Home » Gen X Midlife Crisis Cars: 1985 Jeep CJ-7 vs 1987 VW Scirocco

Gen X Midlife Crisis Cars: 1985 Jeep CJ-7 vs 1987 VW Scirocco

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Good morning, and happy Friday to you all! Today, we’re throwing the rulebook right out the window, and looking at a couple of vehicles I would have gone gaga over in high school, and would still love to have today. Why? Because tomorrow is my birthday, and I can.

So first, let’s settle up on our crossovers:

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I guess that’s what I expected. I, however, disagree, and would take the Tribute if given the choice between these two. I do all my own maintenance and repairs, and a two-wheel-drive vehicle with an inline four sounds like a whole lot less hassle than all-wheel-drive and a transverse V6. And Lexus or not, at 230,000 miles, something will need work soon.

But anyway. Yes, Autopians, tomorrow is my birthday, and it’s a major one: the big five-oh. Half a freaking century. It means I’m eligible for AARP, and people can start using adjectives like “hale and hearty” to describe me. And yet, I’m looking forward to it; turning forty didn’t bother me much, and fifty just seems like the same thing, only more so. I’m calmer and more comfortable in my own skin than I was when I was younger, and I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of my appearance, musical tastes, or vehicular choices any more. I just like what I like.

The only trouble is that, as my grouchy British colleague pointed out yesterday, so much of the pop culture and fashions of my youth have been co-opted by younger generations that it takes a lot of the fun out of reminiscing. What’s an aging Gen Xer to do? Screw ’em; this stuff was ours first. Nostalgia doesn’t come cheap, however, and I can’t shake the feeling that I should have bought one or both of these when I could afford them.

1985 Jeep CJ-7 – $9,450

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.2 liter overhead-valve inline 6, four-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Bonita, CA

Odometer reading: 88,000 miles

Runs/drives? It had better, for this price

Our new California resident and editor-in-chief David Tracy isn’t the only one around here with a fondness for Jeeps. I learned to drive in a CJ-8 Scrambler, and I’ve been a huge fan of CJ Jeeps ever since. I’ve never had the opportunity to own one, but I would certainly like to one day. And this CJ-7, or something like it, wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.

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This Jeep is powered by the tried-and-true AMC inline six, converted to electronic fuel injection, which sends power through what I’m assuming is a four-speed manual to the rear wheels, or, with the pull of a lever and the twist of the front hubs, all four wheels. It has a little bit of a lift, as so many do these days, as well as a roll cage. I’m not overly fond of the wheels the current owner has chosen, but they could be worse.

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There is just something inherently cool about this era of Jeep. It has a no-nonsense look about it, and an eager countenance that is game for anything, ready for a good time, not Very Serious and Angry like so many modern Jeeps. This is a toy, and it looks like one. The seller says it is driven daily, but I don’t think I could put up with the harsh ride every day at my age. (Good grief; did I really just use the phrase “at my age”?)

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I suppose I am a bit too old to set it up with a pirate radio broadcast rig and go tearing around town with Samantha Mathis, but I can pop in a Was (Not Was) tape and pretend.


1987 Volkswagen Scirocco – $12,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Tujunga, CA

Odometer reading: 135,000 miles

Runs/drives? Better than new, it sounds like

This one I’m a bit upset about. Back in 1989, when I drove a Scirocco, nobody thought it was cool except me. For decades afterwards, these early watercooled VWs languished in obscurity at the bottom end of the used car market, just waiting for me to have a place to park a project car, until just a few years ago when they suddenly became cool and prices went through the roof. I cannot believe that this car is twelve thousand dollars.

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For a brief period, this Scirocco’s twin-cam 16-valve engine, also available in the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI, was the most powerful Volkswagen engine ever. I tried to get my Firebird and Mustang loving friends interested in this fact. No one cared. This 16V engine has been overhauled and had some head work done; it runs perfectly and just passed a smog test. It’s coupled to a five-speed manual, the only transmission available with this engine in those days.

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It has had some suspension work done, and a little visual updating in the form of European-spec lights and bumpers, but it’s a lot closer to stock and original than you usually find these cars, and at least the suspension is merely lowered and not slammed. it’s fairly clean inside too, with only the characteristic wear spots on the driver’s seat bolsters and a little wear on the steering wheel. I do suspect there are a couple of cracks under that dashboard cover, but you’re unlikely to find one these days that isn’t cracked.

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I still think this is a cool car, even though everyone else thinks so now too. And it’s a car I absolutely would drive daily, five-figure price tag be damned. And I would absolutely get an original Fahrvergnugen window sticker for it.

We’ll get back to our usual junky fare on Monday, after my odometer rolls over to the next big number. In the meantime, which ride are you taking with me?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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80 Responses

  1. Look at that Jeep dash. I mean really, take a long look again.

    Serious question: was that like a 50s / 60s retro thing at the time? That vehicle was manufactured in 1985. Back to the Future was coming out. Boxy LEDs were everywhere. Did people just think that was a Jeeb thing to have an ancient ass dash like this in 1985? Was there like some potent WWII era Jeep nostalgia cooking that exempted Jeep from being interested in dash upgrades (and that also saved them $$$)?

  2. When I turned 5-oh I osmotically garnered the same “I don’t care anymore what people think” attitude. It’s refreshing. Anyway, we need a radio button to vote “neither” b/c both are overpriced for what’s on offer.

  3. I spent too much time in the early 90s shaking while driving in a Jeep, and my Gen X body doesn’t want to go through that, anymore, plus my tinnitus means I don’t want to listen to that tire noise. Too many shows at the Cradle in Chapel Hill, back in the day, I guess. Also, I’m from a good old VW family, going back generations (my Opa worked in the older Porsche’s division at Austro Daimler before the Depression). So, yeah, experience and nostalgia drove my pick. I don’t actually care that much about the actual Scirocco, which seems priced way too high. (Same with a Jeep with that much rust in those places.)

    1. Compared to a Lowered and likely fart piped VW with a tune? I think both would be likely uncomfortable to actually use for anything but the weekend. but I like the injected straight six a teense better.

  4. I can state from experience that every CJ is quite noisy and rough to ride around in much. more so as the mods increase. The factory injection you could add in 85 is kind of rare, but greatly increases offroad performance. the tire are likely faux beadlocks since they are not noted as Dirty Life or the other ones that use that setup on steelies, but overall it not the worst I have seen, price is fair considering miles and non ripped top. Wonder where the backs seats are?

    The VW sure looks clean and I can dig the style, my only real concern is the ride quality of a lowered VW and the overall knowledge of the builder with regard to the motor. seems odd to sell it after just two years if it was rebuilt to the level it appears it has been.

  5. Tough choice, partially because neither is a very good value. I’ve always liked this era of Scirocco, but the CJ is undeniably cool. Either would be an occasional/spare vehicle, so no worries on the harshness of the Jeep or unforgiveness of a lowered VW. I guess at the end of the day, my kids would be the deciding factor, and since both would flip out over riding in a Jeep, the CJ gets the win.

  6. VW, but I’d never pay $12k for that thing. I can replace the exhaust if it is too Fast and Furious for me.

    I had a Wrangler as a rental car once. Unless I need a vehicle to solely travel through mud and sand and rocks that cannot be traversed by something like a Subaru Forester, I’m going to pass on the Jeep every time. Driving it sucked, and this was a 2008-ish one that was far more civilized that the ’85 here. I also think that Jeep is worth about $3k, but what do I know.

  7. VW Scirocco for me. I always loved that generation of Scirocco.

    Plus for on-road performance, the VW has it and the Jeep doesn’t. Same thing with fuel economy. And I have no need to go off-road.

  8. Interesting that the Scirocco is winning I think a more normal cross section of car people than Autopians the Jeep would beat the VW coupe by a landslide.

  9. Scirocco all the way, I owned one around 18 years ago and it was a sweet-handling little thing. No it’s not fast or flashy, but it’s on a twisty British B-road it’s a lot of fun.

  10. Scirocco for nostalgia, I had two first generation Sciroccos in the 80s and the second car had been repowered with a 1987 16V engine, plus the leather seats out of the donor 87

  11. Sirocco, for the vote, still like both, but the Sirocco ad VS jeep ad definitely makes a difference

    And the jeep looks like it’s originally from south Dakota. Just makes me go hmm

  12. 50’s not too far off for me, either. But more and more things make me feel older than my currently less than 50 years. Like my 11 year old asking for and receiving a Nirvana sweatshirt for Christmas.

    I proceeded to ask said child who was Nirvana and she said she didn’t know who he was. SMH, I’m old. I at least knew who Led Zeppelin was and had some of their music when I had a shirt from them.

    And, given the two options and no option C, I’d go with the Jeep as a weekend toy provided the rust isn’t of a category that David Tracy seems to prefer.

  13. I guess I honestly like the vw more,and those engines will keep at it forever,but at that price it should at least have a complete interior. I guess I will have to vote for the jeep. That one should be fun too,and it looks a bit more there.

  14. My thought is these are both pre-Covid $3500 dollar vehicles and now are maybe $5000-6000 vehicles, but I am a cheapskate and behind the times. Maybe it’s the camera angle but the euro look on the Scirocco isn’t doing much for me, and I like Sciroccos.

    Anyway, Jeeps can be fun, but I am more of an enjoy the ride in a buddy’s Jeep every once in a while guy than an own a Jeep guy, and I love small sports cars and sports coupes, so Scirocco for me. The Scirocco 16v could do 0-60 in the 6 plus second range, that was fast for anything in the 80s and particularly fast for a non-turbo 4 banger.

    The Scirocco is way overpriced, I don’t know much about Jeep prices other than they have a following, but seems overpriced too.

  15. A classmate got a brand new Scirocco when he got his license. And promptly totaled it (youthful exuberant driving lead to sliding sideways into and over a curb into some trees) . So his parents bought him another one. Both were bright red.

    That Jeep looks like the bad guy jeep in every episode of A-Team, Knight Rider and Dukes of Hazzard. It should be sold half-way rolled over with stunt guys jumping out.

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