By on October 27, 2011
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.

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25 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1982 VW Jetta Diesel...”

  • avatar

    You should sell it… to me. Seriously, I’m looking for something just like this to tinker on.

  • avatar

    And toss in a hearty “Thank you” to the father to pass along to the son for his time in sunny, beautiful Afghanistan (soon to be my next winter desitnation)! If not for your running a business, the kid should have darn-near been given the car! Glad it’s going to an enthusiast! Haven’t seen a solid A1 in quite a while…much less a two-door variant!

  • avatar

    You could always race for pinks…with a 11 year old kid on a motocross bike and a guy on a John Deere riding mower. They might have a shot.

    It would make for great TV.

  • avatar

    that has eBay weirdness written all over it. although Judge Phil might explode if you showed up to a race with this thing wearing a cage and racing numbers.

  • avatar

    Impressive that you made $2000 on it. Back in 2001 I bought a 1989 Jetta Turbodiesel off Ebay from a guy in Vermont. He had spent a ton of money on it in the time he’d owned it. I drove it for 2 years, and listed on Ebay in 2003 when I bought my brand new Jetta. I sold it on Ebay and actually made $25 over what I paid for it in 2001. (Paid $1225 in 2001).

    An ’82 Jetta diesel is a car for only certain people. Hopefully the guy doesn’t destroy it by using Rothenbacher engineering parts on it!

    And why do you have a picture of an A3 Jetta? Not getting the connection.

  • avatar

    $2000 was impressive. Nice job.

  • avatar

    I think about our old Dasher Diesel wagon and the 40/50 MPG it pulled down and think how it’d be nice to still have it as a 4 out of 5 day commuter – I’d only have to fill up, like, once a month and the tailgate could swallow quite a bit of stuff. Then I remember how miserable 55 horsepower was, and how ineffective the A/C was and then figure out how long it’d take to actually start paying itself back and think better of it.

  • avatar

    Sounds like it went to the right buyer. $2k is a pretty strong price for this – nicely done.

  • avatar

    Sell. Someone is always looking for these old VW Diesels for BIO/SVO conversions. If you aren’t a VW guy stay away. Wouldn’t lease it for the same reasons. These cars have a following.

  • avatar

    And I had a SEAT Malaga which is I believe the same car. It was a miserable automobile.

  • avatar

    You guys who think $2K for a rust free DIESEL A1 Jetta is somehow a “strong price” have obviously never actually looked at what they go for in certain circles.

    That money in Northern New England will MAYBE buy you a rusty clapped out Rabbit with 300K miles on it. A straight, clean, nice interior, SOUTHERN, rust-free Jetta Coupe is a license to print money up here. Some VT hippie will give you a small fortune for it so he can run WVO in the thing. If it was a Pickup you could probably retire. But I am glad Steve sold it for a very reasonable sum to a good home.

    These cars actually have 52hp, not 55hp, and given they wiegh nothing it is entirely adequate. Count me amoung those that had I known, I would have Fed-ex’d a check and bought a place ticket. This is actually what I was looking for back in the day when I bought my ’84 GLI.

    • 0 avatar

      Seven years ago I was dating a woman whose father had a fleet of diesel Rabbit pickups on his tree farm in Virginia. Unfortunately, I’ve lost touch with the family or I’d suggest a business opportunity to the guy.

      • 0 avatar

        If you had shipped it over to Europe you might have earned the freight back, and still make a profit. 2k for a 1st gen tudor Jetta in this condition is a steal. Not to mention, if it’s a manual (I can’t tell from the pictures) there’s no reason the new owner shouldn’t make back what he paid for the car in a few months on fuel savings alone. I’m not really a VW fan, but I know a few, and even I can appreciate a classic like this.

      • 0 avatar

        It would be hard to make back $2,000 in fuel savings at US prices. Chances are that whatever he gave up that had the same utility as an early Jetta wouldn’t use 500 more gallons of fuel over any realistic time interval. For example, it would cost about $2,000 for 15,000 miles worth of gasoline for typical compact sedan that gets 28 mpg over all. Using half the fuel would only save $1,000 a year.

      • 0 avatar

        Touche :)
        I keep forgetting that gas is actually so cheap over there that buying a economic car makes no difference economically at all :P
        Even though I was exaggerating , the fuel savings for me would actually add up to 2-300$ a month, and I don’t drive much…

  • avatar

    Nice Jetta. Had a 1984 Rabbit Diesel in 1988 that no one wanted. I picked it up for $1,800.00. I export cars and one of my customers bid on it for export to Ireland for a taxi but it had two doors and the buyer did not want it. The car had 18,000 miles on it no radio only a heater. I ran 250,000 miles on it sold to my buddy who gave it to his son who used it for college in Conn and ran up about 400,000 miles and after college started working in Conn, got married and sold it to a co-worker.The car is still on the road today. Over 850,000 miles, 5 days a week Boston to Hartford and back. The engine was never opened up and never burned oil. I almost got a ticket in that car going downhill at 85 miles an hour.The owner now drives with a pair of pliers & screwdriver as it is only a matter of time. Have owned VW,s ever since. Must admit though the difference between a 1984 VW & a 2009 VW TDI is like night and day.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    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.

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