By on March 2, 2016

1984 Volkswagen GTI

Once again, I’m dazzled by those wheels, just like the Quantum we looked at last week. I’m a sucker for clean, well-styled factory wheels: Oldsmobile Rally wheelsFuchs found on Porsches, Rostyles worn by so many British cars. The Volkswagen “Snowflake” wheel is another that is difficult to improve upon by the aftermarket.

For some reason, that hasn’t stopped VW enthusiasts from “improving” their cars with incongruous tire and wheel widths and double-digit camber settings. “Stance” culture isn’t exclusive to the Wolfsburg faithful, but it has infected too many good cars.

Thus, today’s Digestible Collectible isn’t merely a collective dream/drool session over some random old car. I write today to plead with you, the good denizens of the Internet, to keep classics like this 1984 Volkswagen GTI safe from the ill-advised “tuners” of the world.

I need someone with more money than I (basically covers everyone here) to buy this GTI, and pledge the following oath:

I will keep it basically stock. Any modifications can easily be reversed, as I will keep all original parts neatly boxed and tagged for the next owner.

I will drive it regularly. If I happen to live in a salt-covered wasteland like Ohio, I pledge to store it properly until the crap is washed from the roads.

I will keep the original wheels, fitted with appropriately-sized tires.

This GTI is overpriced, especially considering the mileage. The photos might be misleading, as there seem to be dings and nicks in the paint that show in some pics but not in others. But mechanically? Perfect. As is the interior. Even if the car needs some cosmetic help, it would be a good deal for around $9,000.

This is the OG hot hatch, after all, and will be the bellwether collectible for all other sporty compacts of the era.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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67 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1984 Volkswagen GTI...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Hahah, you find the funniest car prices. At those miles it’s a hard sell as collectors item – too used up! Respect must be given for the original GTI, but that’s all this particular one gets, respect. No purchase or consideration for a collection.

    I like lace and mesh wheels better (’89 Anniversary Trans-Am in gold looked good), as well as the 3-spoke aero designs you could get on things like the 9000 or QX4.

    This VW:
    Has suspicious looking paint issues, likely rust.
    Big dents on drivers door.
    Big rust on passenger rocker panel.
    Someone keyed the rear fender passenger side.
    Dash has warping passenger side.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      It is yet to be determined if Infiniti could be ever be considered a “collectible”. Especially, a rebadged Nissan Pathfinder. Possible, Saab. Yes.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think a better example of this car would be highly collectible. But I’ll add to Corey’s observations and say that paint job looks like a not-so-good respray. Some of the trim you’d normally find on this model is missing, so I guess they took it off before they resprayed it, and couldn’t put it back on afterwards.

      Still, I would love to have it. This was my dream car in my college days.

      (BTW, Corey, the passenger side dashboard did that on all Westmoreland-built Rabbits – the plastic material is super-squishy and didn’t hold its shape all that well.)

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Even the $9k figure is more than they invoiced for brand new. The “S” model Rabbit was virtually identical, and with the optional 5 speed, only the wheels would be different. I cannot remember if these were Westmoreland or German sourced, but usually the square headlights meant Pennsylvania. At this price Richie Lambert is turning over in his grave.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      These were built in Westmoreland, as were, IIRC, the initial run of Mk II Golfs.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Actually, olddavid, that’s not correct – the GTI was quite different than the base or “S” model.

      The GTI had a bigger engine and tighter suspension, bigger wheels and tires, a revised transmission, and lots of interior mods, including the excellent sport seats and more instrumentation (the GTI had a tach and that little pod you see right in front of the shifter is three extra gauges – probably oil temp, etc).

      I know this because I had a base gas-powered ’81 Rabbit and lusted after the GTI for years. In terms of the drive, there was no comparison – the GTI was a completely different and better animal.

      (But you were right about them both being made in Pennsylvania.)

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        If the rear side markers are vertical in terms of length, the car was made in PA. Horizontal in terms of length, Germany.

        I had the luck to use my older brother’s 84 GTI for two months. Coming from a Plymouth Fury, this thing seemed to be a racecar in terms of handling and steering precision. Sadly, it was a target for radio thieves….it seemed they were easily broken into by jamming a steel object into the doorskin right under the handle. Lost his radio once; he bought two. Not very reliable but have to say it is the car that fueled my interest in handling and performance. So, a thumbs up from me.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      $9k would be appropriate for a low mileage completely original car, maybe, after exercising extreme patience to find the exact right buyer in the correct state of inebriation.

      With these miles and in this condition probably you’re looking at 5 to 6 grand. It’s nice but 200k+ miles limits the value, as does the non-original pretty much everything.

  • avatar
    EMedPA

    That brings back some great memories. My best friend in college bought the exact twin of this car new, and we broke it in by driving from Salt Lake City to Sacramento. Another great road trip in that car was from LA to San Francisco up Highway 1. The car was fast (for its day) and steered with surgical precision. The 60 series tires seemed pretty radical back then, but the ride-handling balance was spot on.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My girlfriend now-wife had one of these in college but black. It was a uh, piece of “fine” engineering. The shaking engine, the sparks inside the dashboard, the brake lights that required some special wiring/fusing to get to work, the hood that flew up while on the highway, transmission bushings, the fall apart interior, and the never ending bills to keep it on the road.

    Of course it was a 12yo car at the time and had led a hard life but even then I’ve steered clear of VW ever since.

    I will say it was a good handling car, and with its lightweight made as much as it could out of the meager horsepower. Very fun to drive but reliability-wise it had nothing on the ’87 Nissan Stanza I was driving at the time.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Would love to have one of these, albeit not at the $15k price it’s now reached on ebay. Simple design, easy to work on, ton of interior space.

    My first car was a Scirocco of the same era and I miss that car greatly even though a used Honda Fit could probably run rings around it.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Back in the fall of 1983, I test drove a Rabbit GTI as I was considering something sporty for my first new car purchase. I loved the feel and the handling of the car, but I was already hearing about VW’s quality problems. Also a factor for my passing it by was that this car was on a 1975-vintage platform that was soon to be replaced. The VW would have been a fun purchase, but I ended up getting a Honda CRX 1.5 5-speed for less money and with no less fun to boot.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I had a ’81 Rabbit, and while none of the major systems ever failed, and the car was mechanically reliable, there were lots of little things that broke (door handles, window cranks, trim pieces, etc).

      But NOTHING ever broke on my ’85 Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      The first new car I ever bought was an ’83 Rabbit GTI. I drove it daily for the next ten years. The only issues were with the VDO speedometer which quit at 56,299 miles, and the alternator quit on a dark and rainy night at about the 75,000 mile mark.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Crack price, but VW enthusiasts are never the type to run from masochism.

    This car gets props from me for inventing a new subcategory of car and being gorgeous. It’s really beautiful for what it is. Beyond that though, they can keep it. $15K can buy a lot, even if you want something “historically important”.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      Yeah, that price is absolutely nuts. For that kind of money, I’d expect the car to look like it just rolled off the factory line. This example is definitely USED.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    If memory serves, one of these ended up on its roof at our college Solo 2.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    $14,9? MY84? Really? $1,495 is generous with those miles, even in good condition.

    Seriously is this 1 of 100 sold or something? Then at least I could see the gouging in hopes of a deep pocket collector.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I don’t know what the market for this car is, but I bet this particular model is very collectible. In a day when Trans Ams and Corvettes made 175 horsepower, this car could make just about anything short of a Porsche look silly. And the handling was first rate. This car was a significant machine in its’ day, and old guys like me remember it very well.

      Main problem with this example is that I think it’s not all that nice. I’ve seen far better ones that might fetch real money.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        >>> this car could make just about anything short of a Porsche look silly <<<

        Yes, but at that price and mileage, you might as well get yourself a Porsche! The 944 isn't that much harder to work on and you can get one for considerably less money that has half the miles.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You can get a nice 928 for that money with half the miles also.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Uh, no. Having owned the mechanically identical 924S and a mechanically identical to this car ’84 Jetta GLI, they are about as comparable to work on as a Model T and a F1 car. The Porsche is a whole different level of pain, both literally and financially. And not really any more fun to drive, as both the 924S and 944 are cars that have chassis WAY above their power level, while the VW is just beautifully balanced all around.

          My ’84 GLI was one of the best cars I have ever owned. Bought it in ’91 for $1850 with 150K on it, had it through my last couple years of college and all of grad school as my only car, then sold it to a friend. Bought it back a couple years later, then passed it back and forth to my best friend for a decade or so. He finally sold it at ~350K. It is STILL on the road here in Portland, Maine, and still looks decent. Same red.

          I agree that THIS car is waaay overpriced, but I do think this is easily a $7-8K car today. Impossible to find in decent condition at this point. Sky’s the limit for a real low-mileage museum piece – $20K?

  • avatar
    pbr

    I put 100k miles on one of these, same year, same colors. It was a $500 beater, I hung over $5000 in parts and tires on it to cover that distance. Should have never added up all those receipts. I got my money’s worth, I drove it like it was stolen the entire time. Took it on countless road trips, something like 20 HDPEs, brought home a recliner, a full-sized table saw and it would swallow as many as six Fox Mustang-sized tires at once (not at the same time). I was glad to have it, and am glad it’s gone. It was a great deal of fun to drive, but cars have come a long way from the mid-70s tech these were built on. GLWS, I’m not tempted at any price.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    This car is probably a good buy. Back in 1998 I sold a 1983 Jetta GLI that was in no where near as good of shape for $4500. I actually made one of the water lines our of rubber tubing and copper pipe from Home Depot and it still sold for that price. Having said that it is all about finding the right buyer. Because I bought the car in 1997 for $800 and did a little work to her.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Oh, Lord, did I want one of these when I was in college. Alas, the closest I got was buying the golf ball shift knob for my base Rabbit.

    And I am going to bet that this particular example has been to the House of Scheib – that paint looks tacky and it’s missing the beltline rub strip, and the accent stripes on the rocker panels.

    Here’s what a GTI should look like:
    http://assets.blog.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2014/02/SE72-BUG-VW-84GTi-profile.jpg

    Overall way too much money for this example, but I love it anyway.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    Pretty steep price. Barely leaves any wiggle room for a humping bunnies badge or cheesy German license plate (I’m looking at you, PA VW owners).

    That said, I imagine a number of young men will be nervously vaping as this auction comes to a conclusion…

  • avatar
    shaker

    The seller has been watching too many Barrett-Jackson auctions on Velocity.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    “I’m a sucker for clean, well-styled factory wheels: Oldsmobile Rally wheels, Fuchs found on Porsches, Rostyles worn by so many British cars.”

    Rostyle wheels? Oh ick, low rent steelies dressed up as alloys, the worst of British automotive bad taste. We had a word for that in Britain: naff.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Ha, when I read that I didn’t look it up, and didn’t know what it was. In my mind I went “I bet those were the wheels from the Dolomite Sprint Hammond had on the BL episode of Top Gear.”

      I was kind of right!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And as a fan of Oldsmobiles way past (like my Mom’s 1971 ‘S’ Coupe FTW), I must correct the spelling of those awesome wheels: “Rallye.”

  • avatar
    turf3

    Leaving aside VW “quality”, why can’t we get a small car designed like this today: good space utilization, excellent visibility all round, and styling that doesn’t look like something I would have sketched in my seventh-grade math notebook? Oh, and note the rubber-covered bumpers that are designed to perform the function of a bumper (bumping).

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      The current GTI/GLI is what you describe as is the current Impreza/WRX, Fit, Civic and I’m sure a few more that I can’t think of right now.

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        WRX: lots of gaping fake holes in grille; fake brake cooling vents behind front wheels, fake hood scoop, plastic bumpers that cost $2000 to replace. FAIL.

        Fit: shaped like a door stop, so poor rear and rear-side visibility; weird creases down the sides accentuate the door stop shape; weird tail lights that run up the rear pillars; fake brake vents on the corners of the rear “bumpers”; gaping fake holes in grille; aforementioned plastic bumpers. FAIL.

        Civic: NOT A SMALL CAR; rear roof line is so sloping that trunk will be accessed thru a little slit only; fake gaping holes in grille; wedge shape and near-horizontal rear window reduce visibility; fake wheel bulges; aforementioned plastic bumpers. FAIL.

        I respectfully disagree that any of the vehicles you listed is in fact cleanly styled with good space utilization, good visibility, and attention paid to function.

        EDIT:” Sorry, didn’t have time to check current Golf.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Having had an ’84 GTI in our family for 6 yrs, I see little reason for it to be a highly desirable collectible, unless it’s museum quality.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My first car was a silver 84GTI w/ blue Recaros. The unassisted steering was spot on, much more fun to drive than my bros early 80s accord.Lift throttle oversteer was possible and it was great in the snow too, but was ridiculously loud and had terrible a/c.The sunroof hand crank and the snowflake wheels were sweet.

    I paid 3k for it with about 58k miles on it in ’90. I have been looking for one, and was astounded at prices. It had totally slipped my mind until I was reading [email protected] and Larry Webster mentioned getting one.I sold it to a kid who just totalled his Fiesta? He didn’t deserve it.

    I joke w/ my wife regarding my astute car history, the GTI, 92 LX 5.0, hunter green/black, and likely my 03 ZHP 330i will all be some value to someone down the road, unfortunately not me.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Comical to compare a GTI to early 80’s accord. My older VW’s had York compressors for the AC. Very strong a/c units, frost would practically build up on the vents. And this was in Florida.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        True, but on Rabbits, the hose that drained the condensation out would get plugged up or kinked, turning the passenger side footwell into a lake on a hot day.

        One of the many annoyances on my Rabbit…it never stranded me or broke down, but tons of this kind of penny-ante junk went wrong.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …I will keep the original wheels, fitted with appropriately-sized tires…

    As someone in the middle of an ’85 Isuzu Impulse restore, finding 195/60R14 tires that aren’t Chinese crap is extremely difficult.

    General still makes tires in that size thankfully – but that was about the only option (Koreans make some OK tires…for now)

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      It came stock with 185/60HR14 Pirelli P6s. My first-gen Integra took the hard-to-find 195-60HR14s.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      BFG SS A/S would be plenty good for me. Made in USA too.

      The selection in that size certainly is in decline. That’s the size I went with on my ’87 Grand Am because availability of performance tires was good; or at least far better than the stock 195/70R14. I didn’t care that they looked tiny. The car was ugly anyway. I wanted improved handling and shorter effective gearing.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    This was my first car in my college years and it was a hoot. You can’t underestimate how comfy the seats were, or how biceps-wrenching it was to parallel park.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL – I am reasonably confident that the cornering limitation on my ’84 GLI was my ability to hold the wheel cranked over – that unassisted steering loaded up something fierce with sticky 185s on the car. Stuck like a tick to a dog though.

  • avatar
    EasternJC

    Bought a two year old 80 gti prior to uni, against my father’s reasoned advise. That car was the worst POS I have owned. Between the ongoing self disassembly, inability to maintain a tune for more than a couple of days and non-existent heater. I dumped it after 6 months and bought the second biggest POS… a bmw 325is, but that’s another story of pain and suffering. After a year traded the beem on a MB 190e, and so perpetually ended my interest and association in German automotive fare. I cannot fathom people’s passion for these heartaches on wheels.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    For all those amazed at how something like this can be worth so much (even if THIS example is a bit dodgy) – look no further than the completely retarded prices of the muscle car boom. Who would have thought all those crappy V8 cars that nobody wanted would be worth a fortune? THIS, and the various Japanese sporty cars were the muscle cars for those of us who went to high school in the mid-80s as opposed to the mid-60s. If I found the right ’84 GLI or ’91 BMW 318is again, I would pay all kinds of money for the sheer nostalgia of it. I, and many of my era are well of the age that we can afford to splash out on toys for no other reason than “I want that”. It only takes one person to sell the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I had a very similar ’86 GTI and it was my primary family vehicle for almost ten years and about 200K. If was a fun and practical vehicle even with two small children, but it had to go when a third kid was on the way.

      While I have fond memories of driving it I’m not sure I’d spring for one again as a toy car. I’ve moved on to a Miata for that.

      Mine had the teardrop wheels, which were also hot items at the time.

      And this car has the same stock tire size as first generation Miatas, so there should be at least some reasonable tires available for a while yet.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My dream “flashback toy” would be the opposite of my used-up hooptie 1978 Cutlass Salon which I inherited as my first car (and something that our own Mr. Baruth lionized in prose in this very forum a few years back): a near-mint 1987 Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan with every option on the build sheet, including the 305 V8 with automatic overdrive. (And the Rallye wheels, too — WTH!) It’d be a fun summer toy.

      As I’ve lamented, however, all examples of these cars, at least ones not already used for Chinese laundry appliances, have likely been used for demolition-derby fodder or to line the landing pad for a monster truck; any of them not suffering those fates are likely in the ownership of a certain demographic which will supply wheels for these cars from 747s from the nearest airport, install sound systems which will vaporize 50-floor windows from two miles away, and ensure that the front seats will be permanently at a 70-degree recline!

  • avatar
    never_follow

    If you like these wheels, check out the Fifteen52 snowflakes… same design, upsized to modern fitments. They also make an upsized “teardrop”. Keeps the classic look, allows for more rubber sizes and selection.

    As to this car, it smells very fishy. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something scary about it.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I have the same body (2 Door) on my 1990 Cabriolet. Of course being a convertible the car is heavier. The engine is the same as the 1.8 in the GTI and comes with the same larger valve head. I love to work on these cars as the parts are very easy to obtain and many of the body parts can be obtained from VW direct. The last Cabriolet i had i sold for about $7,500.00 with 58,000 miles solid body no rust. Purchased a 1991 Miata BRG with the hard top. Great car in the city loved the handling. On the open road doing 75 MPH between the engine noise and road noise i finally threw in the towel and sold it for a nice profit. 2 Months later i purchased the 1990 Cabriolet cleaned it up and it makes a great summer car. I still get offers for it but it is a solid car at 75 MPH and you only hear the wind. Of course if some one makes me a good offer i can be brought. My DD is a 2013 Mini Cooper S which is of course a much more fun car to drive at speed.

  • avatar
    cornellier

    The Peugeot 205 was and is the original hot hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      VW had been cranking out Golf GTIs for nearly a decade when Peugeot introduced the 205 GTI. And the VW wasn’t even the first, it was just the most popular.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Did Volvo do the first hot hatch with the 1800 or something?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Simca 1100ti is generally considered the first, but I like to think that even though it technically did not have a hatch, the Mini Cooper was the granddaddy of them all. Small, FWD, fast, that shape even though not a hatchback.

          http://www.topgear.com/car-news/hot-hatch/history-hot-hatches-ten-cars

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ll give it to the Simca, and require an actual hatch! If the Jensen FF was smaller it could count, that was plenty sporty. And kewl.

            The A1 Q there looks like it’s got bloodshot eyes. Dislike.

  • avatar
    Acd

    This car is missing the black moldings that go in the indents on the sides as well as the lower black body side molding and black stripes that go on the lower part of the doors and quarter panels that tie into the black wheel flares. The exterior door handle insert should also be black and not silver on a GTI. These things make me question the “original paint” claim the seller is making but anyone spending $15,000 on a 216,000 mile 32 year old Volkswagen deserves what they get.

  • avatar
    turf3

    32 year old VW Rabbit? (Yeah, yeah, GTI, whatever, it’s a Rabbit)

    I would give $2000 if it’s running. Tops.

    Anything above that is Beanie Baby territory. Just because a sucker is born every minute, doesn’t mean I have to be that sucker.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I wouldn’t pay $1M for some old Mopar muscle car, but people have. The value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it. Doesn’t mean it is you.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    One of my first cars was an ’85 diesel Jetta. No turbo. Would get fantastic mileage, but went through about an alternator a year. Upgraded to Sachs struts up front and with wider 185 GLi rims, it could take corners pretty well (all about the momentum when you have a grand 54 horsepower at your disposal).

    Had many friends who had GTis like this and was always a bit jealous, but wouldn’t consider at that price. Far too much money, despite the cool wheels.

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