1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

Much like the S4 I posted over the weekend, the Jetta GLI 16V is a car which on paper I should like very much. After all, I’m a huge fan of the same-generation GTI 16V, and the Jetta was little more than a trunk added to that formula. Underneath, there were almost no changes between the two. You got the same high-strung 9A 2.0 16V with Motronic fuel injection pushing 134 horses through that open-diff front end. Your only choice was a 5-speed manual, of course, and it was a close-ratio one – enjoy those highway speeds! Brakes were updated to 10.1″ and dual tailpipes emerged from the new ‘big bumper’ A2 refresh. Central locking and a cassette player were standard, while you could opt for many power options including windows, mirror, anti-lock brakes, trip computer, cruise control and of course a sunroof. The GLI also carried over BBS wheels from the pre’90 1.8 models, in this case the 15″x 6.5″ ‘RA’.

These items should have conspired to produce a deeply desirable product for me. And yet, somehow I never really took to the Jetta though many did. I suppose it’s the same as the 4000 quattro/Coupe GT fan bases. Rarely do they seem to cross over, yet there’s a mutual respect between them. I like the Jetta, and in the absence of the GTI it would probably be a great favorite of mine. It was aimed at being a more refined alternative to the racier hot hatch. But ultimately it falls second fiddle to the GTI, which always seems (and, arguably is) just that little bit more neat.

For enthusiasts, though, that means potential value. As GTI 16V prices climb steeply with no real relent in sight and few good examples hitting the market, you can get a bit of a value if you don’t mind the junk in the trunk:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay

2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T Wagon

While I spend most of my early 2000s Volkswagen attention on Passats and GTIs, there was another pretty compelling package in that period. The Jetta Wagon launched in 2002 and brought with it a myriad of engines and transmission options. Finally, the United States had access to the ‘Golf Variant’ that the rest of the world had enjoyed through the 1990s. And, you could have a TDi, a VR6 or even the 1.8T hooked up to a manual. Aside from it being called a Jetta and therefore you had the same car as all of the ‘Jenna’s from ‘Jersey (‘Cause, like, it’s like almost the same like spelling as like my name is like OMG!!!), there weren’t many drawbacks to the small wagon.

Judging from the number of Mk.4 Jetta Wagons that I still see on the road, the TDi was the most successful model sold in this area. Neat – in theory – is the VR6 model with a 5-speed manual, though finding one can be a bit of a trick. And they were pricey; you’d assume the Jetta would be cheaper than the more upscale Passat, right? Not always. While my 1.8T GLS Passat went out the door around $26,000 in 2002, if you opted for a modestly equipped VR6 Jetta you’d pay over $27,000. And while the VR6 may have seemed to be the best bet, I’d argue that the 1.8T was better value.

That’s because for the 2002 model year, Volkswagen reprogrammed the 1.8T to make a bit more twist. The resulting AWW was seen in the GTI and GLI cars, but also carried over unchanged in the Jetta. Rated at 180 horsepower, it produced 10 horsepower more than the Passat and 6 more than the 2.8 liter SOHC 12V VR6. While the GLI package didn’t carry to the wagons, you could still get 17″ wheels, leather interior, a 5-speed manual and some pretty colors, too:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T Wagon on eBay

2.Slow Double Take: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta and 1998 Volkswagen GTI

I was thinking about how to relate my feelings about the first few generations of water-cooled small VWs, and I came up with the analogy of the BBC Doctor Who! reboot in the 2000s. The first generation was Christopher Eccleston; edgy, completely different from the prior generations with a fresh face, impossible not to view with a smile but also something you didn’t completely trust. The second generation? David Tennant took ‘The Doctor’ to new levels of popularity; more refined, more fun and with an infectious smile, he was quirky but somehow much easier to live with than Eccleston had been. He also developed a rabid fan base that consider him the best (this author included) even if he had some faults.

Then came Matt Smith. There’s certainly a fanbase who appreciates Smith’s rounder, softer and…well, weird portrayal of the Doctor. I’m not a fan personally, and often find myself pleading with other Who watchers to go back farther because the earlier variations were much, much better. Yet floppy and oddly proportioned, Smith was nonetheless very popular and took the show to a wider audience. See the Mk.3 VW.

Not really the best at anything aside from being pretty expensive relative to its contemporaries, the 2.0 inline-4 ABA-equipped VW’s nonetheless outsold the prior versions. The were poorly built and even more poorly owned; this was clearly a move towards disposable automobiles for the company, and it worked. I never really got the appeal of the third generation until I somewhat reluctantly owned one. And you know what? It wasn’t as good-looking as my ’86 Golf was to me, but in every aspect it was better. It was more reliable (amazingly), got better mileage, had a nicer interior, was faster and had both heated seats AND air con. And both worked! Plus it had fog lights and more stuff fit inside.…

2001 Volkswagen Jetta VR6 Smyth ‘Ute’

I’m sure you’ve seen it once before. Someone takes a regular sedan or wagon, grabs a sawzall, then three months later out rolls a car with a bed on it. Usually the rear window is something out of a truck at the junkyard and is held in by some leftover bathroom caulk. The entire car now has the structural integrity of a pool noddle and it’s only a matter of time before the entire thing collapses. But what if I told you that there is now a way to make a ute from your VW or Audi without risking your life and everyone elses lives on the road? Thanks to this 2001 Jetta ”Ute” in Detroit, I now know there is an entire market for these conversions.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Volkswagen Jetta VR6 ”Ute” on Detroit Craigslist

1984 Volkswagen Jetta GL Turbo Diesel

As we saw with the Dasher Hatchback from last week, just because it’s older and in good shape doesn’t automatically mean it’s worth a lot. If it’s a GTI or a Scirocco, sure – sit back with the popcorn and watch the bids roll in, but that Dasher? It sold for $1,600. Admittedly, it needed at least that amount and probably more in mechanical freshening, but still – you’re looking at a unique classic for well under $5,000 all in.

Today is another such beast, and like the Dasher, it’s a niche car that most will probably pass over for the more exciting metal. But this is one trick little bit of kit as you look a little closer. A1 Jettas are pretty rare to begin with, and this is a claimed rust-free example – always a good place to start. Euro bumpers slim down the look while Corrado Sebrings and a lowered ride height beef it up, but the clean presentation is really highlighted by the rare drivetrain – the CY turbocharged diesel inline-4 mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, good for 68 horsepower and 98 lb.ft of torque. This motor was also briefly available in the first generation Audi 4000. The 10.6 quoted 0-60 time won’t sound particularly exciting, but it was quite a bit quicker than the standard diesel and recorded better fuel economy (Volkswagen claimed it could top 54 mpg!). But the key to this car is the relative obscurity and rarity of the package.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta GL Turbo Diesel on eBay

1986 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Like its brethren GTI, in 1985 the Volkswagen Jetta GLI went a bit more upscale with the second generation of water-cooled performance. While the two shared most underpinnings between them, the Jetta was aimed at a slightly more upscale buyer. As a result, things like power windows, locks and mirrors and (gasp!) even an automatic transmission were available in the sedan but not the hatch. The GLI package, like the GTI, offered visual clues that greater performance lay under the hood; you got a red-striped exterior and alloy wheels outside. But unlike the GTI, VW omitted the blacked-out VW badges and the flashy “GLI” grill insert until later in the run. Inside, special velour sport seats, a multi-function display and standard power steering (it was optional in the rest of the range) with a leather-wrapped steering wheel helped to distinguish the model. But the meat of the meal was the added sport; the HT-code inline-4 was good for 100 horsepower and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual as standard. You also got disc brakes all around and an upgraded sport suspension with front and rear anti-sway bars. You could grab all of this fun for just a hair under $10,000 with no options – exactly $100 per a horsepower.

For 1986, power was up slightly to 102 with a new RD-code motor, again shared with the GTI. That massive power increase was met with a corresponding increase in base price to $10,190. Yet most reviews of the period felt that even at that price, the Jetta represented a great value; a perfect mix of sport and practicality with reasonably good build quality. The GLI of the period never sold quite as well as the GTI or caught on in quite the same way, though, so it’s a special treat to come across a clean and mostly original ’86 like this one:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen Jetta GLI on eBay

1987 Volkswagen Jetta Coupe with 5,581 Miles

In 1987, there were quite a few Jettas to like (as Jettas go, that is). If you absolutely had to have a trunk, you could grab a turbo diesel for its last year until the 1990 Ecodiesel arrived. The “GL” trim package gave you power options like windows, mirrors, locks, and even a power antenna – remember when breaking antennas off cars was a hoodlum pastime? Your GL would even come with a ski sack! There was the new Wolfsburg Edition, which gave you all the options of the GLI without sport seats – so you got the special Pirelli P-slot wheels, deeper spoilers, and even a power bump to 105. Did I mention the GLI? For good measure, there were two that year, with the 8V bowing out to the incoming 16V model.

This car is not any of those trim levels, though. This is a plain-jane Jetta; steel wheels, the lowest power available, and manual everything (except, predictably, the transmission). So why look at it? Well, two reasons – and they both open. Oh, and it only has 5,581 miles, too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta Coupe on eBay

Ending Soon – What We’re Watching

I’ve got my eye on another interesting and diverse set of affordable no reserve auctions this week. Take a look and feel free to chime in where you think cars will end! Let’s get things rolling with this BMW E28 with only a few hours remaining:

Click for Details: 1987 BMW 535is

This 1987 BMW 535is is definitely on the driver-quality side rather than a show piece; but all the important bones are there and the rust-free claim is worth its weight in 1980s Bavarian metal, anyway. Overall, though there are some obvious needs, for a 200,000 mile car it looks reasonably tidy and so far bidding is only at $2,500.

Click for Details: 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Wagon

In an era of Volkswagen production that saw a sharp upswing in quality and performance, who would have guessed that the second most desirable model in the used market (outside of the R, obviously) is a Jetta Wagon with the diesel motor? Unlike its bigger brother Passat TDi Variant, the Jetta could be had with a 5-speed manual and they’ve developed a cult following. This one ticks the right boxes with lower miles, what appears to be good condition and the ALH/5-speed manual combination in a wagon, so bids are nearly at $7,000 with a few hours to go on the no reserve auction.

Click for Details: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan

After yesterday’s polarizing M3 Lightweight, we’re back to normal series production (and lower prices) with this still desirable M3 Sedan. In -3/4/5 configuration, these have quickly become the preferred weapon of choice for the practical E36 lover. In Artic Silver with Dove interior, this one isn’t stock, but with under 100,000 miles and in good condition, it looks like a solid investment at under $9,000 at time of writing.

Click for Details: 2000 Audi S4

An interesting, and more potent, counterpoint to the M3/4/5 is the Audi S4.…

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta, for most, isn’t the most exciting vehicle. Nor, if I’m honest, was it the most exciting Volkswagen product in 1984. In the hierarchy of collectable Volkswagens from that year, in fact, I’d wager that a stock 1984 Jetta comes just about last in a ranking of desirability within the brand’s lineup. Beyond the fact that there was a GLI high performance model, there was the Scirocco, the Rabbit Convertible, the GTI, and of course the popular Vanagon. Heck, I’d bet there’d be a bigger draw around a clean Quantum than a Jetta.

Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far. The Jetta, even if it’s not the fastest or best looking Volkswagen product, still has quite a devoted following in each generation – and those that love the A1 don’t exactly have a glut of examples to choose from. When they’re found, they’re usually forlorn as the residual value on standard Jettas has remained so low in comparison to other models. You’re not likely to find a clean example even with needs. But a restored and rebuilt model? Surely that would just be too expensive to even contemplate?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen Jetta on eBay

1988 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

The introduction of the DOHC motor into the Volkswagen lineup may not have heralded a massive increase in power; on paper, the 21 horsepower bump from the RD 8 valve 1.8 liter inline-4 to the PL 16V of the same displacement was pretty modest compared to the massive leaps of today. But in a 2,000 lbs car, the 20% bump in thrust meant that the new Jetta GLI 16V for 1987 felt like the rocket ship its tach acted like every time you stabbed the throttle. To match the additional power, Volkswagen offered many upgrades over the standard 8 valve GLI in 1987, the only year they were offered together in the U.S. market. A deeper front lip spoiler with brake ducting and rear spoiler added boy-racer looks. Though the wheels remained 14″x6″, the new “Silverstone” design you know as “Teardrops” looked cooler than the bottle-cap inspired design on the 8V. A swept-back Fuba roof-mounted antenna continued the speed theme and became the signature Volkswagen look for some time. Inside 16V badges on the dash and a higher red line prepared you for the thrill ride while heavily bolstered half-cloth, half-leatherette Recaro Trophy seats hugged you. And to show how fancy you were to your friends, this Volkswagen included a lit key fob – the first I can think of for a Volkswagen. The Jettas were also marketed upscale of the more boy-racer GTI (a trend which recently has been reversed), so options included power windows, air conditioning and a sunroof, and the model carried over from 1987 largely unchanged into 1988. They were a cut-rate M3 to an entire generation that was never able to even contemplate new BMW ownership, and became wildly popular as a result:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay