South Africans love sporty Volkswagens, so you can imagine why a car like the Corrado, which was never sold here, has achieved near-mythical status. And when you talk VR6... well it's a car that that makes the fanboys really groan...
I have only twice in my life seen a Corrado on the road in South Africa - one being a relatively clean but base example in red in Cape Town, and the other a darker-hued car that showed up at one of our Johannesburg OutRuns. It's a car that has always intrigued me... Initially largely based on the underpinnings of the Golf 2 (a sweet-handling car), it also featured an active rear spoiler that raised automatically at 45mph (72kph) and 90kph on later models.
Swept-up tail and active rear spoiler are Corrado hallmarks.
But it wasn't until the reveal of the VR6 in 1991 that the Karmann-built Corrado finally got the engine it deserved. South Africans adored the VR6 in the Golf and Jetta, mostly for its addictive sound, but its placement in the Corrado resulted in a string of changes that arguably makes the car a highly desirable, and driveable, modern classic today.
To make the innovative narrow-angle, 2,9L VR6 engine fit transversely into the Corrado's engine bay, VW had to raise the bonnet and, most importantly, use suspension components from the period Golf 3. Now I know, the Golf 3 was not known for superb dynamic ability, but we'll get back to that. For the Corrado VR6, VW also had to widen the front track, necessitating new front wings with wider arches front and rear.
Typically '90s VW cabin, but note Karmann badge behind gearlever.
Mitch Blackburn's car is a late 1993 model and finished in rare dark metallic (almost black). It has been in South Africa for more than 2 decades, with its first owner immigrating to South Africa in the late '90s. Mitch is the car's third owner.
As we crawl though the streets of Cape Town, the VR6 turns many a head. People tend to think it's a Scirocco, a more well-known nameplate here, but we see admiring onlookers mouth the name Corrado a few times. And then they smile when give it some revs. This car has a stock engine, recently rebuilt, and the exhaust has had the silencer removed, so this VR6 makes the type of sound that will make the hair on your arms stand to attention. It howls.
Heart of the beast - the 2.9L narrow-angle VR6 delivers 140kW and 245Nm of torque.
It's also a decently quick car, as I found out on the coastal roads around Cape Town. The 2.9L engine delivers 140kW and a sub-7 second claimed 0-100kph time feels very believable. This car feels mechanically robust too, tracks straight and feels superbly planted in the corners. There's even decent steering weighting and feedback. I do suspect, however, that the car could do with new shocks as the suspension seems to lack travel (not a reported issue by the European magazines).
The Corrado's dynamic "fizz" came as a surprise to me because the Golf 3 was never a particularly lively handler, with the heavy-ish engine upfront giving it plenty understeer. This Corrado feels far more agile and fun.
Fun to drive and with a highly addictive soundtrack, this Corrado VR6 might be looking for a new home.
Inside, it's all pretty much period VW, with chunky controls and a good seating position. Mitch might be selling this car (contact us direct for his information), and notes various little trim bits that are still to be neatened up. More than R20 000-worth of new parts are on the way from the UK, including new doorhandles, interior doorpulls etc.
It's a numbers-matching car with around 150 000km on the odo, should you be interested. It's available through new Cape Town-based "I C O N I C" classic cars, which offers curating and sales services. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.