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These Are the Coolest Cars I Saw Last Week 8-7-18

Among the coolest cars I’ve seen recently are a Volkswagen icon, a legendary Ford in a notorious color and a Toyota product I doubt you’ve ever even heard of.

Here’s a 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI. The 1983 model year was the first year of GTI sales in the United States, all of which were built at VW’s plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania — and therefore wore the “Westmoreland” front end that you see here, with square headlights. European GTIs came with round headlights and lacked the amber corner lights worn by American models. The MK1 Rabbit GTI came with either a red or blue interior; it looks like the interior on this one is blue. In 1983 only, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine making 90 horsepower was offered, before output was increased to an even 100 for 1984. All GTIs offered a 5-speed manual transmission.

Things were slightly different in Canada, where the GTI first went on sale in 1979. These early models were still built in Europe, thus offering the European front end, but with the same driveline and suspension components of the non-GTI version of the Rabbit that was sold in Canada, making the Canadian-market 1979-1982 GTI effectively an appearance package. This apparently changed in 1983 with the arrival of the North American Rabbit GTI. Also, according to Wikipedia, a number of European-spec MK1 GTIs made it to Canada thanks to a provision to allow foreign soldiers to import their vehicles for use while training in Canada. As a result, VW of Canada made available all of the Europe-specific performance parts for these vehicles, making it possible for Canadians to build their own Canadian-market, Euro-spec, Westmoreland-built Rabbit GTI.

Here’s a 1996 Ford Bronco XLT that I saw in Breckenridge on a recent trip through Colorado. Hailing from the final model year for the Bronco, this Bronco is an XLT model, meaning it was positioned third from the top in the Bronco hierarchy. Above it was the XLT Sport, which was offered in monochrome black, white or red, and is most notable for its body-colored grille, along with the outdoors-themed Eddie Bauer edition, identifiable by its beige rocker panels and hardtop.

While on the topic of the hardtop — starting with the 1992 model year, when this final generation of the Bronco was introduced, the hardtop technically wasn’t supposed to be removable. Since the rear shoulder belts and center high-mounted stop light were affixed to the hardtop, removing it would essentially render the vehicle unsafe and non-compliant with federal safety mandates of the day. To discourage its removal while avoiding the need for costly re-engineering, Ford removed all literature referring to the removal of the hardtop from the Bronco’s owner’s manual, and changed the hardware affixing the top to the body from a standard hex-bolt design to a more proprietary 6-point ‘torx’ bolt, which required the use of a special screwdriver to remove. Still, if you were able to acquire this tool and if you had the know-how for the job, the top was just as removable as it had been on previous generation models. Ah, the days before the internet.

One of my favorite things to Google is “fifth-gen Bronco top removed.”

Here’s an especially rare piece of automotive history: a 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S. I’d never seen one of these before; to be honest, I barely knew they existed. Part of the line of E80 Corollas that were built from 1983 to 1987 at Toyota’s NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, the FX16 GT-S was a hot hatch aimed squarely at the Volkswagen GTI. Use of the Corolla name was all over the place in the 1980s: The Corolla of the early part of the decade had been a huge sales success, and, as a result, Toyota seemed to want to use the nameplate on as many models as possible. The “E80” generation introduced the first front-wheel drive Corolla, known as the AE82, although there were still rear-wheel-drive E80 Corollas produced — namely the much loved AE85 and AE86 — that were built upon the previous generation platform.

While those two RWD holdover Corollas were performance-focused, so was the FX16 GT-S, albeit using the front-wheel drive, AE82 chassis. The FX16 GT-S employed a 1.6-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve, fuel-injected 4-cylinder engine that made 108 hp — a powertrain that also saw use in the original MR2 and in the rear-drive AE86 Corolla GT-S. All of this tech was considered very forward-thinking in the 1980s. The engine was mated to either a 5-speed manual, which is what this example had, or an optional 4-speed automatic.

Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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  1. The Toyota FX16 was pretty cool when they came out but lacked a bit in the styling department.  Competition in that segment was tough … the FX16 was up against the GTI, Mazda 323 GTX, Honda’s various SI products, and the Acura Integra (among others).  In the mid-’80s I was shopping in this segment and went with the Integra, a decision which I did not regret as the Integra served me well for many, many years.

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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