Junkyard Find: 1987 Volkswagen Fox

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1987 volkswagen fox
If you’re a European car manufacturer in the middle 1980s, what do you do when Tercels and Excels and Justys make your value-priced econobox seem too expensive in North America? If you’re Volkswagen, you call up your Brazilian operation and start building Americanized versions of the VW Gol, successor to the Type 1 Beetle in the South American market.Here’s a very early example of the first-year Fox, found in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard.
The Fox (not to be confused with the Audi-badged version of the early-1970s VW Dasher aka Audi 80 aka Passat, also called the Fox in North America) was sold here for the 1987 through 1993 model years. This one was built in September of 1986 and its production-sequence number (blanked out in this photo) is in the low three digits, so we’re looking at one of the very first Foxes sold.
The odometer reading is low and the interior isn’t too fried by the Colorado sun, so I think this car spent most of its life in a garage. Perhaps it broke a decade or two ago, or maybe its owner had a very short and/or occasional commute. The big analog clock is the kind of luxury feature you’d have never seen on a Toyota Tercel, and it still keeps good time at age 32; naturally, I have added it to my car clock collection.
Power came from the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that went into the base versions of the Golf, Jetta, and Scirocco; the Fox version made 81 horsepower in 1987. Note the fuel distributor for the dreaded CIS fuel-injection system, next to the intake manifold.
Despite the nice clock, this car was one of the cheapest versions of the Fox: a two-door sedan with four-speed manual transmission, scratchy industro-cloth upholstery, and no air conditioning. The MSRP came to just $5,690 in 1987, a steal compared to the $8,190 Golf that year. Meanwhile, the wretched 1987 Hyundai Excel sold for $5,995 and the well-built-but-boring 1987 Toyota Tercel had a $6,548 price tag. The tinny and underpowered Subaru Justy cost $5,725. You could get the early-1970s-technology Chevette for a mere $4,995 that year (yes, GM was still selling Chevettes in 1987), and the best Yugoslavian car in North America could be had for just $4,185 that year.The Fox was more reliable than the Excel and Yugo, more comfortable than the Chevette, slightly less rust-prone than the Justy, and a lot more fun to drive than the Tercel, so it wasn’t a bad deal for its time (though I’d still have bought the Tercel, or a five-year-old Civic).
An interesting bit of Volkswagen history, but even the most diehard North American VW fanatics seem indifferent to Foxes; even after a couple of months in this junkyard’s inventory, few of its parts have been sold.
German engineering everyone can afford… again.
The Brazilian-market ads were a lot more fun.
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  • -Nate -Nate on Feb 26, 2019

    This Fox has the same up shift light that Rabbit's had ~ it worked solely on vacuum signal . A buddy of mine bought a new Fox station wagon in 1987 and hated it, very unreliable , after about one year he junked it, I couldn't imagine junking a new car but..... The Chevette was indeed a cheap and tinny little car but, they ran and ran, many fleets had them and they were just fine as basic transportation . -Nate

  • Furiouschads Furiouschads on Aug 24, 2019

    Bernie owned a VW Fox.

  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
  • Dukeisduke If these were built in the US, they'd probably be plagued with recalls, like everything else they make now. It's just as well they don't bring them here.I've owned one Ford, a '95 F-150 (drove it for 17 years and 214k miles) and it was fantastic. But you couldn't run fast enough to buy another Ford. Quality used to be Job 1; now it's an afterthought.
  • Dukeisduke "side-to-side taillights""Across-the-border" is the phrase you're looking for - it's what Ford called the taillights on the '67-'68 and '70-'71 Thunderbirds.
  • 28-Cars-Later Pretty sure its the next gen Fusion, which did manage 110K sales in 2020 USDM but that was roughly 66% less than 306K it sold in 2013. If 100K units is the expected high water mark I can understand why resources went elsewhere... though Mach-E can't even do half that and its hyped like the Second Coming so maybe there was a missed opportunity after all?
  • Kcflyer Laughing inside at the "300 mile range when it's warm" line. Can you imagine if ICE vehicles were this comprised? What a sick joke the green agenda is.