1986 Volkswagen GTI

Back to the Golf. A few days ago I looked at a pristine, original low-mileage ’85 Golf. A Westmoreland build, it was a very basic model. But your only other option in the first model year was the GTI, and it was a $2,000 upgrade over the basic Golf. Of course, for that amount you did get quite a jump in quality. Replacing the basic 85 horsepower 1.8 was a high-compression HT 100 horsepower unit. It didn’t sound like a lot, but that did represent a roughly 20% gain in power. Signature red-striped trim announced that this was the performance variant of the hatchback, and you also got 4-wheel discs as a first in the U.S. range. Those brakes hid behind carry-over “Avus” (Snowflake) wheels, though instead of the machine/dark gray finish the A1 had, they were now all silver and with “Volkswagen” imprinted on flush covers. Sometimes GTIs were equipped with “Montreal” (Bottlecap) alloys which were also shared with the Jetta GLI. Application seems somewhat indiscriminate. The GTI also had an upgraded suspension with front and rear sway bars and a close-ratio 5-speed manual as the only transmission. Of course, the interior was also upgraded with a leather-wrapped steering wheel borrowed from earlier GTIs, a multi-function display and specially-trimmed cloth sport seats. Unlike the prior GTI, the new model now also had flush-fitting aerodynamic glass headlights which were also seen on the Jetta, and later in 1986 the Golf Wolfsburg Edition.

In all, it was a substantial upgrade over the standard Golf, and you could of course further opt to include a sunroof, air conditioning, power steering, and a nice radio. Early U.S. Mk.2 GTIs were only available in Mars Red, Diamond Silver Metallic, or as seen here Black. Magazines fawned over the new GTI, which quickly established itself by winning Motor Trend‘s ‘Car of the Year‘ award. They proclaimed the model was “a case of specialized strengths plus broad flexibility — domination in some areas combined with sound capabilities in all others — to produce a commendable win.”

Today, those first two years of the GTI are quite hard to find. More popular were the later, much more potent 16V versions. But occasionally a really nice early example turns up, and here it is:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS

Update 6/1/18: The seller has dropped the price from the original $6,995 asking price to $5,995 today.

Continuing on the Volkswagen theme, and with the Roman Catholic-based holiday also in mind (our Orthodox friends celebrate next week!), let’s take a look at Volkswagen’s first foray into water-cooled products. The Golf was, of course, not marketed as the Golf in the United States, but the Rabbit. Ostensibly, the ‘Golf’ name followed in the convention of VW’s other wind-based products (Scirocco, Passat and Jetta) since Golf is German word for “Gulf” – it has nothing at all to do with the game, though a set of clubs would fit nicely in the back. But Volkswagen still won’t tell anyone why they changed the name to Rabbit in the United States. More concerning, they changed the name to ‘Caribe’ in Mexico. That’s a Piranha. At least our market had a more friendly mascot?

While the Beetle was certainly a tough act to follow be sold alongside of, the modern, convenient and completely practical Rabbit sold in droves at a time when fuel-conscious Americans were looking for solutions to their 19 foot long Lincoln Mk. V’s inability to clear 6 mpg. It’s 7.5 liter V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor managed to squeeze a massive 208 horsepower out of all that capacity. And that was the optional upgrade engine. Standard was a 6.6 liter version of the Cleveland V8 rated at only 166 horsepower, yet not really getting any better fuel economy. Of course, the Mk.V needed these giant motors as it was itself a giant. Curb weight was close to 5,000 lbs. So while the Rabbit seemed fairly insignificant in its stature by comparison, the reality was that it was a much better choice for most motorists.

To capitalize on the popularity, Volkswagen moved production of Rabbits from Germany to the United States for 1978. The move was signified by a shift towards rectangular square-beam headlights, just as we saw with yesterday’s early A2 Golf. Sales soared when gas prices did, too: between 1980 and 1984, Volkswagen sold over 620,000 Rabbits from Westmoreland. The sold a further 77,000 Rabbit Pickups – a creation solely aimed at North America, and now sought by some Europeans.

Because there were a lot of Rabbits produced, finding examples for sale even today isn’t all that hard. But low values have meant that restoration is really out of the question unless it’s your labor of love. However, things are beginning to change…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit LS on eBay

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Clown Commuter: 2002 BMW Z3 3.0i Coupe

So you want an affordable, distinctive yet practical car for your daily commute? Yesterday I suggested there might be more fun to be had for less money than the Golf Harlequin. Well, here it is: the Z3 3.0i Coupe. While the ‘clownshoe’ isn’t quite as spacious as the Golf, it does add a dose of practicality to a fun-to-drive and very unusual package. But while the market focuses on the M products, the more rare to find Z3 3.0i is an affordable option that will help you stand apart from the crowd.

Produced in Spartanburg in February 2002, this Topaz Blue Metallic example has seen better days, it’s got quite a few miles, and it’s an automatic. But that means it’ll be about as cheap as a clownshoe comes. Is it worth the price of admission – or, at the very least, is it worth the savings over a M?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW Z3 3.0i Coupe on eBay

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1979 Volkswagen Dasher Hatchback

Like the Scirocco duo from earlier this week, Volkswagen’s “large” chassis has become an obscure name long gone from these shores. The Dasher premiered VW’s use of the shared B1 platform. Marketed in the rest of the world as the Passat (a name, like the Scirocco, for a type of wind), Volkswagen opted to use a name closer to its stablemate Rabbit and came up with “Dasher”. From 1974 through 1981, the B1 laid the foundation for larger watercooled Volkswagens in three configurations; two-door hatchback, four-door hatchback and wagon. Also like the Scirocco, the design came from Giogetto Giugiaro and was forward-thinking. Power came from the EA827 derivatives, with a relative modest 1.6 inline-4 gas motor and later diesel options available. In 1978, the B1 was refreshed and gained quad-round headlights and other light revisions, visually matching the Scirocco lineup a bit more. They’re obscure and relatively rare to see at all these days, but this survivor has popped up on eBay in a no reserve auction:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Hatchback on eBay

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1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport

Just the other day, Paul looked at a 1998 BMW 318ti in Oxford Green. An offbeat commuter, the condition of that car was great, but not so much was the near $7,000 price. Today I have another 318ti to look at, but this one ups the ante a bit. Again it is an original M44 car in great shape with well below average miles. The color is a little less 90s spectacular, but still looks nice in Alpine White. However, it’s the addition of the California roof and the M-Sport package which really helps this hatch stand out. Let’s take a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti M-Sport on eBay

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1998 BMW 318ti

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If you’ve been following my posts here on GCFSB for the last seven years or so, you’ll know I’m a fan of obscure vehicles. These days, the sight of an M-badged BMW or Porsche 911 does little to excite me, as they seem all too ubiquitous in the urban environments I frequent. It’s no surprise then, at a recent cars and coffee, it wasn’t the fast German machines or Italian exotics which grabbed my attention. Rather, it was a mint Citroën SM sitting in the corner of the parking lot that caught my eye. It had been years since I had seen one of these French grand tourers and it was a design that looked as good in 2016 as it did when it debuted over 45 years ago. The BMW 318ti is not nearly as exotic as the Citroën SM, but it’s not something you see that often on the streets these days. This one for sale in California is saddled with an automatic gearbox but makes for a nice alternative commuter that you could have some fun with on the weekend.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW 318ti on eBay

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1978 Volkswagen Dasher Hatchback

The Volkswagen Passat [née Quantum (née Dasher)] has always been a bit of the odd-man out in the Volkswagen lineup, but each successive generation has offered something special – even in the U.S.. As Paul wrote up last week, in the B7 you could get a TDi manual – something of an oddity in the marketplace last year, as automatic whirring hybrids have ruled the minds and pocketbooks of middle management for the last decade. The B6 had a fantastic hidden gem in the 3.6 4Motion; an unappreciated car in general but perhaps the car Audi should have built. The B5? It was the car that finally made the Passat successful in the U.S., and introduced the cool if too complicated W8 4motion package. The B3/4 had the you-can’t-kill-it-unless-it-rusts 1Z diesel and sonorous VR6 motors. The B2’s trump card over the Audi 4000 it closely resembled was the Syncro Wagon. And the B1? Well, if you wanted a 4-door Volkswagen hatchbach that was a bit more substantial than the Rabbit on offer, briefly your wish could come true:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Volkswagen Dasher on eBay

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1997 BMW 318ti with S52 swap

I never understood why, but hatchback seems to be a dirty word in the US. So many of my friends eschew these vehicles, whether in three or five door form. Curiously, SUVs are popular here in the Land of the Free. So it seems Americans might not be all that averse to practicality, just as long as it is jacked up and classified as something more butch than your average passenger car. BMW dabbled with the idea of a hatchback 3 series for a number of years across two generations, however, only the E36 318ti, or Compact as it was known as, was sold stateside. While there were a number of different options you could spec a 318ti with, you had one choice of engine, the 1.9 liter inline-4. Customers in other markets, however, had access to the 2.5 liter inline-6 in the form of the 323ti. Enthusiasts took note of this and we’ve seen a number of six-cylinder ti swaps appear over time. This example for sale in Miami has an S52 from a 1999 M3 under the bonnet. It looks to be a rather tidy swap, with its look enhanced by the BBS RK alloys.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti on eBay

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#Fail Friday: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup+

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My one main complaint with my 1981 Rabbit Pickup was that the passenger compartment was a pretty tight squeeze between the low roof and too-close rear wall – beyond that, it was a hilarious, competent, unique, and fun-to-drive car. Today’s oddball Frankenstein monster fixes my one gripe by melding a Rabbit Hatchback with a Pickup, creating a Crew Cab Caddy reminiscent of Rutledge Wood’s limo on Top Gear America (I don’t blame you if you haven’t seen it). While the extra legroom and seating for four are nice additions and it allegedly runs and drives, this is clearly a half-baked project with many, many needs. The seller thinks its rarity makes it as valuable as a top-notch Caddy, but it would take a lot of time and money to make it even presentable.

Click for details: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup on eBay

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1995 BMW 318ti

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After reading a Car Magazine long-term test review of the new Caterham 160, my interest in base model vehicles was rekindled. Much like the rather basic BMW 518 that Nate featured back in 2013, this 318ti has caught my attention for similar reasons. When the E36 hatchback made its debut, I wasn’t particular fond of it. But time has changed my view of it, not in the least because it wasn’t the most common E36 3 series on US shores. It’s rare you come across a good example, as these were the most affordable car in the BMW range at the time, but sometimes you’ll find a hidden gem. Such is the case with this example equipped with a 5-speed manual for sale in Oregon.

Click for details: 1995 BMW 318ti on eBay

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