1988 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

The other day I was stuck behind a brand new Honda Accord Sport in traffic. When I think of modern day Accords, “Sport” is the last word that comes to my mind. I grew up in a household that had a few Accords back in the 1980s and 1990s. These were marvelously engineered machines and utterly reliable. But as the baby boomer generation got older, so did the Accord. Some might welcome the extra girth of the ninth generation Accord, but it is so far removed from the cars I knew and loved in my childhood. But hey, at least you can still spec one with a 6-speed manual. For that, I give Honda my propers.

Back during Accord’s heyday, Volkswagen was busy injecting a bit of sport into the Jetta. This 1988 Jetta GLI 16V is the sedan counterpart to the GTI 16V, perfect for those sporting motorists who might happen to have a child seat in tow. This Jetta has the 1.8 liter 16V four cylinder under the hood good for 127 hp. That doesn’t seem like a lot in this day and age but kept it on par power wise with top spec sedans of its class from Japan. If you couldn’t make the stretch to a BMW in those days, these Jettas were the next best thing when it came to German sport sedans.

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1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V

If you were not a Volkswagen fan, it would have been relatively easy to miss the numerous small changes to the Jetta lineup in 1987. Chief among these changes was the introduction of a new model, the GLi 16V. Outside there were subtle changes to what was already established in the sporty 4-door to help it be distinguished from the 8 valve model it was sold alongside (only in the 1987 model year). A new, deeper front chin spoiler had two integral brake ducts. The antenna had been relocated to the roof, and the rear spoiler was color-matched on the top surface. Inside, new body-hugging Recaro seats were offered, alongside the host of subtle luxury options that the Jetta had including power windows, mirrors and locks, sunroof, air conditioning, cruise control and an onboard computer. The GLi 16V also received new wheels, popularly known as the “Teardrop” alloys but properly named Silverstone. Of course, appearance was one thing, but performance was what the GLi 16V was about and the dual overhead cams of the new motor churned out 123 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like a lot today, but it was plenty to make this light sedan entertaining. Expensive new and popular to be modified secondhand, these early GLi 16Vs are somewhat rare to happen across these days:

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Sporty Soot: 1987 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V Ecodiesel

With the exception of the short-lived Jetta TDi Cup Edition, Volkswagen has denied U.S. fans something that it’s offered in Europe for several generations – the sporty versions of its diesel products. They go as far back as the mid-1980s and made lots of sense in European countries were greater fuel economy trumped the need for speed. But that lack of importation hasn’t stopped some from creating their own anti-sleepers. What started life here as an early Jetta GLi 16V has gone through a unique swap to an equally if not more rare Ecodiesel-spec 1.6 turbo motor. You get the sporty look and interior from the GLi with all the clatter and fuel economy of the diesel:

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1992 Volkswagen Jetta GLi 16V

“DOHC” was king in the late 1980s and 1990s, and Volkswagen offered several different flavors of dual-cam goodness. You had practicality and sport in the Scirocco model and GTi, with the Golf carrying the torch into the 1990s after the sports coupe’s production ended. Volkswagen also carried the 16V into the Jetta, but offered some slightly different features and styling to help to separate it from the Golf. Where the Golf was slightly more hard-edged and felt like a racer, the Jetta felt slightly more refined. While 1987-1989 models externally weren’t very different in the front from the GTi, after 1990 single rectangular headlights continued and GLis now came standard with the BBS RA 15×6 wheels in silver. Those wheels had previously been outfitted on the Helios Edition. They also got the Recaro Trophy seats and bigger, aerodynamic bumpers that the GTi now carried. Standard was central locking, twin outlet exhaust, 10.1″ front brakes and a cassette radio with 6 speakers, while options included ABS, power windows, sunroof and metallic paint. Just like their GTi counterparts, these expensive Jettas weren’t sold in great numbers and finding all-original examples can be difficult, especially one with lower miles like today’s end of the run 1992:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Volkswagen GLi 16V on San Francisco Craigslist

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1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI VR6

Every now and then, you come across a car that reminds you of your youth. This 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI with a VR6 heart transplant puts me squarely back at the end of high school and beginning of college. It was around that time that I was running a 1998 GTI 2.0 and VR6 engine swaps into earlier A1 and A2 chassis Volkswagens were just catching on. While some of my classmates turned towards the Japanese tuning scene, I was firmly entrenched on the German side of things. I didn’t do a lot of modifications to my GTI, but I enjoyed going to shows and races alike with my friends in the Vee Dub circles.

Time moves on, and a few Mercedes-Benzes later, I’m back into a (half) German hatchback, a MINI Cooper S. I still have a hankering for an A2 GTI or Jetta, though. I can’t put a finger on it, but there’s some reason I like the A2 series better than the original. This Jetta GLI for sale in Ohio is modified just enough to sate the youthful enthusiast still inside of me.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI VR6 on eBay

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1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

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The Jetta GLI has always been a object of desire for me. While the GLI really gained fame with the Mk2 generation, it was a final-year offering on the excellent first-gen sedan, bringing most of the GTI goodies to the 3-box setup. This red example has been with the same owner for the last 15 years and is looking pretty darn good on BBS 3-piece rims with what look to be like-new Euro bumpers and front lip. The interior also looks outstanding for being over 30 years old, but a few blemishes inside and out keep this from being a perfect package. A small rust spot, mismatched tires, and paint issues on the roof are all fixable but indicate the projects will continue.

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1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

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Many of us car fiends rationalize the purchase of an older car in need of work by repeatedly telling ourselves that we’re saving a piece of history from the crusher – keeping a worthy example of automotive art on the road for all to enjoy. I’m certainly guilty of this myself and will continue feeding myself these lines as long as I can, even as the devil’s advocate says that no one cares about your silly old car and you’re sinking good money into a project that would be better spent elsewhere – perhaps even just on a nicer example of the exact same car.

But, as I said, I’m still a believer, and appreciate that this seller took a beat example of a cool car – the Mk2 Jetta GLI definitely counts as a worthy entry in the book of notable German special-edition sedans – and worked hard to bring it back to life. The salvage title means it will never sell for market value, but the seller clearly knows his VWs (note the collection in the background of the pics) and he put some serious time and energy into making this a decent car. Nothing here is perfect, but a lot of it is really cool. Quad headlamps – check (but that S4 badge – booooo). Porsche 928 wheels – check (but “stretched” tires – lame). Decent roof rack – check (but permanently mounted?! What’d you do?).

On the path of keeping misfit examples of cool older cars on the road, I’ve learned that we must be accepting of imperfections. Overall, I like the gist of this car, and believe it can continue making VW fanboys smile for years to come.

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1984 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

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I love the Mk1 Jetta, funky little sedan that it is. While later Jettas are quite common in the states, the Golf/GTI is far more common from the first generation. Just as the US market dictated the production of the new A3 sedan (meh), in the late ’70s VW realized the ‘Muricans liked trunks and didn’t have as tight of parking restrictions, so they grafted on a third box. The GLI was a one-year special, bringing most of the GTI’s upgrades. International preferences aside, that made for a pretty great little sedan.

While today’s description nearly landed it in the Friday Fail section, the car itself is nice enough to pull it back to positivity-land. The Euro bumpers and Zender lip add to the 80s flair, and there has clearly been some decent attention to making it run as well as it looks. It’s especially attractive without the roof racks and on the upsized RML Snowflakes, but unfortunately those don’t come with the car. The buyer would do well to get rid of the included wheels as soon as possible and get some form of snowflakes – even OEMs would look great. Best of all, in the end it’s a high-mileage, Mk1 Volkswagen, which means the price isn’t going anywhere crazy.

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1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V – REVISIT

The 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V we featured last month is back up for sale at no reserve. The stanced look might not be for everyone, but the car is sorted and ready to be enjoyed by its next owner.

The below post originally appeared on our site June 26, 2014:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay

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