The Rallye features the fantastic G60 engine mated to the Syncro all-wheel-drive system.
While technically excellent with its weighty Syncro all-wheel-drive setup and supercharged downsized 1,763cc 160bhp 8-valve engine the Rallye Golf/Rabbit struggled to live up to there incredible 1980s looks and struggled to hit 0-62 in less than 8.6 seconds. While the ultra-rare Golf/Rabbit G60 Limited would have outperformed the Rallye, but oh boy, those Rallye looks!
By the time Volkswagen used the Syncro into the Rallye Golf/Rabbit, the Syncro system had become popular within such models at the Type 3 transporter and later Golf/Rabbit mk2 Country. The Syncro system is frequently called the ‘intelligent’ 4WD system as it reacts to the road conditions. Syncro differs from systems from Audi’s front-engine/front-drive-based Quattro, which is reactive to the driver input.
Developed by Volkswagen’s Motorsport team and released for sale to meet the FIA homologation rules for Group A rally racing. The boxed flared wheel arches gave the Rallye looks which instantly pulls at the eyes of any Veedub motorhead.
Cars such as the Rallye Golf/Rabbit would have lived on posters stuck to many teenagers bedroom wall during the 1980s; the Rallye Golf/Rabbit would sit in good company beside such legends as the Lancia’s Integrale, BMW E30 M3 and Ford Seria Cosworth RS.
Volkswagen handbuilt 5000 Rallye Golf/Rabbit, at the time you would have needed to be wealthy to have acquired a VW Rallye Golf/Rabbit as prices where double that of the regular VW Golf/Rabbit GTI. A car which wasn’t exactly cheap.
In an odd twist to the Rallye Golf/Rabbit story, the internet says that Volkswagen considered the car a flop upon its release. It is incredible to believe how times have changed with these Rallyes now in high demand by enthusiasts and collectors. Maybe that is why it took VW until 2002 to reintroduce another sporty all-wheel-drive Golf/Rabbit in the form of the mk4 R32.