1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6

After its unceremonious and unexplained exit from the U.S. market with the introduction of the third generation Golf in 1993, the GTI came roaring back in a big way for the 1995 model year. Sure, it was bigger, bulkier and well…roundier, but it came with a bunch more gusto thanks to the addition of the VR6 motor as seen in the Corrado and Passat models. The single-overhead cam, twelve valve head lacked the race-bred feel of the Mk.II 16V, the new motor more than made up for it with the addition of two more cylinders. Good for 172 horsepower and 173 lb.ft of torque, it swept the hot hatch from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and produced a 15.5 second quarter mile at over 90 mph. But much like the original, the GTI was more than the sum of its numbers, with drivers enjoying the great 6-cylinder soundtrack which accompanied the waves of usable torque.

Of course, like all VWs from the period, it was expensive. Really quite expensive. A base GTI VR6 rolled out the door in 1995 at $18,875, and with a few options it wasn’t difficult to breech $20 grand. Yet that was still only a little more than half the money it would take you to grab a same-year M3, which offered only a bit more motivation and cornering prowess. Catch the pesky BMW driver off-guard, and they’d be unlikely to easily out-drag you. So you could either look at this model as a really expensive Golf or a really cheap BMW. That was what the legendary GTI had always been about, and this was a resounding return to form and continuation of the brilliance that was the GTI 16V, even if they felt (and, looked) completely different:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Volkswagen GTI VR6 on eBay

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1997 Volkswagen Golf

What did you get if you wanted a reasonable German commuter that was no frills but fun to drive and got good mileage in 1997? After a long run of Audis, I was ready for something that was a little less dear to fix considering at the time I was putting around 55,000 miles a year on my cars for work. My mechanic glanced towards a faded but reasonably clean Tornado Red Golf K2 he had in the lot and said “You can have that for $1,500”. Done. I never once regretted it – it was a great little car; it would get 34 m.p.g. in a pinch, the air condition blew cold, the K2 came with heated seats, and even after 3,000 hours of polishing I restored the “Tornado Pink” to red once again. It was also fun to drive – the 8 valve has been given the nickname “2.slow” by enthusiasts, but the reality is that the ABA is more than adequate to motivate the lightweight Golf at speeds the original GTi would be envious of – plus, it had torque. Put sticky tires and a stiffer suspension on it and it was fun in the twisties, and good snow tires let you toss it around in the white stuff with no problems. But the best part of the Golf was its simplicity; it was just basic transportation, but it added character to a daily commute. I loved it, and smile every time I see a clean one like this Memory Red Pearl example with lower miles come up for sale:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Volkswagen Golf on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1996 Volkswagen GTI VR6

I’ve owned and loved modified Volkswagens now for going on twenty years, so I’m certainly not new to the scene. Obviously, being a popular tuning and performance platform since its launch, the GTi has undergone just about every conceivable permutation of modifications. Despite what would seem to be an endless pool of candidates, though, I often find examples lacking a clean, well put together look. I’ve also found as I’ve gotten older that the cars that really stand out to me aren’t the wildly modified cars, but the subtle cars; cars that manage to integrate their modifications well into what already was a good platform. Let’s be honest; modifying cars is a very personal endeavor, so of course there are going to be varied opinions about what looks good. To me, find a clean VR6 Mk.III in close to original spec but with just the right hints of spice to make it stand out and be a little less vanilla, and it’s perfect. Make sure those mods are on one of my favorite colors – Windor Blue – and it’s one of the rare cases where I think the seller got it just right:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen GTi VR6 on craigslist

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1998 Volkswagen GTi VR6

Last week Paul wrote up a nice example of a Ginster Yellow GTi VR6 Driver’s Edition; one of what we’re coming to believe may be a dying breed. Like the 16 valve GTis that preceded the VR6, the third generation GTis were used, often quite aggressively, by their owners. Couple that with a tendency to have rust develop in the third generation Golfs and the number that have given their guts for VR swaps into earlier cars and you have a rapidly developing shortage of unmolested, cleaner examples of the GTi. Today’s example may be the rarest color on the GTi of this vintage; few that I’ve ever seen were specified in “Cool White” that is model is:

Year: 1998
Model: GTi VR6
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 144,252 mi
Price: $4,400 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 Volkswagen GTi VR6 on eBay

1998 VW Golf GTI VR6

– Cool White Exterior w/Black Leather Interior

– 144K miles

– 5spd manual transmission with short shifter, new bushings, recently replaced clutch

– Passed NJ Inspection in October – good through 10/2015

– No CEL(check engine light), Airbag light or any other warning lights currently lit on dash (all bulbs are still in the cluster!)

– Timing chain/water pump were replaced (127k miles), Battery (130k miles), Neuspeed Plug Wires and coil pack (132k miles), Mass Airflow sensor (144k miles), PCV Valve (144k miles), Air Filter (144k miles), VW Spec Single Tip Copper Spark Plugs (144k miles), Miscellaneous vaccuum lines (144k miles), Catalytic Converter (144k miles), RainX wipers (144k miles)

– Modifications include: MK3.5 Cabrio 3 spoke steering wheel w/airbag, Bosal Exhaust (downpipe back, including bosal catalytic converter), slotted front rotors, Pioneer radio/cd player, Polk Audio component speakers, smoked side markers, clear long turn signals and fog lights, Koni Lowering Springs (front struts, strut mounts and tie rod ends need to be replaced)

The car is in very good condition for the year. If you are familiar with Volkswagen’s you know that a white MK3 GTI VR6 is hard to come by in nice condition. I drive the car regularly and it has been very reliable. It pulls strong, as to be expected for a VR6. However, as with any car from 1998 there are some imperfections including some minor dings, scratches, ect. VW’s from 1994-1999 are prone to rust issues on the floors, hatch, strut towers and gas cap area. I can say that there is no rust in any of these areas. However, there is a minor spot that has bubbled on the passenger side quarter panel and some on the very bottom of the rocker panels (covered by the side skirts). Please see pictures. In trying to be as honest and upfront as possible, I will describe all flaws with car. Minor separation on one seam of the driver seat (approx 2-3″), cracked end cap on passenger side skirt ($5 used), very small chip in windshield (approx 1/2″ and has not spread over the past 6 months), needs front suspension work (new front struts – $95, new VR6 strut mounts – $40 and new tie rod ends – $30).

Unfortunately, a change in needs (bathroom remodel at my house) is forcing the sale of this car. If you have any questions or would like any additional pictures, please contact me prior to bidding.

There are a few issues present with this car; rust is creeping through in a few spots which seems typical for the Mk. 3 chassis. Additionally, there is a reported need for some attention to the suspension. However, the owner has recently undertaken a fair amount of vehicle maintenance which is certainly nice to have checked off. The modifications aren’t extensive and could be easily reversed if desired. Overall, the car presents very well, though I think it’s interesting that it seems to wear early VR6 wheels instead of the 1998-spec Speedline wheels; the same wheels on the Ginster Yellow GTi Paul wrote up. Sourcing those wheels isn’t impossible but they’re not very common, so you may need to do a refinish once all is said and done. The asking price is $4,400; that’s nearly a $1,000 more than the Ginster model sold for recently, and that car looked a bit cleaner and had less miles. We seem to agree here that the sweet spot for these GTis still is in the $3,000 to $4,000 range, but if you’re interested, get one while you can – we’re pretty sure they’re going the way of the dodo and will be appreciating soon.

-Carter