Spotted for sale is a 1983 VW Gol for $10,900 USD
This is my 1983 Volkswagen Gol. Yes, that’s Gol, not Golf. It’s not a squished Scirocco or a flattened Rabbit. It’s a Brazilian car called Gol. And it’s awesome. And a little (very) quirky. If you don’t like strange cars then this little odd ball is not for you.
A word of caution, if you continue to read, you might become just as obsessed with this little quirky nugget as I am.
So what makes it quirky? Well, first of all, you could never buy this car in North America. This car was made for the Brazilian market by Volkswagen Brazil. But why? Well, the short story is that in the 1970s, the VW Bug was finally growing a little long in the tooth and VW Brazil decided it was time to replace it. But how do you replace something as iconic as a round bug-mobile designed in the 1930s and built, almost unchanged for 50 years? Add to that, it was a cheap car that was (mostly) reliable and (pretty) easy to fix. And it was (virtually) indestructible.
In the 1970s Audi (which is part of the VW universe – like the Marvel universe, but German and with cars instead of superheroes) had a car called the Audi 80 – it was a nice car, it was a simple car. And they made it in a hatchback. VW Brazil looked at this nice, simple car and thought “hey, I bet if we took that car, made it a little shorter and simplified it even more, that could be a great replacement for the Beetle). And so they did.
And then they did something a little funny, you know, a little strange. They needed an engine for this new, shorter Audi 80, so they looked around and thought, “you know, these Beetle engines are pretty rugged, easy to repair and last forever. Plus we already know how to make them. So let’s stick that in this new car.” And they did. But where the original Beetle engine was in the back of the car, VW Brazil decided to put that little aircooled box of rocks in the front of this car.
And to give it a fittingly Brazilian name, they called it Gol – like the word one yells at top volume when their favorite footballer scores a point. (Footballer here, for us Yanks, refers to a soccer player)
So this little Sage-colored gem is a parts-bin special made with the shortened body of an Audi 80 (we would get something similar here in the States, called the VW Fox) and an old VW Bug engine dropped into the front.
If you’ve ever read Richard Porter’s book, “Crap Cars,” he mentions the Gol in the section about the VW Fox. His words are a bit unkind, but accurate, The VW Gol sounds like a box of rocks rolling down the road.
And he’s right.
The aircooled engine stuck in the front of this car gives you all the power of a 1980s era Yugo with all the noise and vibration of a 1960s era school bus. It’s slow and loud and will rattle your teeth. But it does it with so much unrepentant delight, that you’ll smile all the way down the road.
Oh, and if you’re not a people person, this car isn’t for you. Everywhere you go, people will stop you and ask about the little sage demon, they’ll want to know if it’s a smushed Rabbit or a 1970s Scirocco or some custom job you built out of spare VW parts. You’ll get thumbs up from other VW owners, smiles from people walking down the street and generally create an air of joy and cheer wherever you go. And people will know when you’re around – you know, because it’s loud. If that’s not for you, read no more.
So here’s why you wouldn’t want this car. First, it’s loud. Imagine driving around with a VW Bug aircooled engine in your lap. That’s what you’re doing here. It vibrates. It feels like you’ve got a massive barrel of rocks just rolling around the front of the car. This one has a small exhaust leak somewhere in the exhaust manifold – likely the connection between the manifold and the exhaust pipes. It starts every time, but sometimes the starter solenoid gets stuck and you have to turn the key a few times to get it to kick in; but it always does. The manual choke doesn’t work, but then you really don’t need it. It starts when it’s cold, it starts when it’s hot, it just likes to start. Why? Because it wants you to be happy. Happy as you sit in its loud, vibrating interior wondering what possessed you to buy this car.
What else? It drips oil. All the time. Like a boss. It’s an oil dripping machine. It’s almost like VW Brazil’s primary goal in designing this car was to make sure you had oil stains in your driveway, in your garage, in your friend’s driveway, in the parking lot at the Custard shop and everywhere else. I just drips oil. So you keep a quart of oil in the car and top it up every 1,000km. Oh, right, did I mention that it’s a Brazilian car? So all the units are metric. That means KPH, not MPH. But that’s okay because it’s also a slow car and the fact that the speedo is in KPH makes you feel like you’re going faster.
How slow? Well, about 0 to 100 KPH in a little longer than it takes you to wonder if you’re ever going to get to 100 KPH. Perhaps that’s a little harsh. It’s around 18 seconds to get to 100KPH, so not as slow as a Mercedes 240 D, but you’re not going to win any drag races. Unless it’s with a Mercedes 240 D. Honestly, while not fast by today’s standards (or yesterday’s), it’s no slower than a 1970s era VW Bug and will comfortably cruise at 110KPH (about 68MPH). In fact, it has a slightly larger engine than a stock VW Bug. Why, you ask?
Well, that’s a bit of a story.
I bought the car in 2021 in Florida. It had just been imported to the US by a guy, we’ll call him Frank. Frank sold me this beautiful VW Gol. I thought it was the bees knees. I told him I wanted to drive it back to Maine from Florida. Frank said that I was crazy, but that the car should be fine for the drive. Just pace yourself at about one or two states a day. Take it easy, said Frank, and you’ll get home just fine.
And I did. The first 60 miles were perfect. And then a few bad things happened. The cooling fan broke and by the time I stopped the car the damage had been done; the engine had overheated and one of the bearings on the crankshaft had seized. So one UHaul trailer later we were home safe and sound in Maine. And I got to work rebuilding the engine.
So this Gol has a rebuilt engine with about 3,000 Km on it. The only thing original to the engine is the block and a few nuts and bolts, the flywheel and its sundry parts, the rods, valves and the camshaft. Everything else is new. And it’s also just a little bigger. The original engine was 1600cc (actually just a little less) and the new engine is 1679cc. What do you get for those extra few cc? Not much. What really makes the difference between the engine as it was and the rebuilt engine is that this engine has very few miles on it so it develops all its rated horsepower, which is pretty small even by 1970s standards. And that’s about 70 horsepower total.
Are you still reading? Okay, cool.
This little Gol has had a good life. It was repainted some time before I purchased it and with good paint that was (mostly) carefully applied. There are a few small rust spots here and there – most people would refer to this as surface rust. I just call it rust. But they’re small and likely very easy to clean up. The body is straight and fits together properly. The instruments work, the lights work (even the dome light above the driver’s head), the radio … well, the radio doesn’t do much but make a lot of noise. And not the kind of noise you might be able to label as music. So the radio’s basically a lost cause. But it’s cute. The fan works, though it sometimes makes a loud screeching noise (the bearing is slowly going bad in it). But it’s not much louder than the engine, so you hardly ever notice when it starts complaining.
There’s no heat.
Yeah, it’s cold in the winter. But then, you might not want to drive the car in the winter. However, it’s a great winter car. Except for the fact that it doesn’t have any heat. It drives through snow like it’s… well, like it’s snow, but in a manner that suggests this car doesn’t care about snow. Like it’s a honey badger as far as snow is concerned (look up honey badgers).
The blinkers work, the window wipers work as does the windshield washer fluid. The headlights work. It has a suggestion of safety with 2-point shoulder harness seat belts. But calling them seat belts is really an affront to seat belts. So let’s call them shoulder dressing. The 4 speed manual transmission shifts as one might expect. It’s a little clunky, but it does its job with happiness and what it lacks in precision it makes up for in consistency. Just about everything works. Which isn’t saying much since this car has very few “features.” It’s a simple car, just like the Bug which it replaced. It’s simple and cute and fun. And if that’s good enough for you, well, then this might be a good car for you.
But I totally understand if you think it’s a ridiculous hunk of steel, plastic, pile carpet and vinyl. That’s fine, because it is. But it’s a really cute ridiculous hunk of steel.
1983 VW Gol
1679cc air cooled engine
4 speed manual transmission
no air conditioning
dumb seat belts
84,153KM (about 51,500 miles)
Sage exterior, Black interior
Brake and accelerator pedals along with a clutch
Nothing even approximating power steering
3 ash trays
Glove box – but one of the hinges is sadly broken. Yes, it’s sad.