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Volkswagen began work on the car during the early 1970s as the replacement for the aging Karmann Ghia coupe, and designated it the Type 53 internally. By handbuilding the vehicles down the road at the Karmann factory, they could test the mechanical portions of the new Golf before it went into production quantities. VW chose to use the A1 chassis shared with the Golf/Rabbit and Jetta to underpin the new Scirocco, although most every part of the car was re-engineered in favor of a sportier drive, and the model's all-new styling, penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, was sleeker and sportier than that of either the Golf/Volkswagen Golf or Jetta. The model went on sale in Europe in 1974 and in North America in 1975. MKI models featured a range of four-cylinder engines with displacements from 1.1 to 1.6 liters (1.7 liters in North America), all featuring a single-overhead camshaft and two valves per cylinder.
During the production of the MKI, there were subtle changes to the body and trim. In 1977 the conventional two wiper system changes to a single wiper which parks on the passenger side of the windshield. In 1978 the separate front side marker and turn signal, changed to a combination wrap around orange lens. Other mid-life changes include chrome bumpers with plastic/rubber endcaps to a plastic one-piece wrap around bumper. In 1979 the one-pieces "flag" style outside mirrors transitioned to a two-piece shrouded mirror. There were also special variants throughout the MKI production. Most distinguishable by paint schemes and trim, there were special versions called "Sidewinder", "Sidewinder II", "Champagne Edition", "Champagne Edition II" and the "S". The Champagne Edition II only came in white with black accents and the "S" versions came in three colors, white, black and red with unique color accents.
A heavily re-designed "MKII" variant went on sale in 1982, although it remained on the MKI platform. One unique feature of the MKII was the location of the rear spoiler midway up the glass on the rear hatch. A mid-cycle update occurred in 1984, which included minor changes over the '82 model: removal of the outlined 'SCIROCCO' script from the rear hatch (below the spoiler), a new space-saver spare tire that provided room for a larger fuel tank (with a second "transfer" fuel pump), a redesigned air conditioner compressor, and a different brake master cylinder with in-line proportioning valves and a brake light switch mounted to the pedal instead of on the master cylinder. Leather interior, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, and a manual sunroof were options for all years. Engine power and torque steadily increased over the years. '82 and '83 models produced 74 hp (55 kW) and 90 ft·lbf (120 N·m) of torque. The engine code was EN. The 1984 models produced 90 hp (67 kW) and 100 ft·lbf (140 N·m) torque, the engine code was JH. In mid-1986 a 16-valve model with 123 hp (92 kW) and 120 ft·lbf (160 N·m) of torque was released in the United States and Canada, which included a full body skirt, larger rear spoiler, and tear-drop shaped wheel slots, and vinyl on the B-pillar, to distinguish it from MKII 8V models. The 16V engine code was PL.
Although the 16-valve engine brought added performance to the range, it proved a somewhat questionable choice, as later A2 Golf GTIs were available with a more powerful 16-valve 2.0 liter motor. This was, however, not questionable at the time since the 2.0 liter 16V engine did not show up in America until 1990, two years after the demise of the Scirocco. Still, the European 1.8 16V that was fitted into the Scirocco GTX 16V model developed 139 bhp (104 kW), surpassed only by the A3 generation 2.0 16v with 150 bhp (110 kW).
Like the first generation Scirocco, the car was assembled on behalf of Volkswagen by Karmann of Osnabrück.
Scirocco sales continued until 1988 in the United States, 1989 in Canada, and 1992 in Germany.
The Scirocco was replaced by the Corrado in the VW line-up.
In June of 2006, VW officially announced production of a new Scirocco model at the Autoeuropa assembly plant in Palmela, Portugal. Volume is expected to be 100,000 cars per year, with the first Scirocco rolling off the line in 2008.
A concept of the 2008 Scirocco was shown at the 2006 Paris Auto Show, called the Iroc, later the name was expanded to Scirocco. It is said to share more in spirit and name rather than form with the original design. The 2008 Scirocco will receive the option of two petrol engines: Volkswagen's TSI twincharged straight-4 producing 168 hp (125 kW), and the 200 hp 2.0T FSI engine currently featured in the MkV Golf GTI, the Passat and Jetta.
In April 2007, VW America's vice president, Adrian Hallmark, stated that his company did not want to bring the Scirocco to North America since it would likely have a negative effect on GTI sales. It was later stated that the final decision would be made in 2008 by Martin Winterkorn (Volkswagen's CEO), not Volkswagen of America.
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