Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1982 VW Jetta Diesel

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

28 years. That’s how long the first and only owner of this 1982 VW Jetta Diesel Coupe kept his commuter. Apparently he didn’t do that much driving. 192,500 leisurely miles with a 55 horsepower engine equates to less than 7,000 leisurely miles a year. That is a mileage figure that borders on the miraculous here in traffic happy Atlanta.In all my years of buying and selling cars I had never seen one owned by the same driver for such a long period of time. Heck, I was in elementary school when Mr. JT Allison bought this thing! It had been on the lot for at least 8 months beforehand according to the Carfax history and with gas prices cratering by April 1983… I’m sure Mr. Allison didn’t pay any more than $8,000 for this thing.So… what should I do with it?

Rent: Hell!Lease: No! Nein! Nyet!

Sell: Yes!… But to who? Every once in a while I’ll get a ‘classic’ that is simply too good to sell to a non-enthusiast. Gray market Benzes. Old Panthers and B- Bodies. Does a VW from the post-malaise era qualify? Absolutely. Here’s why.

Enthusiast sites. Even at a time when the overwhelming majority of Pac-Man era vehicles have gone the way of Jimmy Carter’s reputation, there is still a healthy following for A1 Jettas. I drove it for a few hundred miles and to be frank… I didn’t get it. But apparently there is a groundswell of hardcore ‘semi-classic’ VW owners who do.

The VW Vortex.. TDI Club. Even a bilingual forum offered a healthy number of enthusiasts who could support this car’s health and well-being. I did the usual easy thing which is to put it on Craigslist and wait for the march of automotive Germanophiles. What I got was something completely out of left field.

Apparently this one fellow had taken a look at a Subaru wagon I had a couple years back. We had a nice conversation, and at one point he mentioned that a mechanic, who also was a car dealer, had ripped him off with a bum engine. So I told him exactly what he needed to do, and should threaten to do. He got his money back and was able to stave off another purchase for the next couple of years.

Fast forward two years later, and he has a son coming back from Afghanistan. A hardcore VW enthusiast. Apparently the son already has a Rabbit pickup and was looking for another ride. He sees the car from 10,000 miles away and calls his Dad. After about three hours of catch up time and a healthy bit of driving we have a deal. I sell it to him for $2000.

Keep: I may be a frugal enthusiast. In fact I’m pretty sure of it at this point. But 25+ year old cars are only good for the wallet when you understand them to the nth degree. I don’t know VW’s. I’ve had over a dozen of them, including two diesels, but none of them have ever been keepers.

This car though will be a keeper for the new owner. It has no rips or tears in the interior. The paint is still in good shape. Plus everything is the way it should be. Even the annoying leak around the passenger window that all VW’s of this vintage seem to get. The new owner is already bent on restoring the vehicle and then plans to show me a few pics of his ‘after’ work.

So in the meantime, enjoy these before pictures. It’s not everyday you get to see a true classic that was used for it’s intended purpose.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

More by Steven Lang

Join the conversation
2 of 25 comments
  • SuperACG SuperACG on Oct 27, 2011


  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Oct 29, 2011

    Almost never see these things anymore, the first gen's anyway and I live where rust isn't an issue, the '85 through 92 MKII's, yes but even the those are not as plentiful as they once use to be. My best friend had a bright red '85 Jetta GTI 4 door that was fantastic but had lots of mils on it even though it still looked great. I can't recall what he replaced it with though but this was the mid to late 1990's though.

  • Redapple2 HK: The Redapple is the TTAC resident HK hater. I have listed the reasons before. But, I am smart enough to keep my eyes open. I will say this. Overall, they have the best styling/design in autodum. I may not like certain models, but overall, they try. They try something new, different, fresh. Some models are great. Some so-so. But they are TRYING- All the time. Year after year. Other brands are locked into a firm theme - across multiple models and brands. Some lasting decades EX. Evil gm vampire Cadillac Arts and Science has been around for 22 years. Flawed fugly from the start. Never got better.
  • SCE to AUX This is the right direction for EVs, but I can't warm up to Kia's latest styling.This is bad news for Rivian, whose similarly-specced R3 isn't due until 2027 or something.Perhaps a low-spec version will start at $30k (maybe), but the 300-mile version with trimmings will certainly run closer to $50k. Then everyone will say Kia lied.
  • Buickman foolishness has no bounds, or borders.
  • JMII Wonder what the Hyundai version will look like because I am NOT a fan of this styling.Also someone needs to explain to H/K/G that you want the dark colored interior parts were you touch/sit and the lighter color parts elsewhere. For example the door panels here are dark with light armrests - this is backwards. Genesis made the same mistake in the GV60's white/ash (grey) interior. While I greatly appreciate something other then the dreaded black cave interior did they not consider how impossible this will be to keep clean in the real world?
  • JMII I see lots of ads for their CUVs but given the competition in this segment why would I buy an Outlander over a similar product from Toyota, Honda or Hyundai? Mitsubishi needs to offer something compelling, some hook or defining difference. I don't think I've encountered a single person who says "wow have you seen the new [blank] from Mitsubishi? I need to get me one of those".I owned a Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T back in '96 and it was fun car. Mitsubishi once made interesting choices with a rally heritage - those cars were fast and pretty high tech at the time. Like Nissan they kind of fell into the we will finance anyone pool so other then an Evo as a track toy anyone I knew steered clear of them.