Eye Candy: 1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6

Eye Candy: 1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6

Do you want to maximize your budget and fun? Need an affordable ride that will reward you nearly every time you turn the key, but is also practical enough to daily drive?

Look no further. We may all want a car collection of virtually new, unused and perfect condition examples of our favorite car designs, but frankly that’s just not a reality most who’s names don’t start with “Sultan” and end with a small southeast Asian country’s name can contemplate. And even he needs to liquidate his massive Ferrari collection from time to time when small rebellions pop up.

Jumping in to a third generation Volkswagen Golf won’t get you much respect outside of dedicated brand enthusiasts. But what it will do is reward your decision. Like the E36 M3, adding two cylinders to the model may not have sounded as sexy on paper as the high-revving double cam inline-4, but the result was better performance, better reliability, and cheaper prices for that speed. With 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque on tap, the VR6 took the Mk.3 into a new performance territory. It brought with it a more grown up feel, too – leather, a quiet(er) cabin, power windows and sunroof – these were unthinkable a decade earlier in the budget hatch. In fact there was only one option – a trunk mounted CD changer. Everything else? Standard. The increase in performance dictated upgrades throughout; sport suspension with sway bars, larger brakes with 5×100 mm hubs and accompanying 15″ wheels. 0-60 was firmly sub-7 second range, and the boxy hatch could brush 130 mph flat out. In a flat-out drag race, this economy car was on par with the Audi S6.

At nearly $20,000, the price tag didn’t seem cheap at first. Indeed, in a little over a decade the base price of the GTI had increased 100%.…

1998 Volkswagen Golf GL with 17,355 Miles

1998 Volkswagen Golf GL with 17,355 Miles

In roughly 1999, a local-to-me European car business turned up with something quite unusual. It was a pastel blue 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit. There was nothing particularly special about it; it was a base model with steel wheels. It wasn’t unusually optioned. It wasn’t a GTI. In fact, there was only one really remarkable thing about it – it had only 5,000 miles on the odometer from its single owner, and was in close-to-new shape.

The story went that the original owner had suffered a heart attack when the car was quite new. The widow had left the car in the garage, untouched by all but dust, until finally an estate sale liberated the single oil change bunny. The condition was certainly astounding, but to me the asking price at that time was, too. The seller was looking for $5,000.

It was pretty cool that the car was like a new fifteen year old car, but then cars had come a long way since 1984 in 1999, and the collector market on the Rabbit hadn’t really taken off. In 1999, $5,000 would have bought you a very nice 2.0 16V GTI, after all.

Fast forward to today.

It’s been an astounding nearly twenty years since today’s equivalent to my parable was new in the dealership. Like my memory, it’s a very basic Golf in very good condition with very low mileage. Similar to my story, cars have come a very long way in the past twenty years, and a quick jaunt in this buzzy, basic and slow Golf will quickly remind you of that. So has the market on a clean, low mileage automatic base Golf taken off yet, or is this doomed to a similar fate as my Rabbit – to sit and wait for jsut the right nostalgic buyer?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 Volkswagen Golf GL on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

7/3/1017 Edit: This car has reappeared with a few more miles and a new seller at $9,500 HERE!

I think I’ve made my gripes with the used Volkswagen market abundantly clear in prior posts. Fuzzy photos, “feelers”, lack of information, failure to wash the car, only posting photos of the car in a carwash covered in foam, junk-strewn interiors, massive miles and broken odometers, poorly executed swaps, maintenance skipped in favor of dubious modifications. We’ve seen it all on these pages; well, a “no thank you” helping sample of “it all”. But once in a while a Volkswagen comes along that really debunks the stereotype of typical VW owners. Today’s GTI VR6 is one of those myth busters:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

6/6/2017 Updated with a new listing from a new seller – click HERE!

The Mk.3 Volkswagen GTI is in a pretty tough spot right now. For many, they’re too new to consider a classic in the making. But let’s take a breath on this one right now – the first VR6 powered GTIs can legally be registered as a vintage car in some states. Now that your mind is blown, move on to the next step – when was the last time you saw a really nice, clean and original VR6? Right, what was it – 2002? Sure, the Mk.3 didn’t have the best interior quality or the best build quality. But then, neither did the Mk.1 or Mk.2, and the GTI versions of those are firmly into collector status. The third generation may suffer from not being a Corrado and looking a little less special overall than the first two, but the addition of the VR6 into the chassis made for one thrilling driving experience. This might be the perfect time, then, to snap up a nice VR6 and get ready to rock some antique

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

1996 Volkswagen GTI

1996 Volkswagen GTI

The third generation Volkswagen GTI 2.0 might just go down in history as the least appealing of the brand name. Starting with the move to 16 valves in the second generation, the 8 valve models would play second fiddle as mostly an appearance package slapped onto an economy car. But while the second generation had the benefit of butch good looks, flared arches and the signature quad-round headlight arrangement to make you feel that you had gone upscale, when it came to the third generation’s base GTI it was a bit of a head-scatcher. It wasn’t that you didn’t get equipment; your $16,000 got you lots of standard items such as air conditioning, an upgraded stereo, power sunroof and door locks, and a few other premium-feel items (An alarm! Specially colored seat fabric!). The meat of the GTI was the appearance changes, though – from the 14″ alloy wheels to the dual-chamber headlights and projector fog lights, along with smoked tail lenses and a roof-mounted antenna, the special grill held the all-important letters “GTI”. But the performance of the ABA 2.0 inline-4 was standard Golf fair and the suspension wasn’t upgraded – this was, after all, just a Golf. That meant 0-60 in a lethargic 10 seconds unless you fried the front tires and knocked .2 seconds off – the result of all those “luxury” item additions. The 2.0 was a poser, then, and lived fully in the shadow of the high-output VR6 model which packed a full 50% more power in the same package but with upgraded brakes, suspension and wheels. The premium to jump to the VR6 was about $3,500 – a lot of money. But the leap in performance well paid off for your additional indebtedness, and consequently the 2.0 seemed to be popular only with college-bound Jersey girls who were convinced their compact economy hatch was actually a bumper-car ride at an amusement park.…

Duck Duck Goose It: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Replica 3.2 VR6-swap

Duck Duck Goose It: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Replica 3.2 VR6-swap

The Golf Harlequin is one of those strange creatures that ostensibly would look more at home in a art festival than in a car show. Volkswagen’s “Chinese fire drill” of body parts from primary colored Golfs was an interesting exercise, leading to the moniker Harlequin – a reference to the colorful and semi-psychotically eyed ducks, themselves named after a colorfully dressed character in Italian 16th century theater. Now that you’ve learned something, these Golfs have become legendary and desirable in their own right despite effectively being a base model underneath, leading to the replica color scheme not only extending to copies of the originals, but even to replicas utilizing other Volkswagen models. My local Volkswagen dealer, for example, has used the scheme not only on post-Mk.3 delivery Golfs, but even their Chevrolet Express parts vans have the mismatched tones. But today we’ll look at a replica GL which has gone to great lengths to mask itself in the colorful attire. Unlike the originals, though, this one has a serious weapons-grade revision in the drive department:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Replica VR6-swap on eBay

#FailFriday: 1994 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6

#FailFriday: 1994 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6

We live in a culture today that judges others with contempt while simultaneously engaging in generally questionable behavior ourselves. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, right? It is far from fair to generalize other’s actions without a relative sense of context, yet often we only have a glimpse at a moment of their life, a soundbite they say, an ill-timed photo from which we base an entire judgment on who that person is or at least professes to be. It’s one of our greatest shortcomings as a very public-oriented society who loves to air its dirty laundry, watch people humiliate or hurt themselves for entertainment, and revel in the unraveling of another’s life through misfortune. Yet, we generally would consider the gladiatorial battles of the Roman Empire to be barbaric – ironic, perhaps, considering that Germanic based languages have themselves so thoroughly recreated the Republic – perhaps even more so than the Romance-language speaking countries. But, I digress.

So while occasionally #FailFriday has degenerated into mudslinging at questionable taste – in and of itself perceivably a “fail”, today I’m instead going to approach the ad copy on this Jetta from the perspective of an angry, slightly bemused fact-checking Editor-in-Chief who has sent back a series of revisions to the author. While we all make grammatical and spelling mistakes (sometimes on a regular basis that I don’t catch, though I promise I try!), there are quite a few to enjoy in this particular ad:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6 on eBay

1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V

1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V

Whatever the reason might be, Volkswagen enthusiasts never seemed to hold the third generation GTI in as high regard as some other iterations of this hot hatchback. While the Mk2 GTI 16V seemed to hit the nail on the head in terms of what boy racers desired, the Mk3 fell just a bit short of that mark, in four-cylinder form. No one was complaining about the superb new VR6 engine available, however, US customers were left with a modest 2.0 liter 8V four-cylinder that produced only 115 horsepower. It was a torquey unit, but performance at the top end was less than stellar. Regardless, I enjoyed my time with my final year 1998 GTI 2.0. I miss that car to this day, even if my 2006 MINI Cooper S blows the doors off it performance wise. Like the Audi A8L 6.0 W12 we saw yesterday, this 1995 GTI 16V was a model not offered in the US. Looking great with just over 100,000 miles on the clock, you don’t see Mk3s this nice hanging about anymore.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V at PCH Automotive

Feature Listing: 1998 Volkswagen GTi VR6 Turbo

Feature Listing: 1998 Volkswagen GTi VR6 Turbo

When I was getting into the “Volkswagen Scene”, it was a game of brinkmanship. And by Volkswagen scene I mean my smallish group of friends who owned Volkswagens and all congregated at the local European fixing spot, and by brinkmanship I mean whatever we could afford at the time for modifications. I outfitted my “GolfTi” with a GLi interior and GLi-spec BBS RAs, my friend with his GTi got a Techtonics Exhaust and coilover suspension. One traded a Jetta Carat for a 8V 91 GTi in Tornado Red. Another (after more or less wrecking the mint 2.0 16V GLi he was given!) bought a G60 supercharged swap first generation Scirocco. That move gave this particular individual the trump card in the group, even if that G60 never ran right. The point is, we were all small potatoes, and that was made pretty clear to me when I ran into someone with an actual budget.

That person had a then brand new 1996 GTi VR6. An A2 chassis fan, I derided the A3 as fat and too luxurious. But how quick the VR6 could be was made pretty evident to me one day as I hounded the rear bumper of his GTi down a country road. Finally, he succumbed to my goading and lay hard into third gear. At the end of a quarter mile straight, it was enough to pull probably 10 car lengths on my clapped out Golf, but it might as well have been a mile – I was utterly defeated and my opinion of the VR6 changed in 15 seconds time. Since then, A3 GTi VR6s have always held a certain fascination for me and my time owning a ’98 Golf K2 left me tempted to consider a late VR6 as a daily driver. But what if you had one and your group of friends also tried the same game of brinkmanship, but had better resources?…

1996 Volkswagen GTi

1996 Volkswagen GTi

I still very much remember the launch of the A3 chassis Volkswagens and being less than impressed at the time. At least in my mind, the second generation GTi with the 2.0 16V was a hard act to follow and the 3rd generation – unless equipped with the sonorous VR6 – seemed downright soft in comparison. They looked a bit chubby, they were equipped with only 14″ wheels when everyone else was sporting 16″ wheels, and the base GTi was equipped with a lowly 2.0 8 valve inline-4. It seemed like Volkswagen was badge engineering a standard Golf just to make money, and in many ways you could argue that’s exactly what had occured. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that I would finally understand the A3 package a bit more. My dismissal of the entire “2.slow” lineup turned out to be very misplaced, as my foray into A3 ownership proved. I picked up a very second-hand but relatively low mile K2 edition 1998 Golf. Effectively, this was a 4-door GTi, with fog lights, air conditioning, heated sport seats and white-faced gauges. Was it a really special car? No. But for basic transportation, it was fantastic fun to drive, easy to maintain, got in excess of 30 m.p.g. no matter what you did with the throttle pedal and started every time I stuck the key in the ignition. Granted, it had typical Mk.3 problems with some electric gremlins and rust had started creeping through. But there isn’t a moment that I regret any part of my Mk.3 ownership other than that for so long I overlooked the 2.0 as a form of entertaining car ownership:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTi on eBay

1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

For a brief amount of time, I drove a Mk3 Volkswagen GTI. While it didn’t have the VR6, I still have fond memories of that car. It wasn’t the sportiest of hot hatches, nor the fastest, but it did everything well and I had nary a problem with it. Midway through the Mk3 production run, Volkswagen went a bit wild with the paint shop and released the Golf Harlequin. This was part of a design series for VW and an attempt to draw more traffic in the showrooms. There were four versions of the Harlequin, each with a different “base” color. This Harlequin for sale in Washington state has a Ginster Yellow base color and seems to have escaped the ravages of rust that plagued many Mk3 Golfs. It is also refreshing to see one that hasn’t been modified and the mileage is reasonable considering its age.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin on eBay

2008 Audi A3 S-line

2008 Audi A3 S-line

$_57

For the several years I lived in San Francisco, the A3 was a ubiquitous but understandable yuppie choice. Good luxury, decent utility and speed with a good measure of the all-important parkability make it a great choice for cityfolk. My college girlfriend had an A4 2.0T that I very much enjoyed wringing out, even if it wheezed a little at the top end. The quick and available tuning options would be very tempting for me, and a dark-grey dart on RS4 wheels sounds like a killer commuter. A well-explained fender-bender knocks this one’s history but helps bring the price down to a level where, with just over 50k miles, it should move very quickly.

Click for details: 2008 Audi A3 on eBay

1995 Volkswagen Golf with 11,000 miles

1995 Volkswagen Golf with 11,000 miles

It’s not too often that you get excited about an entry-level, no frills car. Take, for example, today’s 4-door 1995 Golf. It’s not the first year of the A3, nor the last. It’s Colorado Red, probably not the color I’d have chosen. It’s got broad, flat and not particularly supportive tan cloth seats. The interior is a sea of plastic, and unlike recent Audi and Volkswagen products, it’s not the pretty and soft kind. It’s not got the fantastic VR6 motor, not even a manual transmission, and to top it off, yes, those are wheel covers. So why is it here, and why did I get excited when I saw it? Well, what makes every unmodified Golf special? In the case of this car, just the fact that it exists at all makes me excited; a low mileage survivor Mk.3 that is completely original? Yes, please!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Volkswagen Golf GL on eBay

1997 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6

1997 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6

Purists decried the arrival of the “grown up” A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled – that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Jetta in many ways helped to save Volkswagen, too – being one of the highest sellers since the Beetle, it was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so it’s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Volkswagen Jetta GlX VR6 on eBay

2006 Audi A3 3.2 quattro S-Line

2006 Audi A3 3.2 quattro S-Line

I have several times bemoaned the fact that, until recently, Volkswagen opted to not bring the 4-door Golf R32 to the United States. However, what they did offer for fans of utility was the Audi A3 3.2 quattro. It was a very expensive luxury counterpoint to the Golf R32 that we often feature, and with effectively the same running gear performance was nearly identical. They’re fairly rare to come by, even in comparison to the pretty rare Golf R32 – most likely due to the hefty premium that Audi charged which put the 3.2 A3 squarely in line with even more commodious options like the A4 2.0T quattro Avant. Once in a while they do pop up for sale though, as a stealthy silver one has today – just in time for the inclement weather in New England:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Audi A3 3.2 quattro S-Line on eBay