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20K Miles from New: 1996 VW GTI

This one brings back memories: a 1996 Volkswagen GTI, seemingly new in the wrapper with just 20,000 original miles. I owned this car’s sibling in high school, a 1999 VW Jetta Wolfsburg Edition, that I loved to bits. This car is a time capsule example that sat at the first owner’s house for 18 long years. Some cosmetic issues have flared up but the seller’s done a nice job of tackling deferred maintenance. Find it here on eBay with no reserve and bids under $800.

This GTI is part of Volkswagen’s third generation lineup, known as the MK3. These were yet again heavier and slower than the previous generation, all in the name of safety and comfort. The MK3 came standard with a 2.0L 8V four-cylinder that pushed out about 115 b.h.p., a number that will feel substantially less in a car equipped with an automatic transmission. Yes, a GTI with an auto! It seems like sacrilege, but the slushbox has a lot to do with why this one has survived in stock condition.

In other words, there was little temptation to beat on it and perhaps the long stay in the driveway was due to an owner becoming too elderly to drive. Whatever the reason, this generation was just as popular as the ones before it for modifying with anything from suspension upgrades to full engine swaps, as the lovely VR6 motor was an option on the GTI and will drop right in. The seats are standard GTI spec and similar to what I found in my Jetta – very nice bolstering for stock buckets. Crank windows are a nice reminder of the GTI’s humble origins.

These engines are bulletproof and dirt cheap to run. They don’t take kindly to mods, but a chip, cam and exhaust wakes them up nicely. Popular VW tuner Neuspeed offered a tidy supercharger kit for it as well. This one benefits from loads of recent maintenance, and the only real demerits besides the transmission is the paint, as the clearcoat has faded away after close to two decades’ of exposure. Still, at no reserve, someone’s going to have a fun project car with room in the budget for a transmission swap.


  1. Avatar photo RW1982

    I never realized you had the mk3 with the pathetic 2.0 8v as a GTI in North America -and with crank windows. I had a 1991 2.0 8v GTI (one of the 1st right hand drive models to be imported) and even that had power windows.

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  2. Avatar photo CanuckCarGuy

    Nice find. With the slush box it would make a nice fair weather commuter car, or a cool first car for a new driver. I have to say, I’m on my second VW as a daily driver now and I’m impressed with the simplicity while still maintaining a high-end feel…I get why owners become so dedicated to them.

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  3. Avatar photo Superdessucke

    I’m sure this will get panned and sell for a pitance because of the auto but, remember now, Audi doesn’t even offer a performance car with a manual anymore, at least in the U.S. And judging from my informal observations, I don’t think the take rate of the manual on the current GTI is all that high these days. 10% maybe?

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  4. Avatar photo Todd Rouch

    I have a Volkswagen question, could anyone tell me if the 1983 Mexico built Beetles had safety glass, or not. My employer has a practically brand new 1983 Beetle with around 3,000 miles on it and has been afraid to drive it, not being sure about the glass.

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    • Avatar photo Nick

      That’s a pretty stupid question for numerous reasons. Of course it does, safety and emission standards in Mexico are generally (though not exactly) the same as those in the US. Does your employer think that building a car (any car) without safety glass would be acceptable because it’s being sold in Mexico?
      Did a 1963 Bug, sold in the US have safety glass? Of course it did, also. Nobody would buy any car without it.
      There is a branding (of sorts) on all the windows stating the manufacturer (of the glass) and what type standards it conforms to. In 1937 the use of safety glass was mandated for US cars.

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  5. Avatar photo chad

    couldn’t get ‘imported’, registered, etc either…

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    • Avatar photo Todd Rouch

      Thank you, I appreciate the information.

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  6. Avatar photo Miguel

    Whenever I see a car like this with low miles I just figure the car sat in shops it’s whole life with mechanical problems.

    I would bet transmission problems would be the problem here.

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    • Avatar photo Miguel

      My second thought was that the odometer broke, which was common on these cars.

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  7. Avatar photo Steve

    Too bad this isn’t a manual VR6.

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