Classics World’s Paul Wager test drives and reviews the 1991 VW Golf Cabriolet…
The Golf Clipper is one of those cars which has become the stuff of popular misconception: unless they’re clued-up on their 1980s VWs, even well informed old car buffs tend to assume that all of the later ‘big bumper’ Golf Cabriolets are the Clipper but that’s not the case.
In fact the Clipper was introduced at the same time as the big plastic bumpers were added to the Mk1 Cabriolet in an attempt to modernise its style, but it was effectively a replacement for the GL model.
That meant the Clipper sat below the GTI in the open-topped Golf line-up, at £11,989 presenting an altogether more affordable alternative to the £14,450 GTI Cabriolet.
Although it shared its 1781cc motor with the GTI models, it used a simpler carburettor setup for a result of 90bhp, although they later received a single-point injection system when a calalyst became a requirement. Given that even in Cabriolet form the Mk1 Golf weighs in at just under 1000kg, that was no handicap and the Clipper still felt brisk enough to be fun.
With 120,000 miles showing and in the hands of the last owner for no less than 11 years, it’s survived its 27 years remarkably well and the white paintwork lends the simple Mk1 shape a classic elegance. The alloy wheels fitted currently would have been a later fitment, since the Clipper was originally supplied with steel rims and plastic trims but they do give it a hint of the GTI style.
Even though the Mk1 convertible lasted well into the 1990s, these are old cars now and there are plenty of shabby ones around, but this definitely isn’t one of them. The bodywork and paint is in superb condition with no signs of bubbling anywhere that we could see and the roof has received a brand new outer cover in the correct vinyl.
On the inside, the Clipper has benefited from its mid-range status which brought hard wearing grey cloth seats instead of the easily-marked leather in some of the special editions. It’s certainly lasted the years well and doesn’t look as if it’s covered 120,000 miles.
On the road
First task is to lower the roof and these later Golf Cabriolets – even the Clipper – boasted an electro-hydraulic power roof which motors down smoothly. It’s also nice to note that the alarm still works properly and comes with two remotes for the central locking.
With the trademark cheeky exhaust note which still recalls the Mk1 GTI, the Clipper is lively enough to be enjoyable and in our short test drive the car felt nicely up together and not wanting for anything in the suspension department. In fact, so many of these cars have been modified that a standard original example comes as a revelation with its decent ride, tidy road manners and ample space for four. It would certainly be a shame to modify this one as it has plenty of practical appeal just as it is.
With a recent full service and cam belt change, the Clipper is ready to go and even though you wouldn’t want to expose a nice example like this to the winter road salt, its multi-layer hood, decent heater and modern front-drive layout mean it can be a practical all-year-round classic if required – certainly it’s a great car to take out for a quick blast on a crisp winter morning.
The Cabriolet models currently represent an affordable way into the Mk1 Golf but it won’t be long before the prices start to follow their tin-topped cousins!
Top speed: 102mph
Fuel consumption: 37mpg
Gearbox: 5-spd man