Our favorite Finnish editor, Antti Kautonen, thinks I’m jumping the gun on this one. He feels that the 1986 VW Polo he recently acquired and tore into would make a better HCOTY nominee next year, when it’s (God willing) complete and on the road. I say pshaw! I am nominating it now precisely because it’s not there yet. It represents the potential behind every project car out there. It honors every car guy who has set his mind to reversing the typical cycle of entropy from showroom new to ratty beater to junkyard rubbish. Antti has chosen to stand defiantly against the inevitability of that decline, like Jean-Luc Picard yelling “The line will be drawn HERE!”
Given it’s remarkably clean, well-preserved shape, Antti paid a ridiculously low €60/$85 price. That in itself is cool. Some of us know the thrill of stumbling on an unexpected bargain find, others dream of it. But his borderline theft of this car speaks to how few drivers can see the potential enjoyment that sleeps beyond milky-white crankcase oil, 53 horsepower and the unadorned starkness of the Polo’s interior.
I am thrilled that the Polo has become a teacher, too. As Antti told us, “…this is the absolutely first time I’m covering any work to this extent. I’ve done some oil changes and relatively easy wrenching in my time, but a cylinder head removal together with a head gasket and cambelt replacement is something I’ve never yet done.” The trepidation of taking on a never-before-attempted wrenching task only increases the joy and satisfaction to be had when it is completed successfully. The Polo’s simplicity and low purchase price have enabled Antti to attempt something he’s never tried before. Bravo to both of them for that.
Not every driving enthusiast can see past the 1986 Polo C’s lack of sporting intent to see the elegant simplicity and admirable engineering it possesses. But to my eye, it has the same purity of line found in shaker furniture or a Walter Gropius building. To see and enjoy that character despite the nonrunning condition in which Antti found the car takes a special passion for automobiles most people lack. But Hooniverse’s readers have it in spades — that’s what makes this little corner of the Interwebs so special, and this car such a fitting HCOTY candidate.