By on June 27, 2012

Back in the 1990s, Volkswagen and Trek Bicycles got together for a co-branding deal that shook the world (if you define “the world” as “a couple of zip codes in Marin County“): Golfs and Jettas with sporty-looking upholstery, roof racks, and matching Trek bikes! 15 years later, all but the most fanatical VW and/or bicycle zealots have forgotten the Trek Limited Edition VWs, which makes this an especially rare Junkyard Find.
The snazzy wheels and bike rack are long gone from this example, found in a Denver self-serve yard last week, but it’s still an even rarer find than a genuine Etienne Aigner Golf.
Rather than the scenes depicting drunk 350-pound dudes blasting seagulls with shotguns in the liquor-store parking lot that one will find embroidered into the upholstery of the super-rare Bakersfield Sportsman Edition Ford F-150 from the same era, the Trek Edition Jetta’s seats feature healthy stick-figure VW drivers doing healthy aerobic activities. There’s basketball, running, and— of course— bike riding.
The upholstery in this car smells worse than the Spandex undies of the winner of the Death Ride, but a good cleaning might render it suitable for use in a Trek Jetta restoration.

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73 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    My favorite “special edition” of a German car is still the “Wolfsburg Edition” VWs that had the tiny little castle badge on the fender. Has there ever been a fussier little badge on a vehicle that WASN’T a brougham edition?

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I am not a VW or bike zealot and I remember these and I think I even saw one in the wild recently. The uniqueness of the marketing pairing is probably why it has continued to stick in my memory.

    P.S. That seat fabric is hideous and was already dated in 1996.

    • 0 avatar
      someclevername

      Yep, but compared to what else VW was offering in special editions in ’96 the Trek was positively restrained and beautiful! The ’96 Polo Harlequin destroys any comers in terms of awful special edition hands down. In fact here’s a challenge for the B&B – find a worse, more tasteless special edition car, any time era.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        The Oleg Cassini AMC Matador or the Pierre Cardin AMC Javelin would be runner ups, but it’s definitely quite the challenge to beat a Harlequin VW:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/junkyard-find-1974-oleg-cassini-edition-amc-matador/

        http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2012/03/02/hemmings-find-of-the-day-1973-amc-javelin-pierre-cardin-interior/

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Ahh, back when VW had some boxy character to their vehicles and they didn’t look like everything else. I actually liked this era of Jetta with a 5 speed. Decently fun to drive and they didn’t look like a Corolla. The TREK edition seemed popular with the recently graduated college crowd. Actually the boxy Jetta was very popular when I was in college in the midwest in the mid 90’s.

    I knew a couple women that bought these things new as they were trading up from the college era hooptie. The bike was stolen in both cases, probably more to do with the hipster community they lived in than anything else. The vehicles lasted until both got married. Now they are driving Odyssey’s, natural course of life I guess.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Betcha the bike outlived the car? : )

  • avatar
    bauerjw

    My check engine light burned out, maybe I can scavenge a replacement here.

  • avatar
    retrogrouch

    I almost bought one of these in 1996 after finding real employment after college. After the 2nd test drive, I decided I wanted a 318ti more. In the end, I bought a used E28 535 for $3700 because I was a cheap bastard.

    • 0 avatar
      Lampredotto

      No shame in that choice!

      My dad offered to give me his old E28 535i a few years ago. I declined out of respect for what had been his mechanical pride and joy; I had no place to park it and street parking in my inner-city neighborhood would have trashed it. Of course, now that I’ve decamped to the suburbs I’m kicking myself…

  • avatar
    Gannet

    That’s kinda neat. I wish the manufacturers did more of this sort of thing. I know a lot of folks think it’s tacky (and I guess it is) but to me it adds some fun and interest. We could use more of that these days.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I agree. I think limited editions with bass boat flake paint jobs would do parking lots everywhere a great service. (serious)

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      How about the VW Prometheus Escape Pod Edition? So when your VW breaks down on the road you can hit the SOS button and launch the pod home? (sorry couldn’t resist, a big VW fan here)……

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        All those atheletic stick figures on the upholstry would serve as reminders of what you could be doing instead of sitting by the side of the road waiting for tow truck.

        (former VW owner myself)

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      VW recently (2006-ish) offered a car and guitar in combination with Fender. I think you could even plug the guitar into the car’s sound system.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        We got one of these guitars with my wife’s VW New Beetle. Dumbest promotion ever. Since the vast majority of people don’t play a guitar it had no value to most buyers. If you already play a guitar you probably did not need a free one from VW.

        Why would VW give away a somewhat expensive yet ultimately worthless (to most buyers) guitar with your car vs. something that buyers could actually use (5 years free satellite radio, upgraded wheels?). Plus, who is playing an electric guitar in their VW size car?

        Sold the guitar on Craigslist for $150.

      • 0 avatar
        Boxer2500

        If only it were a Fender.

        The guitar was a FirstAct, often seen on the discount shelf at Wal Mart. Anyone who would actually want a guitar with their car probably already had something better.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    I remember the other Bike edition. The Ford Focus Kona. From what I remeber that Focus had so many recalls that even the Kona Bike got one. Just for good measure.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I remember these. There was a brand new Jetta Trek on display in the Kingdome during the 1996 Seattle Mariners season, in red with its matching bike. I’ve seen a few around Seattle, although never with their bikes.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    The stick figures remind me of the “Fahrvergnügen” ads that VW came out with in the early ’90s.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    When these came out, I thought this generation Jetta was a step backwards designwise compared to the prior one, looked fat in comparison IMHO.

  • avatar
    Ihateusernames

    Once in a while one of the matching bikes comes into my shop for a tune up. Saw one a few months ago, and I was struck by how awful the thing was for a mid 90’s mountain bike. It was really meant to be hung up on a hook in someones garage rather than taken for a ride on a mountain.

    It is an OK neighborhood cruising bike, just with a very aggressive look that makes is slow.

    The brakes in particular were terrible, and the drivetrain and wheels wouldn’t stand up to more than a gravel road.

    Anyone who was a participant in the sport would not have considered the inclusion of that bike as a bonus with their Jetta, same goes for the K2 skis that came with the K2 edition (I haven’t had to tune a pair of those in years!)

    Great advertising though, the $100 max that each unit costs Trek to produce couldn’t have added up to the cost buying those national spots.

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the Trek bike paired with this car an 850? If so, it’s actually a pretty good choice of rides. At the time that was Trek’s upper-entry level offering which is light-years better than any non-enthusiast was riding at the time. Any true enthusiast was probably riding something north of $1500 so they’d just sell the 850 anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Ihateusernames

        Not going to call you wrong because not model or every year (did they do it multple years?) is neccesarily the same, but the ones I have seen are Hi-ten frames and forks with a mostly tourney drive train and non series canti-brakes. There is some memory involved here.

        I am no Trek afficianado, but it seems closer to an 800 or 800 sport. 850 would be cool.

        Its not that something has to be complex and expensive to be good, most of my miles are on a bike with bar end shifters, but I do appreciate quality.

        That old tourney and el cheezo cantis with soft wheels take 5 times longer to tune then a decent set up and never come out as well. It is hard to wow your customer with your awesome tuning skills when stuff is that fickle. We try though.

      • 0 avatar
        18726543

        If the frames are hi-ten you’re probably right about it being an 800. I think the 850s of the time were using the True Temper CroMo frames. Those old 800s were decked out in SIS components with an Acera X rear derailleur so I’m sure you’re seeing these bikes with the second or third set of components on them.

  • avatar
    vwbora25

    first time I seen a bike on the roof of a car! started a whole new trend up her in the great north east

  • avatar
    dolorean

    So, so wanted one of these when I was in college in Colorado. Tried to trade in my ’91 Jeep Wrangler four-banger for one, but couldn’t swing it. Remember this was one of the first massive internet campaigns by a major corporation. It was a good package; fugly seats, but VW is known for having interesting seating.

    Side note: My buddy had a ’98 Jetta that he loved and took to Germany while stationed there. It broke down frequently, finally forcing him to take it to the German mechanic who, after looking under the hood for two seconds, loudly and angerly slammed the hood shut. Stunned, my friend asked the problem. Its a VW, Deustchland friendly right? “NO!”, he thundered in perfect English. “Not German. MEXICAN! No good!”, and stormed away.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Yeah, they do have that “nothing’s better than our stuff” attitude, don’t they…?

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        To be fair, unless you bought the VR6 edition, the 2.0L four banger units from the factories in Mexico were unfailingly unreliable. VW had a helluva time keeping these going until the factory warranty settled out. The German made ‘Bora’, was far better in reliability ratios, though VW didnt sell many as hatchbacks and wagons sell better.

    • 0 avatar

      We had a mexican Jetta and a german Jetta. Think “original” and “copy”. The German car had better plastic and rubber, and lasted quite a bit longer. I’ll NOT buy a non German VW….which is why the TDi models are so expensive…they come from Germany, and the euro + building a quality small car, not a Cobalt competitor, costs more.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    I remember these as being fairly good runners – simple, easy to maintain. Many 2.0s were chipped, turbo-carged or supercharged back in the ‘euro-tuner’ era.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Uh, Trek is based in Wisconsin, making these cars quite popular in the Midwest.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Hmm, a vehicle designed to carry other smaller vehicles. I think I called that my late Ford Ranger.

  • avatar
    C170guy

    Wow, Just looking at that thing carefully tells me that it either had poor (small) brakes or didn’t weigh so much as you might think. I would have thought the disks would be larger, especially on a German car, even in that era, but maybe not. I am going to guess 1800-2200 lbs. That may also explain the insubstantial looking rear suspension setup.
    I rode in one that was driven hard, (briefly) from/in that era, and it did feel big, heavy and taut as a German car should- in spite of it’s apparently low weight by today’s standards, but I bet it ate brakes regardless of the weight- due to the driver. I don’t believe it felt like what it truly probably weighed.
    I also recall the dinger played “la-cucaracha” and never figured out why, but now that sounds appropriate since I have learned where it originated.

    The thing about Volkswagens is you always look at them closely and think “Hmm, weird” instead of “Oh, okay, that makes sense.” On the “honest car” scale I could never score them over a two or three, an old wrangler being a 10. We should attempt an “honest car scale” at TTAC someday, it would be a good exercise, since I see the term being toyed with often here recently.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      That sounds like a good idea for a new article series, “Real car or real fib”.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      96 Jetta weighed between 2700 + 3000 pounds depending on engine and options.

      • 0 avatar
        C170guy

        Wow, more than I would have thought, especially based on brake size. If I really wanted to be drastic I would have said 2400-2500 max. 2700-3000+ is modern day C segment car weight and they have bigger brakes. Holy cow that thing must have ate up those brakes. That’s enlightening. They look fairly small.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I remember seeing the ads for these and thinking, “here are two brands I’m not going to consider as long as they keep this up”. Although, a Bianchi Edition Fiat Strada might have been worse.

  • avatar
    threeer

    How about the Bon Jovi edition overseas? Loved that…:)

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    There was also a Pink Floyd Golf in 1994, as VW was a corporate sponsor of Floyd’s ‘Division Bell’ tour. It might have been Europe-only.

    http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiedosto:VW_Golf_Gen3_1H_1991-1997_special_edition_PINK_FLOYD_1994_Cpillarleft_2008-03-29_A.jpg

  • avatar

    What is going on in the upper-left orange/yellow patch here? Kinda gross, VW…

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/junkyard-find-1996-volkswagen-jetta-trek-edition/#

  • avatar
    vicali

    aww, I had a 97 GT, which was a base model with left over vr6 goodies added in mexico..

    http://farm1.staticflickr.com/185/456173724_960e7d12b1_z.jpg?zz=1

    It actually wasn’t a bad little project, but the mk3 size, weight, and nationality made me get a mkII next.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I love the idea of upholstery depicting bloated drunks shooting seagulls. Let the design school intern handle that assignment!

  • avatar
    cwallace

    At that time VW also offered a Golf Harlequin, which was just a four-door with randomly-painted body panels. Red hood, blue door, green fender… A friend of mine tried to buy one, but luckily for him the financing fell through. Maybe the loan officer saw it…

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    The Trek edition is one of the most inspired ideas to come from Volkswagen, it provides reliable transportation home or to work for all of the times your Jetta is stuck in the shop.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I rode to my first mountain bike race in a friend’s brand-new ’99 Golf. I always suspected the Trek tie-in kind of nudged him into going VW. He traded it for a Subaru a couple years later, probably a better choice if you spend a lot of time driving to trail heads.

  • avatar
    hifi

    IMHO, this was the best generation for VW. The Golf was great, the GLI was nearly a luxury car, the GTI was great (had one) and the marketing was great. This is the generation VW/Jetta that brought VW back from near extinction in the US. The Jetta was a car for young professionals right out of college, and well kept ones still look good.

  • avatar
    tayu

    I really love this generation of Jetta. I thiink they’re so good looking…just the right proportions, just the right angles, perfect balance between chiseled and curved. To my eye it is just such a clean, balanced design.

    I wanted one so bad, but Im too afraid it will turn into a money pit. One of my friends bought a used 1998(?) Wulfsburg, black, and looked like it was inreally good condition–I remember being 19 and thinking it was gorgeous, The thing ended up having some major engine/trans component fail within a week or two of buying it. If they were as reliable as a Civic or Corolla from the era, I would totally trade my car in for one and fix it up.

    I almost always stop to look at these when I see them–I feel like there are far less around LA than there were in
    Upstate New York,

  • avatar
    pdog

    Wow – I drive one of these. Don’t need the seat covers though, since mine are still just as fabulous. I’ve never actually focused on what the stick figures are doing.

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but mine has been quite reliable and is now at about 205k miles. I think avoiding the PRNDL and the power windows has helped.

    And re the “tiny” brakes referenced above, they are completely up to the job. The last set of rotors/pads lasted 70K miles for me, and even then I only changed them because I was already in there doing front struts/control arm bushings.

    I bought it from the original owner in the mid 2000s. He was a young professional, and I believe it was, indeed, purchased when he graduated from college. He didn’t have the bike to sell me, but I do have the roof rack at least.

    I’m biased, but these are my favorite generation of Jetta. More powerful and solid than the previous ones, but still relatively simple and without too much electrical crap to go wrong. Having grown up riding in and driving VWs, these were the last generation that had that VW feeling.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    This generation of Golf/Jetta got VW back playing in the US market.


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