If 1984 GTI was the all-star high school athlete that just couldn’t lose, the 1985 GTI was the freshman college student he became. Sure, the DNA was the same but he seemed somehow softer, wiser and…well, there was that ‘Freshman 15’ that he put on with the all-you-can-eat meal plan for athletes. He was also a lot more fun to spend longer times with than the high schooler had been. That didn’t mean he still couldn’t stretch his legs when he wanted, and indeed the ’85 GTI had a few tricks up its sleeve to make up for its additional mass. Mostly that came down to the motor; the high-compression ‘HT’ 1.8 inline-4 with KE-Jetronic injection now made 100 horsepower and 105 lb.ft of torque thanks to a bit of tweaking. It still wore the red-striped exterior trim and signature ‘GTI’ badging, and the rear hatch was still blacked-out around the window. But now there was a slight spoiler included at the top as well. 14″ alloy wheels still ruled the day, but a new ‘bottlecap’ design was introduced and they wore 185-60-14 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires. That first year of the A2 GTI, you could only get three colors – Black, Diamond Silver Metallic or Mars Red as we see here:
The words “Q-Ship” and “Sleeper” get tossed around a lot when describing the super-performing sedans, coupes and wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but truth be told, virtually any enthusiast and most non-enthusiasts can spot a high performance model a mile away. We have to go really pretty far back to find examples that were true sleepers – models where it was only the number of tail pipes, subtly wider wheels, or maybe one single badge that hinted at their greater performance. There were no extra gills, bulges, flared fenders, red trim, flashy colored brake calipers and 22″ wheels with 375 section tires. For models like the 450SEL 6.9, you had to know what you were looking at to fully appreciate the performance. But even as we got towards the E28 M5, manufacturers were slapping badges, lowered suspensions, spoilers and special trim to help set their client’s substantial investments apart. In the vein of the 450SEL 6.9, though, Volkswagen launched a discrete performance sedan – a true sleeper – in the Passat W8.
Over the past few weeks I’ve taken a look at both the special ’89 Wolfsburg Edition Jetta GLI 16V and a ’91 GLI 16V. Both, ultimately, were lacking. The ’89 suffered from a plethora of mods but not a look quite perfect enough to be a show car, while the ’91 had a lot of needs as it had been hobbled together. So it’s a bit interesting to see another GLI 16V pop up.
Like the July example, this is a later ‘big bumper’ car. Like the ’89, this one has quite a few modifications from stock and is a special color. But perhaps because of slick photography, bigger dollar mods or the spectacularly 90s LA6U Capri Green paintwork, this one pulls it off:
I’ll assume if you’re into this site you’re pretty familiar with the Type 14 Karmann Ghia even though I don’t talk about them much. Basically, it was the original Scirocco – taking the ‘pedestrian’ underpinnings of the Beetle and creating a sporty persona to mask them. If you’re a real fan of VWs, you’re probably also familiar with the second, upscale Karmann Ghia – the Type 34. I took a look at one last year:
1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34
With only 42,500 sold compared to the nearly half million Type 14 Ghias produced – and never officially imported to the U.S., most people are fairly unaware of this model even though it’s arguably one of the prettiest Volkswagens made.
But there was an even more rare third Karmann Ghia. This was the Type 145 produced by Volkswagen do Brasil. Styled by Giugiaro and with the stretched Type III chassis underneath, a scant 18,000 of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Touring Coupe (TC) were produced solely for the South American market:
Celebrating Volkswagen’s addition of the DOHC 16V ‘PL’ to the GLI in 1987, and perhaps to in part justify its heady $14,000 MSRP, the company heavily upgraded the model over the standard Jetta. 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″ x 6″, 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.
But in 1989, Volkswagen kicked it up another notch with a special edition of the GLI. Part of the group of six special ‘Wolfsburg Edition’ models for the year, the highlight was definitely the Jetta. Outside they were painted LA5Y Helios Blue Metallic – a color borrowed from the much more expensive Audi Quattro. They featured color-matched BBS RAs in 15″ x 6″. The mirrors were color-matched too. Inside the Recaro seats received special diagonally-striped cloth, while the luxury quotient was upped as well with power windows, locks and mirrors, a sunroof, air conditioning, and stereo with 6 speakers and cassette all standard. This took the Jetta GLI’s price up over $17,000. Although the next model year adopted some of these upgrades as standard, the special-toned and limited edition ’89s known simply as ‘Helios’ have always had a cult following:
Okay, $22,000 is a lot for an old hot hatch, even if it’s the ‘original’. When I was perusing some cars to consider, I noticed that there was a point where Mk.2, 3, 4 and 5 prices were all pretty equivalent. In fact, you can just about buy all four of these cars shown below for the same price as that Kamei X1 GTI. It raises an interesting question; what generation is the one to get at this price point? Certainly a lot depends on priorities – if, for example, you really want a fun daily driver or you’re looking for more of a weekend warrior show car. But let’s look at this group and see which has potential:
Volkswagen’s GTI is legendary on its own as a performance icon. It’s also got a deserved reputation as one of the most tunable cars out there; from turbos to suspension and everything in between, it’s no surprise that the basic GTI is actually hard to find.
One of the more popular visual tuners in the 1980s was Kamei. The company provided everything from hood scoops to spoilers, and headlight conversions to fender flares. While they have a decidedly 80s feel, that vibe is currently very much in vogue. So when an original GTI comes along with the full spectrum of Kamei accessories, it’s one to take notice of:
Over the past year, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about the Volkswagen Arteon. These reviews tend to focus around two main points; that the Arteon is quite nice, and that the Arteon is quite expensive – at least, for a Volkswagen. The model starts at $35,000 and if you add a few options it’s not hard to crest $40,000. I did manage to find a SEL 4Motion under $40,000 but it has few options. The 2.0T is rated at 268 horsepower in base form, and you can select front- or all-wheel drive variants and a ton of tech as the price climbs, but initially they’ll all be offered only with an 8-speed ZF automatic. Although outwardly it looks a lot like an Audi A7, and indeed features the same hatchback configuration, like the previous few Passats and Passat CC it is based on the Golf MQB platform.
All this got me to thinking; is it really that radical a departure from the last CC?
Update 7/21/19: This Jetta GLI 16V sold for $2,750.
Volkswagen of America’s new ‘Fahrvergnügen’ sales campaign in the early 1990s was, while a marketing ploy and a totally made up neologism, underscoring sporty changes at Volkswagen. The more serious 2.0 16V GTI I’ve already covered recently, but the same motor was available in the more fun-to-drive Passat here, too. Then there was the Corrado, which while it only had 8 valves sported a supercharger. You could that that G60 in the Passat in Europe, too.
Volkswagen’s popular smaller sedan had a healthy dose of upgrades though, too. In ’89, the Jetta GLI 16V had a special Wolfsburg Edition which had added the deeply bolstered Recaro Trophy seats and BBS RA alloys. These were color-matched to the Helios Blue Metallic paint outside. The seats and BBS wheels would carry over for the 1990 model year, but like the GTI the Jetta received the new 9A 2.0 16V and revised bumper/trim of all the A2s. 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.
Although the package was essentially quite similar to the GTI, I’ve never quite taken to the 2.0 GLI 16V in the same way. But it’s still very nice to see a clean example hit the market:
‘It’s like déjà vu all over again!’
Only a week after looking at another example of my favorite GTI – the Montana Green 2.0 16V – we get another of my personal greatest GTI hits. Again, it’s one that’s pretty hard to come across at all, never mind in good shape. In this case it’s Ginster Yellow last-year Mk.3, and yet again after claiming it’s hard to find one, one popped up pretty recently:
1998 Volkswagen GTI VR6
Since I just covered what made the Mk.3 tick, I won’t do so again, but let’s dive a bit into this example. The last one, as it turned out, may have had some issues which prevented it from really being a top-tier example. Is it the same with this pristine and lightly modded one?