HOW A $7,000 CAR BECAME THE ‘MILLION DOLLAR SCIROCCO’
Jason Whipple’s 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco S is an instant head turner. Splashed in a rainbow motif, blurred lettering and wild graphics, there’s no surprise why the hand-painted hatchback has people buzzing in and outside the automotive community. Blurring the lines between race car and art car, the sporty coupe beckons viewers to stop and stare a bit longer.
Whipple has devoted nearly a decade to retrofitting his weekend beater into a decked out drag racer. What began as a simple side hustle for the Volkswagen enthusiast snowballed into a complex rebuild as his laundry list of desired modifications grew longer and more ambitious.
“I took a perfectly good car, pulled it apart and changed everything about it,” says Whipple, co-founder of the California-based wheel company Rotiform Wheels. “I call it the ‘Million Dollar Scirocco’ because it seemed, at the time, I was spending a million dollars on it.”
His alterations include a hand-built motor, transmission swap, custom wheels and a new engine management system. The car’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 8-valve engine can reach 180 horsepower. “Everything under the hood is 100% custom,” Whipple says.
Whipple has been a Volkswagen enthusiast since he was a teenager. The first car he purchased on his own was a 1986 Jetta GLI 8v. Now in his forties, he’s expanded his collection to include a Volkswagen Golf R in the new Spektrum Irish Green color and three Sciroccos.
“They are the quintessential, affordable sports car. 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,” Whipple explains. “It’s the joy of simplicity when I drive it.”
More than 500,000 of the Mark 1 Scirocco were sold between 1974 and 1981, although the car was not as popular in the United States as it was in Europe. Designed by legendary automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Scirocco was more a style statement and sharp handler for its price than a top-speed machine. The vehicle’s sharp lines, low roofline, wide rear fenders and angular windows have kept their impact over time; today, an intact Mk1 Scirocco is a true collector’s car.
“It’s a fantastic little car and I’m shocked at how many people don’t know what it is,” Whipple says.
Last fall, Whipple crossed paths with fellow Volkswagen head and British graphic artist Nicolai Sclater. Connected through the automotive business Race Service, he originally wanted to team up with Sclater on a skateboard deck design. However, when Sclater heard about Whipple’s souped-up Scirocco, the project went in a different direction.
“My instant reaction was obviously ‘I want to paint that car,’” says Sclater. “It reminds me of the height of my glory years. You know, that really good rebellious period of life.”
Whipple granted Sclater free reign of the design of the then all-white vehicle and gave him several weeks to hand-paint it. “I was both terrified and thrilled at the same time,” says Jason.
Sclater incorporated some progressive ideas into his design, including phrases like ‘the future is our fault’ and ‘things won’t change until we do.’
“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,” says Sclater. “I wanted to do a little of a 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,” says Sclater.
He believes the Scirocco was the perfect vehicle for this directive. “I think a message like this needs to be carried out in a light-hearted way,” Sclater explains.
The crew unveiled the coupe in November at the 2018 SEMA Auto Show in Las Vegas. Buzz traveled quickly, much like the strong hurricane wind which the car is named for, and the car has since appeared on the cover of Performance VW Magazine and several automotive enthusiast events. And, while not everybody may have understood it’s messaging or what a rainbow motif was doing on a race car, it certainly captured people’s attention and got them talking.
“It certainly sparks conversation,” says Whipple. “I have no regrets.”
His next project: a ‘2 Million Dollar’ Scirocco. Already painted the traditional Volkswagen Mars Red, Whipple plans to build a second colorful Scirocco to cart his two young children to and from school.
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