By on December 2, 2019

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause high-performance German cars require exactly the sort of regular maintenance and attention that most American car owners aren’t so good at doing, I find plenty of nice-looking factory-hot-rod Audis and VWs and Mercedes-Benzes during my junkyard travels. Most of those cars get scrapped because something expensive broke and the third or seventh owner wouldn’t or couldn’t spring for the repair.

Today’s Junkyard Find is different, though — here’s a GTI GLX that was running well enough to drive to the crash, found in a Denver-area self-service yard.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, front seats - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt wasn’t much of a crash, but enough to fire the airbags and (probably) bend the unibody. That resulted in instant depreciation to scrap value. If the occupants were belted in, we can assume they walked away with no physical injuries.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNorth Americans could choose from two flavors of GTI in the 2001 model year: the GLS (with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-banger rated at 150 horsepower) and the GLX (with a naturally-aspirated 2.8-liter VR6 making 174 horsepower). The original buyer of this car knew that there’s no replacement for displacement and got the GLX.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe last time I wrote about a discarded Mk4 GTI, it had the 1.8T and the optional automatic transmission. This car has a proper GTI transmission and three pedals.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, Little Tree air freshener - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou’ll find one in every car. You’ll see. My extensive junkyard research has resulted in the conclusion that New Car Scent is the second-most-popular Car-Freshner Little Tree placed in cars destined for the junkyard; Black Ice is #1 by a big margin.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, GTI badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI see plenty of Mk3 and Mk4 GTIs in yards like this, of course, but I vowed to ignore the automatics and only break out my camera for examples with manual transmissions. That took a couple of years. Hell, probably half the junkyard Miatas and 80 percent of BMW 3 Series I see have two pedals.

2001 Volkswagen GTI GLX VR6 in Denver junkyard, VR6 badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’m surprised that no junkyard shoppers had pulled any mechanical bits off this car, which had been in the yard for a couple of weeks when I saw it; generally, crashed cars with factory performance parts get picked over fast, since they were proven runners up until the last minute. Perhaps every GTI freak in northeastern Colorado already has a garage stuffed with extra parts by now.

The GTI is… like a boy overinflating an orange balloon?

In 2001 Germany, those damn Generation Golf-ers didn’t care about houses. Just cars.

If you enjoy these Junkyard Finds, check out the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ for links to 1,800+ more.

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37 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Volkswagen GTI VR6...”

  • avatar

    I’ll never get over the contrast of all the effort to make a vehicle, all the resources used up, and how readily vehicles are disposed of. How economically irreparable. I once sold a vehicle at 235k miles that had a brand new back seat, used twice.

    • 0 avatar

      So sad that a minor accident results in the vehicle being totaled. Once the insurance company reports the accident the vehicle becomes almost unsellable regardless of the parts and labor cost required to get it back together.

      The dash replacement for the blown airbag alone is likely 1/2 of $2,600 KBB says its worth. Otherwise the engine compartment looks untouched as the crash bar did its job.

    • 0 avatar

      All intentional. A car could easily be built with reliable bits, replaceable parts, etc, but what would be the fun in that ? Think how many times you’ve fought with a part where it was clearly designed to be assembled…NOT replaced or repaired. I tried to buy a seat cushion for my 2008 MDX to replace a tear….the lower seat cushion isn’t sold alone you need a full seat for $1800 before installation. All those cheap wheel bearings…alternators…the car is designed for a 100-150k lifespan, no more, and only to be hassle free for the first owner/lessor. I’ve busted way too many knuckles (as has everyone else here) to think anything else.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    VW lovers spend a lot of time telling you that you’re wrong for thinking VWs are unreliable. In fact, any issues from 2 generations ago have been resolved with this current one.
    I bought my ’97 Audi A6 in 2002 with something like 48k miles. Once I started having problems with it people jumped at the chance to tell me how 2003 Audis and VWs were nearly bulletproof and they don’t suffer any of the issues of the previous generations. And so it went with each subsequent generation.

    I’ve had issues with a lot of cars, but no car gave me as many issues in as short a period of time as that Audi. I’ll never own a GTI because of it and that makes me a little sad.

    • 0 avatar

      Many years ago:

      I had an ’85 GLI with a long list of things to fix under warranty (2y unlimited miles, at that time). I soon went to an ’86 that was very trouble-free past 110k.

      A friend bought a used ’87 GLI with 99k on it for $3k, after the owner had just dropped $3k of fixes into it. She drove it another 250k trouble free.

      It certainly seems to be a lot of random chance with VWs. Expensive parts make it a bigger risk.

      It’s not encouraging that VW is scaling back it’s new car warranty for 2020, either.

      • 0 avatar

        My first real job in 1987 (which afforded me the chance to get a REAL car, hence my 86GTI), my supervisor had an 86 Jetta bought new. Lots of issues and visits to dealer. A co-worker had a new 87 Jetta, some visit to dealer. I had fewer…a MISSING drain tube (so AC dripped inside passenger floor) and a loose wiper.

        Besides the incredible odds that in a 22-person office, the THREE newest cars were new Golf/Jetta, the variation in quality and defects between the 3 varied from nothing special to annoying to lemon.

        But in the long run, my 86 GTI proved to be a keeper. It was relatively trouble-free, no major electrical/mechanical issues. Clutch pedal broke at home, and I was able to borrow a car and take it to welder who welded it back together. Rad replaced at 96k. THen heater resistor at 100k, then after that, water pump at 130k and shift linkage at 140k. I sold it at 13 years, 144k, and 10 years later in 2009 it was still registered same buyer per CarFax

        A GOOD Mk2 is a very good car. Your experience reinforces my theory.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        “It’s not encouraging that VW is scaling back it’s new car warranty for 2020, either.”

        Which is why I bought a 2019.

  • avatar

    A few years ago I was at a party and overheard two guys talking about their cars.

    To paraphrase: “If you want to get a reliable car, buy a VW.”

    Me: ???

    And this was a guy who was broke and couldn’t afford to get his VW repaired.

  • avatar

    I remember how disappointing these MkIIIs were when they came out.

    Soft, overweight, and underpowered, until VW shoved the VR6, making them even more expensive.

    I drove a 3rd gen Golf rental in Germany for 4 days in 1994, four years after having driven and 2nd gen Golf rental in Germany for a week.

    It was slower, thirstier, with mushy seats–it had been Oldsmobilized, I felt. How unfortunate for me (no more VW, and for VW).

    My perception, also not good, is that this generation of Golf showed a marked increase in the amount of problems VWs had and in the cost of parts to correct them. Subsequent generations havent’t been known as paragons of reliability and durability

    I always thought of Mk1 and Mk2 Rabbit/Golf as kind of like GM cars until 1979–if you got a one built on a good day, made with parts built on good days, you were in for a trouble-free ride for a very long time; they were pretty reliable and VERY durable. If not, you would be a frequent dealer/garage customer. THe Mk3s lost this (potentially) long-lasting reputation.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a Mk4. Granted the Mk4 was not really any better than the Mk3s, looks aside. It wasn’t until the Mk5 that the GTI became great again (in terms of feel/performance, reliability was still pretty spotty).

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Mk.4 Golf family was arguably the worst one in terms of reliability and complication. This was during a time that VW Group as a whole made a number of aspirational but mechanically complicated vehicles. Mk.5…wasn’t great. Mk.6 and Mk.7 are well-sorted for Volkswagens, but likely below average for the industry, in terms of reliability.

      I’ve now had two MQB-based vehicles. My 2015 Golf SportWagen TDI SEL never gave me any issues, outside of losing enough coolant over 9 months to trigger a light. My 2019 Tiguan SEL Premium 4MOTION is a couple of months old; the jury is still out on that one.

  • avatar

    Please pardon my ignorant question :

    ? Is this considered a ‘Hot Hatch’ ? .

    As a German vehicle Mechanic and enthusiast I can tell you definitively that German vehicles need more touching than any other .

    They’re still fun and if you’re a good DIY’er can be economical .


    • 0 avatar

      I would consider it to be a hot hatch.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you .

        I thought so but so much has changed .

        ? Are they nimble and fun to drive ? .


        • 0 avatar

          Yes. I had an ’87 GTI, it was the most satisfying car I’ve had so far. My sister has a 2017 GTI, it’s a blast. Only a dedicated sports car is better to drive.

          • 0 avatar

            When did you last drive that ’87 GTI? I test drove an ’87 GTI-16valve when my girlfriend totaled my mildly improved ’85 Jetta GL. Any improvements in performance were offset by quality of materials and assembly reductions from the German-made Jetta.

            After the VW and some Audis, I was a BMW fanatic for years. When BMW stopped making attractive cars that drove better than other cars, I moved on. I still thought the ones they made in West Germany were among the best cars of all times though.

            About a year and a half ago, I got the opportunity to drive a low mileage E28 535is that is some fellow’s effort at clinging to his youth. I couldn’t believe how ropey the shifter was, how springy the seats were, how far from longitudinal the steering column was and how nautical the body roll felt. Its only strengths that have stood the test of time are outward visibility and engine smoothness.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanx Guys ;

            I briefly had an A1 VW GIT, it was a hoot to drive, it was pretty used up though ~ I bought it for the 1800 CC engine, I was going to put in my ’82 VW Rabbit Rag Top, those came with a 1600 CC engine dammit and the crankshaft had failed .

            The concept of a squared off hot hatch is very appealing to me .

            Not if it’s one more unreliable VW product though .


  • avatar

    I would be willing to bet that my first car, an 86 MK2, that I sold to a 20-something in 1999 with 145k on it, and I’d be willing to bet it is still on the road.

    That was a reliable and durable car, and not too costly to fix (1st repair was radiator at 96k. After that, every 15-20k miles or, another repair. Water Pump, Shift Linkage come to mind. There must have been one more…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll take that bet. If you still have your registration card with VIN to prove you didn’t just find one of the 1.1% of ’86 VWs that have survived, I’ll bet everything you can afford to lose.

      • 0 avatar

        Damn, you got me!

        “…some fellow’s effort at clinging to his youth.”

        That explains the 2002 BMW 325i sitting in my garage. BMW CCA wisdom has it that any E46 manual will eventually become a classic (and the annual Vintage event DOES allow Bimmers through the E30, so it’s getting there.)

        But every time I rent, even something as lowly as an Elantra GT, I’m made aware of how OLD my BMW feels.

        For example, not only does it not have Bluetooth, it doesn’t even have an auxiliary jack, which I guess is not too surprising since it was built five years before the first iPhone was introduced.

        But oh those sport seats and that smooth inline six! And it’s a completely rust free Southern car. Guess I’ll be keeping it, against all logic.

        You know, for nostalgia!

  • avatar

    As a general rule, most vehicles that are more than about four years old and get in a crash bad enough to fire the front airbags are going to be total losses. The combination of the expensive pieces at the front of the engine getting destroyed and the cost of rebuilding the interior is enough to do the car in.

    I got popped in the door in a three year old Fusion, which fired the side airbag, and that car almost got totaled. If the impact had been just a little farther back. it would have taken out the B pillar and that would have been the end for that car.

    Also, what do you suppose happened to the interior of this car? Where did all the mud come from?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m a little bit surprised that neither of the airbags cracked the windshield. It depends on how the car is designed but I’ve seen it when a passenger airbag smashes the windshield (airbag sorta deploys up then back, if that description makes sense). That’ll add a few hundred bucks more to the repair estimate…

  • avatar

    Set lock carrier into service position.

  • avatar

    No replacement for displacement – what a laugh – Martin knows nothing about these cars.

    Nobody serious about extracting top performance bought the VR6 – the small hp advantage was negated by extra weight, and the extra weight was all on the nose of the car, making it even more prone to understeer than the 1.8T.

    Also, the 150-hp rating of the 1.8T was deliberate – without that 24-hp gap, there’s no way VW could charge extra for the VR6. The 1.8T actually made more, and since it was designed to be turbocharged, could easily have made more boost…that’s what tuners all did.

    When the VR6 went to a multi-valve design in 2002, and was then rated at 201 hp, the 1.8T miraculously was then rated at 180 hp…VW said this was due to higher boost, which was true, but they could have run higher boost all along – but there is no business case for making a 180-hp base engine when your upgrade engine is rated at 174! And of course the turbo fours had a much wider torque band.

    0-60 in these 2-valve VR6s were generally in the low 7-second range, as it was in the 150-hp 1.8T. When the 1.8T went to 180 hp, those recorded 0-60 times in the mid-6s.

    The “no replacement for displacement” rubric is very dependent upon what car make and model you’re talking about. Martin may need to stick to models he’s more familiar with.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I had a 2.8-liter VR6, albeit in a Mk.3 Jetta GLX. It was fast, but made the car feel super nose-heavy. Despite being only a 15-degree V, something about the weight distribution was off. And that was with new motor mounts.

    • 0 avatar

      As stated, it was the original buyer who must have believed that, not Murilee.

      And if that guy wanted an engine with linear power delivery, immediate throttle response, and a better exhaust note than a turbo 4, the 1.8T was not going to be an adequate substitute regardless of output at full boost.

    • 0 avatar

      I think pretty much everyone who bought a VR6-equipped VW did so for the sound.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The VR6 is a popular swap in the Mark 4 Cabrio since they only came with the 2.0 NA putting out 115 hp.
      I would think that the added chassis reinforcement plus the “basket” roll bar makes it feel not as nose heavy.

    • 0 avatar

      Before anybody outside of the Viper project knew he was, Ralph Gilles bought a VR6 from me, out of a crashed VW. He had built a track-terrorizing Caravan, and I always wondered if that VR6 was a planned swap into the Caravan – and would we someday see a VR engine in Chrysler/Dodge products (not the first time Chrysler/Dodge would be paralleling VW).

  • avatar

    The VR6 was the “hot” option in the Corrado, the car many of us lusted after back in the day. Oh how times have changed.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “I vowed to ignore the automatics and only break out my camera for examples with manual transmissions”

    Sadly, you will soon be required to break this vow…otherwise you won’t be taking any pictures at all…so few are the three pedal cars in today’s world.

    If I am ever prosperous enough to own a car collection, the 100% certainty will be that every single car will be three pedals…make/model/type/country of origin notwithstanding.

  • avatar

    Despite the reliability cracks posted, I still see plenty of Mk4 Golfs and Jettas on the road up here in Vacouver.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve S.

      I’m driving a 2003 Jetta in Seattle with 186,000 miles on it. I bought it with 50,000 miles.

      It’s been fine. The fuel pump went out on it; it took about 30 minutes to replace it and the fuel filter. That’s the only time it left me stranded.

      The clearcoat is peeling, most of the power door locks don’t work anymore and the suspension is tired, but it still has its original clutch.

      I wisely stayed away from the turbo and VR6 models and stayed with the 2.0 SOHC engine. You have to take a Zen approach to acceleration, but I’m convinced that it will run forever.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that’s a Canadian thing. In Ontario MKIVs have been among the most numerous vehicles on the road since their introduction, and rival Civics, Corollas and Cavaliers/Sunfires for cockroach-like tenacity. They are beloved by thousands. Mk2s and Mk3s were endangered species just a few years after they stopped being made, and MkV Golf/Rabbits didn’t sell well (the Jetta is a different story).

      We loved MKIVs so much we got them for even more years after the MKV was introduced as the Golf and Jetta “City”

  • avatar

    Kind of ironic to see one in Reflex Silver smashed up like this.

  • avatar

    A VW in a junkyard? So cliche.

  • avatar

    This car is junk, it belongs in a junkyard. You could put $5K into it, and it would still be a whipped, punched, 20yo junker. It is unloved and will go to the crusher, with or without its parts.

    This fall my sister-in-law picked up a squeaky clean, desirable 2008 Eos with 140K for $1000. An retired couple moving to Florida bought it new and didn’t want to take it with them. She talked them down from $2000 asking. All it needed was 2 new tires.

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