Who’s Jason Whipple? What’s all this change stuff? Who did the graphics? Is he serious? How old is this thing really? What has he done to this 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco S? Who’s Jason Whipple?
The short answer is that Jason Whipple is a guy with the time, inclination, and bank account to mess around with VWs. We gearheads are all like this, in our own ways. Or at least that’s my belief. I bet, given the situation of being independently wealthy, but not over-the-top rich, we would find enough space, find enough cash, and find enough time to own more than a couple of ___________(fill in blank to taste).
A Taste For Volkswagen
To my taste, it would probably be a half dozen or so small, lightweight two seaters. In Jason’s case, co-founder of the California-based Rotiform Wheels, that taste runs to Volkswagen products of a certain vintage and stripe. Whipple purchased his first car, a 1986 Jetta GLI 8v, as a teenager and has been a VW enthusiast ever since. Now in his forties, he owns a VW Golf R in the new Spektrum Irish Green color and three Sciroccos.
“They are the quintessential, affordable sports car,” Whipple said of his 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco S. “They are right and nimble and, because of that, move with grace and balance. It’s hard to find that in a modern car today.”
This particular one despite the, uh, looks, is not a vintage racer from back in the day. The (sad) truth is that very few people raced Sciroccos when they first came out. They are basically chop top Rabbit/Golfs that, unfortunately, weigh more. Do I have to go into why cars should never, ever, weigh more than they should? No. No I do not.
“It’s a fantastic little car and I’m shocked at how many people don’t know what it is,” Whipple said.
So, although this car looks like a vintage racer from 1980, it was only recently painted to look the way it does. It looks like something a local racer in 1980 would have his friend, who just got a paint gun, spray up. It resembles an album cover for an annoying new wave band called something like The High Tops or Martha! Makes Muffins. Or it looks like something from a 20-year-old video game where they said “We need a race car” but no one working on the game was a gearhead, or knew anything about Motorsports and/or sponsorships.
It’s the graphic equivalent of a MUSIC\BAND t-shirt.
Whipple explains that he crossed paths with fellow “Volkswagen head” and British graphic artist Nicolai Sclater last fall. He originally wanted to team with Sclater on a skateboard deck. Honestly, I can see that, because the graphics on this are rather reminiscent of the old Uncle Wiggley composite skateboards from about the same time period. So yeah, they’re keeping that 1980s, I’ve got a boatload of Chartpak stuff to play with, vibe.
Sclater goes on, at length, about how it reminds him of his glory years, and uses phrases like “rebellious period of life” without any irony, later saying “I was both terrified and thrilled at the same time” when he was given free reign over the car’s canvas. And no, he doesn’t stop there. Sclater, without a hint of self-awareness, says he incorporated some progressive ideas into his design, including phrases like “the future is our fault” and “things won’t change until we do.”
Joe Strummer is dead these 17 years now, and I think about him every time I see a morally-bankrupt politician (i.e. a lot), but I swear if poseurs like Sclater keep this stuff up, Joe will rise from his grave in righteous anger and with furious vengeance to track them down and tell them what is what. Sheesh.
Sclater’s B mid-term paper for Art 1040: Art and Modern Man goes on: “It stemmed from two different ideas. The first was the blurry lettering. I was getting frustrated at how insignificant art is becoming on Instagram and that’s generally where most people are obtaining their art on a daily basis. They are not looking at books or going to museums. I wanted to do a little practical joke with the audience, so they had to pause and actually engage with the picture. The second part was a call-to-action for onlookers to take stock of their actions and be more considerate of people and the environment. It’s all about working together rather than approaching the world as one massive competition. I think a message like this needs to be carried out in a light-hearted way.”
Yes. He painted an anti-competition message on the side of a competition car.
Million Dollar Baby
And this car, a 1980 VW Scirocco S, is indeed a real race car. Whipple went a little bit funny in the head and took, what he terms a perfectly good car, pulled it apart, and changed everything about it.
“I call it the ‘Million Dollar Scirocco’ because it seemed, at the time, I was spending a million dollars on it,” he explained. “Everything under the hood is 100 percent custom.”
And to Whipple’s credit, it’s more than a set of race slicks on nice wheels.
Alterations include a fully hand-built motor, transmission swap, custom wheels (of course) along with a new engine management system. The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated eight-valve mill puts out around 180 horsepower. Which is enough, given that a stripped out Scirocco weighs a coupe hundred pounds less than a first gen Miata. Still, why they say it’s a drag car makes no sense to me, but that’s kind of beside the point. What it is, ultimately, is a fun car; a tuned version of an old car that’s probably a blast to drive but an ocular cramp to look at.
“It certainly sparks conversation,” Whipple said. “I have no regrets.”
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.