The cars, they keep on coming. The tally stands at four right now, and I’d like it to stay that way for just a little while. Joining my youngtimer Euro fleet is a 1986 Volkswagen Polo “86c”, called a Polo Classic for some reason and badged as Polo C for some other reason. It’s technically quite close to a Fox of sorts, but features a humble 1272cc, 53-horsepower four hooked up to a four-speed manual gearbox.
It’s probably the least rusty car I have ever owned. There is a pimple-sized rust speck in the corner of the windshield, and nowhere else is there any rust to be seen – except for some minor surface rust on some suspension components. The body is unmarked, the paint all original.
Naturally, there are caveats…
The car was bought new by an elderly lady, who daily-drove it until 2012 except for storing it every winter. It was maintained at a local garage, and used sparingly. The odometer reading stands at 83000 km and change, and there is very little wear anywhere. It wouldn’t be out of the question that the car would’ve done 3000 slow kilometres per year within the city limits.
However, it is a restoration project of sorts. After giving up driving, the elderly lady had given the VW to a relative of hers, who ran into some engine trouble and pretty much abandoned it at a garage nearby. It stood there on the forecourt for six months, during which it changed hands but didn’t move an inch – an another guy considered fixing it up, but didn’t have anywhere to put it and no time to invest in it. The fault remained unrectified, as no labor costs were wanted to be put in it, despite the car sitting five metres from the garage’s door. The ever-present hand of the crusher came nearer the car than ever before.
I got the phone call last week, informing me about the car. A local, Polo-driving enthusiast acquaintance had been tipped off about the car, but as he already drives a mint 1.1-litre ’82 Polo he was more eager to pass the info on. And the price was good, even for a paperweight with a VW badge. I just had to save it, no matter what.
Soon enough, I signed the title at the MOT station and received the keys from the seller along with a handshake. With the other Polo guy, we trailered the car to where the Saab currently sleeps, and I soon started cleaning the thing up and assessing the issues. A good hoovering was the first thing I did to it, as it was definitely overdue.
Initially, it was assumed the headgasket was a goner. It had been replaced once before, and it would make sense a gasket replacement without skimming the head would cause the problem to reappear. This was the info with which I bought the car, and it still makes sense.
Opening the air filter cover, I noticed the entire airbox along with the carb was swimming in black oil, with the air filter soaked. I was at first adviced this could possibly be due to stuck piston rings, which does kick up the intensity of the project a notch.
But it’s not all that bad. In any case, what we’re dealing here is a completely original, low-km, rust free grandmamobile that is getting rarer, even if it’s not an uncommon sight on our roads. The interior, while still needing some cleaning, is all there – it’s hilariously basic to begin with, of course. No radio, no tach, no clock, nothing. Just hard plastic.
I didn’t talk money yet, did I? I got the car for 60 euros, 60! That is 85 of your good bucks. The car has about a hundred’s worth of overdue tax due to sitting unused without being declared off the road, and it does need some repair funds put into it. But a worst-case scenario, however unlikely, is a replacement engine and I could source one for just 100 eur.
The first step once I had rolled my sleeves was to drain the engine of the oil gone bad, and out came quite a bit more than was strictly necessary. The over-filled oil, especially with some water that had ended up in the bottom of the oilpan, will have easily boosted the oil to such level that it had to get out no matter what outlet. That would mean I wouldn’t need to worry about the piston rings just yet.
With fresh oils, a new filter and the engine hand-turned for a while, the Volkswagen didn’t quite yet start when I first attempted it yesterday; it took until I replaced the plugs tonight and sprayed a bit of starter pilot into the carb that it actually sprang to life. It doesn’t really like to idle, there’s white smoke from the exhaust along with water, mayo forms into the oil cap and whatnot – but it does run and move under its own power. It didn’t do that for six months.
For all it’s worth, that’s a good start. I’ll have a nice winter season fixing the car up.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]