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16,326 Mile: 1987 Volkswagen GTI 16V

Second generation Volkswagens are a hard car to find these days in survivor condition, especially in the hot-to-trot 16 valve configuration. I should know, as I spent part of the summer looking for such a car and was shocked by the scant number of 16 valve-equipped Sciroccos for sale (I did find one; more on this later.) The seller of this low mileage 1987 Volkswagen GTI notes there’s a mere 16,326 miles on the clock, and that aside from clearcoat fade due to being parked outside in the California sun for years, it still presents like a new car. Find the GTI here on craigslist for $7,500 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Rex M. for the find. I spoke with my mechanic recently about why second-generation VWs have seemingly disappeared, and he made a great point: at his shop, which specializes in German automobile service and repair, VWs of this generation was just as needy as any other BMW or Mercedes once they reached a certain age, but the people driving them were not attempting to keep them on the road out of loyalty to the brand or because they were enthusiasts – these were cheap cars to buy and the owners were in a position of needing them to get from point A to point B. At some point, it becomes untenable to own a car that gets parked on a lift next to a 911.

Factor in the fact that, like any other brand, the performance-oriented models are always in shorter supply due to being the low volume sales model, and you have a logical explanation for why we don’t see many running around today, even in sun-drenched places like the West Coast. You will absolutely still see Civics and Corollas being used for daily commuting purposes in the Pacific Northwest and desert regions, but cheap European cars were never nearly as budget-friendly to own once they got up in the years; a late ’80s Civic or Accord, however, can still be put into daily use while operating on a modest budget. Look at the interior of this GTI – the original sport seats and GTI-specific upholstery pattern are minty fresh.

The engine bay also looks like that of a nearly-new car, and even better, there’s not a sign of aftermarket modifications that are far too common with this era of Volkswagen. The DOHC models respond quite well to an aftermarket camshaft and exhaust, so you can’t fault owners for tweaking them, but it does make bone-stock survivors even more of a find when they do pop up. That was a big reason I pursued my Scirocco sight-unseen, as despite having some loose ends, it remained nearly entirely stock inside and out. This GTI is the kind of car you buy now and squirrel away, as I predict the second generation VWs with the 16V mill will start to move upwards in a hurry.


  1. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    They are fun practical cars to own. My first new car was a 8v GTI and I drooled over these when they came out. Eventually when I was working at the VW/Audi shop I bought a wrecked one with 15K and a clapped out 85 Golf at the auction and made my own 16V. Painted it Monza Blue which was a European color and installed the full Zender body kit. Had a lot of fun with that car as I had one of the few custom Vw’s in our area. That’s hat was so fun about old VW’s was being able to swap parts so easily.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Dave

      Something to consider…just as we debate the beginnings of the “muscle car” era, could cars like the GTI and Dodge’s GLH Omni be considered the forerunners of today’s tuner cars?

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Steve R

        The forefather of today’s “tuner” car would probably be the Datsun 510 or 240z.

        Steve R

        Like 2
    • Avatar photo Dennis Froelich

      Do you have pics of your Golf?

      Like 0
  2. Avatar photo UK Paul 🇬🇧

    One of my favourite cars that I have owned.
    They were not that cheap in Europe. VW seems to have been discounting them in the USA at circa $10k. They were nearly double that in the UK.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo nlpnt

      It was at the high end of its’ bracket at $12k, you could get a Ford Escort GT or Dodge Colt Turbo (Mitsu Mirage/Lancer) for under $9k;

      1986 (’87 MY) MotorWeek comparo;

      Like 2
  3. Avatar photo Russell C

    Wish my ’86 looked this fresh. 16,326 miles? Well, mine says 86k, but the plastic odo gear broke in it months after I bought it used in late ’93, so my best guess is I have 300k+ on it by now. Want to help me freshen it up? Just make your checks out to “Cash” ……

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Dave

      Is that Johnny, Roseanne, or Swin…?

      Like 3
  4. Avatar photo Rob

    I owned this exact model/year, in red. Although this model makes 20hp more, I think the 8v is actually more fun to drive. The 16v has to be reved hard and it just doesn’t have a lot of torque down low.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Snafuracer

    Such fond memories! My 87 GTI 16v was one of the most fun to drive cars I have ever owned! And it was super reliable! Ran like a top even with 195k of not gentle miles! And it was comfortable on long trips too! This one here has me very tempted!

    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo David Miraglia

    always desirable in my book, but then I am a confirmed VW fan.

    Like 0

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