By on May 9, 2016

1988 Volkswagen Fox Wagon in California Wrecking Yard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

In the 1970s, the Audi 80 was sold in the United States as the Audi Fox. In the following decade, Volkswagen decided to sell the Brazilian-made Volkswagen Gol as a Volkswagen Fox in the United States, presumably using the Fox name because it was so good.

The Fox was cheap and disposable and most were crushed before the end of the 1990s, so this ’88 wagon is an unusual find these days.

1988 Volkswagen Fox Wagon in California Wrecking Yard, KPFA sticker - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I found this car in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it wears the KPFA sticker mandated for all aging German (or Brazilo-German) station wagons in the region. I’m sure that, at some point in the early 1990s, I was stuck behind this car going 15 under the speed limit while driving my ’65 Impala in Berkeley.

1988 Volkswagen Fox Wagon in California Wrecking Yard, instrument cluster - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This one made it to over 200,000 miles on the odometer, which is pretty good for any 1980s car, much less a Brazilian one.

1988 Volkswagen Fox Wagon in California Wrecking Yard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The two-door wagon had fallen out of favor among American car shoppers by, oh, about the late 1950s, but the Fox wagon was really more of an elongated hatchback than a true wagon (though it did have a proper wagon-grade tailgate).


It was the lowest-priced wagon in America, according to this ad. A bit of research shows that the ’87 Fox wagon listed at $6,590, while the ’87 Ford Escort wagon was $7,312. The larger Plymouth Reliant-K wagon was $8,579, while Honda priced Civic wagons well over 10 grand.


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57 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Volkswagen Fox Station Wagon...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    I always kind of liked the two-door wagon Fox…just funky enough to be a little cool!

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      I always appreciated the fox, both the sedan and wagon. They had the same basic underpinnings as the Golf / Jetta, including the engine. The engine had a restrictor placed on the either the intake or the exhaust to artificially lower the horsepower so it wouldn’t compete with the more expensive Golf or Jetta. If you removed it, you’d get a faster car than either due it’s lighter weight. Always wanted one, but I ended up with a 91 Jetta GL in Tornado Red which I loved despite it’s ability to eat through rear struts on an almost quarterly basis.

      • 0 avatar
        92golf

        The engine may have been the same but it was mounted longitudinally instead of transversely and I suspect that you’d find it was a completely different platform.

        As Murilee points out, it was a rebadged Brazilian VW Gol.

        I liked them too though. Especially the two-door wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Wasn’t there a two door wagon Quantum as well? I swear I’ve seen one.

      I too like the looks. It looks very competent/serious to me.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    In the late 80’s early 90’s these seemed to be the car young people bought as their first new car – at least at the company where I worked. The girl across the hall from me bought a brown two-door with absolutely no options and the guy down the hall bought a silver wagon. I rode with him once and his head was pushing up against the headliner. I never understood why he bought that car fitting into it like that.

    • 0 avatar
      RetroGrouch

      “his head was pushing up against the headliner. I never understood why he bought that car fitting into it like that.”

      My head is against the headliner in almost anything with a sunroof. Some cars are difficult to impossible to find without that stupid hole. Cutting a hole in a perfectly good roof is stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        CaptainObvious

        I have the same problem! At 6’4″ the first thing I do when I get in a car is slide the seat all the way back, lower it at far as it will go, then tilt the front of the seat up. And even then my head/hair brushes the headliner in some cars with sunroofs. I’ll probably keep my 2008 Fusion forever because it has enough seat adjustments/range to allow me to sit comfortably under the sunroof.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Purchased 2 of the cars in its day. One a wagon and the other a sedan. Both were good cars. Both were used and held up well in NYC traffic. Cheap to run and keep on the road. The engine was bullet proof. I think VW only stopped making this engine a few years ago. These engines could take a good beating and keep on ticking. I wish VW would sell a car like this again but i don’t think they ever will. Too much electronics and nanny controls.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I agree. It was a very good basic car. My first car was an 88 sedan. It was a GLS so it was “loaded” with a Tachometer. I didn’t know enough about cars at that time to appreciate it. I wouldn’t mind one today as a project.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        One of my friends had the GLS. It was even a 1989 Wolfsburg Edition, straight from São Bernardo do Campo. The steering wheel still backed off the steering column, just like on two other friends’ ’88 GL 4-doors.

    • 0 avatar

      Good friend had one for years. Understressed and third world simple. Not a sportscar but tight. Think of it as the 2.5 five cylinder of the day

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        There was actually a small orifice serving as a restrictor in the exhaust to prevent Foxes from being quicker than the more expensive Golfs and Jettas VW was selling in the states at the time. Supposedly, a capable welder could modify the exhaust and gain meaningful power with no new parts needed. All you needed to do was grind out the restrictor VW placed in the flex joint where the down-pipe meets the exhaust pipe.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    There were lots of two door wagons built in the 70’s, I kind of miss them. I’m sure that says something about me, probably nothing positive.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Good point. Pinto, Vega, and probably others I’m forgetting. Can’t say I miss them, crawling into the back seat was no fun. That said, I loved my last-gen Mini Clubman, which is basically a 2.5 door wagon, so not sure what that says about me.

      • 0 avatar
        iantg

        My wife loves her last gen Clubman. It’s just the right size for her. When I replaced my X3 with a 1 series cabrio, the clubman become the sensible car in the household. That generation clubman was a quirky throwback car of the likes that I don’t think we’ll see again. The new Clubman looks and feels too much like a normal car. If I wanted a normal car, I wouldn’t be considering a Mini.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    I have an Aunt who worked for Volkswagen of America during the 80’s – mid 90′; she had access to very cheap Volkswagen employee lease deals and always took advantage of them. In 1987, the first year the Fox was available in the US, their lease on a 1985 Scirocco expired and they changed over to a Fox. Yes, Scirocco to a Fox; I was 16 at the time and was with it enough to ask….”why would you do that”? They ended up hating the car and turned it in after keeping it less than 6 months. They went back and bought a new Scirocco – ended up keeping that car for the next 20 years until my stoned out cousin (who lived in their basement up to the time he was 39) decided it was a good idea to wrap it around a tree one day.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      VW in Canada still offers extremely good lease/purchase options for employees and retirees. A great benefit and it does breed brand loyalty among them.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Not that it really matter since it’s a junkyard, but what is that off the car that someone decided the best thing to do with it was shove it in through the (unopened) tailgate?

    Just a guess, but is that unused dash light in the middle where the glow plug light might be in other parts of the world?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not even off that car. I’m guessing that the black thing is the front bumper cover off the Passat next to it, and the tan thing is the front bumper off whatever the beige car in front of it is.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      There was never a diesel Fox (or Gol, for that matter) offered for sale (more likely alcohol-powered for the Brazilian market), but that gauge cluster appeared in multiple VW models, so it is conceivable that would be the glow plug lamp. I had 3 A2 diesel Jettas that used the same cluster (’85, ’86, and ’89), and I think that’s where the glow plug light was located.

    • 0 avatar
      ClayT

      First glance, I thought someone stuffed a stuffed marlin through the back window…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Having had 2 VW ‘shooting brake’ styled vehicles a Type III and Type IV, I believe that they appeal only to a niche market. Most wagons were marketed to families with children. The 2-door style is relatively dysfunctional for loading and unloading kids.

    What it is good for is small contractors, independent couriers and young ‘active lifestylers’ a group that largely migrated to minivans and SUV’s.

    They were however also quite useful for a teenager/young adult living at home.

    Edit: forgot that for about 6 months in the early 80’s I also had a Pinto wagon. It fit the description of thousands of pieces of hardware/metal/switchgear moving in loose formation. Noisy, rattled like crazy, zero feedback from the steering. It was however very robust and we drove it like a cross between a small pick-up and a Jeep.

    And I stand by my decision to purchase a Honda Wagovan with ‘realtime AWD’ new in the ’88 rather than any of the other small wagons listed by Murilee.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      While the faults of the Pinto make for a very, very long list, I recall the steering being pretty good. Maybe yours had power steering, wouldn’t surprise me if it was as numb as most of Detroit’s offerings of that era.

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        Manual pinto racks are very good in terms of feel, but the ratio is a bit on the slow side and you really notice it in twisties when you have to start going hand-over-hand. It’s not bad.

        Power pinto racks were much quicker ratio, but massively boosted – two finger steering in all conditions. Very responsive and precise, but you couldn’t feel anything.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Over 210,000 miles is remarkable for a 1988 Fox. The owner probably spent thousands to keep it running.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I purchase a white one new in ’89. Ex-wife drove for three years, #2 son drove it for four and, finally, #1 son drove it for two more years before selling it. All this for over 200k miles. The only problems were a fuel pump at 180k miles and the cold start injector stuck open (disconnecting the lead to it fixed the problem). It was by far the best watercooled VW of the three I have owned.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    Always liked the VDO gauges from these era VW’s for their simplicity. Easy to read big perfectly round gauges.

    Also loved the blinker indicator. Just 1. That’s all you need.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    Long long ago, I used to listen to KPFA, because along with the usual hippie-dippie propaganda, they also had a semblance of non-mainstream news, and there weren’t very many such sources in pre-internet days.

    Then they announced a new program, an hour Wednesday nights for a gay women prisoner’s poetry workshop, and I decided that any schedule so littered with such fragmented and specialized programs meant less and less room for actual useful news that would interest me.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Back in the 80’s when my commute as well as field visits and grad school consisted of a decent amount of driving I would to listen to a decent amount KPFA’s sister station in the Pacifica network WBAI here in NYC,

      They did yeoman coverage on the Iran-Contra hearings as well as other stories that the networks as well as CNN would brush over or just plain ignore. The specialized music programs were also quite good and helped me expand my musical taste. But some of the programs as you correctly state were so fragmented that it bordered on mind-numbing. Programs on criminal justice reform, fine and worthy but devolving into nothing but free Mumia then you lose me.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I know I’m not the only one who clicked on this story in hopes of seeing the GIANT CLOCK next to the speedometer.

    I get so sentimental sometimes…

    • 0 avatar
      zipper69

      Yeah, it’s fun to see only TWO major dials. The incredibly optimistic 120mph max speedo and the equal sized clock (presumably giving you a dose of realism about how fast you were actually going!)

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Wonder if the author of this piece bought it for (or already has one like it in) his collection.

  • avatar

    I had a ’93 4-door. Neat little car. Very basic. Honest. I’d actually like to have a wagon, but at this point they’re nearly impossible to find.

  • avatar
    stevenj

    HAHAHA. didn’t think I’d ever see one of these here. I had a 89′ 2 door sedan. terrible car, but it was my first so it will forever hold a place in my soul.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Friend of mine in college had one in the early nineties. It had awesome seats, especially for an economy car. They were the same exact seats that were in my Quantum. I used to wish they had a recline lever instead of that stupid wheel though. Took forever to get the seat down to make out and you couldn’t be sly about it.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Do some Foxes have four headlights?

    A neighbor has a small VW sedan with four square headlights…

  • avatar
    Jimal

    After my father’s ’79 Rabbit, the Fox was my first exposure to a “modern” Volkswagen, as VWoA donated one to the technical school I attended after high school in the late 80’s. Coming from a mostly GM family, it was a bit of a culture shock. I don’t know if it got me into VWs, but I’ve owned a bunch over the years. Just never a Fox.

  • avatar

    My favorite part about base-model ’80s VWs is the single, solitary turn-signal light on the dashboard. Putting both a right and left blinker on the dash would have cost too much!

  • avatar
    Christian Gulliksen

    The first car I got brand-new from a dealership was a 1989 Fox. I wanted the wagon but Dad, who was paying, would only go for a basic coupe in basic white. It was a great little car, though, and felt pretty upscale for its price point.

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      That’s exactly my story. White, 2-door ’89 Fox. In the couple years afterward I paid him back, installed some Neuspeed springs and shocks and some wheels and rubber, removed the restrictor plate, did some more stuff under the hood, had an exhaust put on it and even autocrossed it a couple times. Lots of aftermarket stuff for the Fox if I recall.

      The hood of that thing weighed more than me, but it was solid to say the least.

      Gave it to my grandmother when I got a Miata and she drove it until not too long ago when a drunk driver took her out. She’s fine, the car… RIP

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Was there a Synchro version of this, cause that be cool like an Eagle SX/4.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I owned a 93 Wolfsburg edition 4 door….My brother bought it new, sold it to my sister who sold it to me in 01 as a winter car. Rust was the biggest problem. The hood latch became so corroded that it broke loose and the hood flew open while my sister was driving it on the Kensington Expressway here in Buffalo. Luckily she was able to pull over and a good Samaritan helped her lift it off and place it against the side of the road…It stood against the wall of the expressway all winter.
    The other downside was the faulty interlock for the “automatic” seat belts where they attached to the B pillar. A bad connection prevented the car from starting up randomly. It took the dealer months to figure the problem after changing the starter two times.
    The Fox did have the nicest interior of any entry level car of the late 80’s…Great seat material, nice door panels and well laid out dashboard.
    The engine was coarse but pretty torquey.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    Murilee’s junkyard finds are what led me to TTAC in the first place. While it’s (thankfully) been a very long time since I needed to search for junkyard parts myself, I really enjoy these little archaeological expeditions giving these used-up cars one last moment in the spotlight before they meet the cold jaws of the crusher. Thanks, Murilee!

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    I really enjoyed my Audi Fox. It was light enough to push by myself!

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I am fairly certain that one could not get an automatic transmission or power-assisted steering on any VW Fox (US market at least) of this era, am I right?

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