El Jettamino: 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Smyth Pickup

Although I’ve espoused my love of wagons and their do-everything nature, the reality is that I live in the suburbs and there are certainly some times (read: pretty often, actually) that I could use a pickup truck. But, if I’m completely honest, I’ve previously owned a big Chevrolet 2500HD pickup and I’m still not convinced that I’m a pickup kind of guy. Worse still, have you priced a pickup out lately? HOLY MACKEREL. A base Silverado starts at almost $30,000 and if you want things like…seats, and/or wheels, you’ll quickly need more than $40,000. When I see $40,000 asks on a pickup which a) I know will be rusting in 5 years no matter what I do and b) because it’s a GM, will almost certainly break, I get pretty annoyed. Worse still, the “Heartbeat of America” isn’t built in America. I know. I live right by the port where they all come in on a boat. Beside the steady stream of Fiats, Volkswagens, Porsches and Alfa Romeos, there’s a long line of Chevrolet and GMC pickups being driven into the United States for the first time.

So how about a pickup that’s a bit more my speed? Built in America with tons of European flare by utilizing recycled Audi/Volkswagen products, there’s always the Smyth Pickup:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Smyth Pickup on eBay

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1995 Volkswagen Cabrio 1.8T

When the second generation Cabriolet finally launched for 1995, Volkswagen had waited so long to replace the A1 chassis that it completely bypassed the A2. What appeared then was a A3 chassis, and compared to the outgoing model it was bigger, rounder, softer and not appreciably sportier. Motivation was from the same ABA 2.0 inline-4 found in the standard Golf rated at 115 horsepower, so to make it ‘hipper’ Volkswagen dropped the “let” from the name.

It was, however, instantly recognizable as the new go-to affordable 4-seater drop-top, but sales were slow in the mid-90s. Volkswagen sold just over 5,800 1996s, for example. They were pretty expensive for a Golf at nearly $20,000 MSRP and over with some options, but then this was the cheapest German convertible you could buy. The big problem was that for less money you could get the much more entertaining (and reliable) Miata. The combination of low production numbers, the classic styling of the original and lack of enthusiast appeal mean we just about never feature them. I last wrote up a Cabriolet in July 2017, and the last Cabrio was a year earlier. So there’s nothing to see here? Not with this turned up and built one, that’s for sure!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Cabrio on eBay

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Forever in Blue Jeans: 2001 Volkswagen Beetle

I’ve talked in previous posts about how in the early 1990s, the standard Jetta was pretty hard to get excited about because of the other neat products at your local VW dealership. But the Jetta was done a service by the birth of its new sibling – the New Beetle. Looking a bit like a Golf with mumps, the New Beetle was gimmicky and a clever marketing exercise, but as an enthusiast it was about as far from desirable as you could get. Adding to that was that a majority of early examples were tied to the “2.Slow” and had an automatic transmission – now you were stuck in a slow fish bowl.

To make it more appealing, nearly since its inception VW has had special editions of the Beetle pretty much every year. 2018’s are the ‘Convertible Coast’, which has a “surfboard-look appearance dashboard” and the ‘Dune’, which comes with a free VHS copy of the eponymous movie I think. 2017 included the ‘Classic’ model which had a special interior. But for special interiors, we need to talk about 2016’s ‘Denim’ edition. It was a throwback to the 1970s, when Volkswagen launched multiple ‘Jeans’ editions of the original Beetle, replete with “denim-style” fabric. But these two weren’t the only times that a Volkswagen attempted to capture America’s favorite pantalones:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Volkswagen Beetle on eBay

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Motorsports Monday – Cheap R: 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32

I have yet to look at a Golf R32 in 2018. It’s not for lack of examples; any given day, there are usually about 10 or so for sale on eBay and plenty more via Volkswagen-specific fora. But it’s the crazy asking prices that usually put me off from the first generation. I just can’t get on board, especially as Golf R prices have dipped down in to the low 20s. Heck, there are two Golf Rs below $20,000 right now. It’s therefore pretty hard to stomach the high teen ask on many first-gen R32s even with many hundreds of thousands of miles. They’re not the E30 M3, after all. Not even close.

So how do you get into an affordable R32? One way is to consider the second generation. Perhaps it was the styling, perhaps it was the DSG-only transmission, but even a very clean 2008 Golf R32 comes to market generally under the asking prices of the first generation. Still not your bag? Well, then you could get into this no reserve first gen – but a warning, some assembly is required…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 on eBay

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1991 Volkswagen Jetta GL

In a recent ad campaign, I’ve been interested to see Volkswagen roll out its older Jettas to somehow link their DNA to the new model. That’s an interesting ploy, since most people I know who have had experiences with a Jetta of this ilk usually remember the calamity rather than the positive aspects of the model.

Back in March, I took a bemused look at the confusing Jetta lineup by considering the oddly placed Carat model. It fell somewhere in between the GL and Wolfsburg model, yet most of the major items remained optional. Today, we get to look at the base model – the GL. The GL and Carat shared the same motor and running gear, but instead of the ‘upscale’ wheel covers borrowed from the Passat, the GL had steel wheels with center covers and trim rings. It was one of the better looking wheel options Volkswagen had at the time, and though it was the base wheel it somehow looked neat. Inside the seats were not quite as upscale-looking as the Carat, but otherwise equipment on the two was basically the same. But there remains an inherent draw to the second generation Jetta even as a base model, and this clean GL looks ready for some serious swapping action:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GL on eBay

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1993 Volkswagen Corrado SLC

When it launched in the late 1980s as a replacement to the ancient Scirocco, the Corrado was Volkswagen’s attempt to appeal to the Porsche crowd. With the supercharged G60 motor that may have been somewhat farcical, but when VW dropped the narrow-angle 2.8 liter VR6 into the nose of their 2-door Coupe it became more of a reality. Though on paper it didn’t have much more power, the VR6 was better suited to the design and weight of the Corrado. Zero to 60 plummeted nearly a second and top speed went up to a then-impressive 137 mph. But it was the all-around flexibility of the motor that proved the winner; torquey at low revs yet happy to head towards the redline, the Corrado finally fulfilled the promise of being a budget P-car.

Unfortunately, there was a price to pay. The base price for a Corrado in 1992 was nearly $22,000. Add a few options in and you were paying more than you did for a Porsche 924S four years earlier. To put it into even more stark perspective, the base price of a much quicker, nicer, more efficient, better cornering, better braking, more technologically impressive and significantly safer GTI today is only $26,415 some 26 years later. As a result, Corrados and especially the SLC have always held a cult status and higher residual value than the rest of the lineup. Today, as they head into collector status, many have been priced out of the market – a trend I’ve looked at several times, with asks of $20,000 and occasionally even more. So it’s refreshing to encounter a reasonable condition driver-quality example that’s priced within the reach of the group these cars appeal to:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Corrado SLC on eBay

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1993 Volkswagen Golf VR6

What is the price for rarity? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, enthusiasts will sometimes go to extremes to have something just a bit different than the norm. Take today’s Golf. Like the 1989 Volkswagen GTI I looked at a few weeks ago, something odd will stick out to the brand faithful that will probably go unnoticed by nearly everyone else. First off, for the U.S. market, the VR6 was limited to the GTI range. This looks like a GTI with the dual chamber headlights and foglights, VR6 badges and BBS wheels. But another minor detail then rears its head – or, in this case, rears its doors. That’s right, this is a 5-door Golf VR6 from Europe. Look closer and you’ll notice items such as the textured flares, deeper chin spoiler and fender mounted directionals that differentiate ROW A3s. So what will getting into this rare-to-see VW cost you today?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Volkswagen Golf VR6 on eBay

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Radwood Ready: 1987 Volkswagen GTI Callaway Turbo by Neuspeed

Recently, in my 1989 GTI post, I referenced the Radwood show in California. A celebration of all things 80s (being liberal to accept items both older and newer, too!), Radwood has become the newest and hottest show to consider. Why? Well, to head to Pebble Beach, Amelia Island or Greenwich Concours, you’ll need a car of significant stature. But you can roll up to Radwood in a 4000 quattro you literally just pulled out of a field (seriously, someone did), and you’ll find fans to celebrate both the model and your insistence that it’s a cool car worthy of being saved. Because, ultimately, it was!

But the GTI I presented was a headscratcher because it was so expensive and subtle that most would probably walk right by. Sure, it had little details that were neat, but not THAT neat or THAT particularly 80s. But today’s GTI takes 80s To The Extreme, killin’ your brain like a poisonous mushroom as you ponder if anything less than the best is a felony:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen GTI Neuspeed/Callaway Turbo on Gainsville Craigslist

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1989 Volkswagen GTI

Update 7/3/18: After not selling for the nearly $10,000 asking price last week, the seller has dropped the ask to a much more reasonable $5,995 today.

Generally, when one goes through the trouble of importing a car, that car is something really special; a car which otherwise didn’t come here. But occasionally a strange one sneaks through and leaves me scratching my head. Case in point? Today’s 1989 GTI.

Surely, if you want a Mk.2 GTI you’re not without options. Granted, they’re harder to find than other 80s performance icons – especially in original configuration – but then I’ve just covered a string of affordable examples with a ’85, a ’86, and a ’89 16V all quite reasonably priced well below $5,000. Since importation fees alone can eat up most of the sale price of those examples, you’d have to want to bring in a Mk.2 that wasn’t seen here – a Rallye, G60, Limited or Country, for example.

So what have we here? A standard 1.8 GTI, albeit with a few small twists:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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2006 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDI

Update 7/3/18: After not selling a month ago for $5,900, the seller has raised the price to $6,500.

Recently, my mechanic picked up an interesting car. It’s a Golf GLS 2.0. Immediately, it’s a car that most will dismiss as being perhaps the least exciting Volkswagen produced in modern times, if not the least reliable. He tossed me the keys when I turned up with a broken front spring in the Passat (Thank you, Rhode Island Department of Pothole Management Transportation) .

Stepping into the Mk.4 from the B5.5 Passat, you’ll feel instantly right at home. The two share a majority of switchgear and the layout is identical. However, the quality of the Golf is lower, and it’s immediately evident the moment you turn the key. There’s less noise isolation, there’s more plastic, and the feel of the car is not as refined as the Passat. There are fewer options, too.

However, there are redeeming qualities. I can get the 1.8T in my Passat to return well over 30 mpg. But, to get those numbers you really have to go easy on the throttle. Not so in the Golf, which returns well over 30 mpg seemingly regardless of what you do with the loud pedal. And though the Mk.4 has gained a reputation for being unreliable, what immediately struck me was that everything still worked. Cruise control, power mirrors, seat heaters, air conditioning, radio, sunroof – it was all working on this relatively loaded GLS model. That was especially curious when I looked at the odometer, because still on its original engine, his 2003 Golf had an almost unfathomable 273,000 miles on it – yet it looked, ran and drove like it had less than half that amount.

For a car he picked up for around a thousand dollars, I’m not sure what more you could ask, so I decided to keep an eye out for one to pop up. It did, in nearly the same configuration as my mechanics. Except it is the more desirable turbo diesel model, known for going ultra long distances on nearly no fuel. So is this the one to get?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDI on eBay

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