$3,000 50 MPG Diesel! 1982 Volkswagen Jetta


Here’s another Iowa beauty: this is a 1982 Volkswagen Jetta two-door sedan and it’s a diesel! It’s in the city made famous by the movie, Music Man – Mason City, Iowa. It’s on Craigslist for a coo-coo nutty low price of just $3,000. It has a few modifications from stock, but for $3,000 it sounds like a pretty good deal.


The two-door first-generation MK-1 Jetta almost has a push-me-pull-you sort of look, like you can’t tell if it’s coming or going. Personally, because it’s a little quirky, I love it. And, not to suggest that a two-door car is more desirable than a four-door car, thus carelessly opening Pandora’s Box yet again, but, yeah.. it’s a two-door. Let’s just leave it at that. The seller talks about how these cars were nose-high from the factory so he put in “a set of purple Eibach lowering springs were professionally installed, with a re-alignment performed to correspond to the new ride-height & suspension geometry. The car now sits level & true.”


They also changed out the rectangular headlights to Euro-spec round units with “snow wiper brooms”. Wacky. This is a great looking car, in my opinion, nice and simple and crisp. The seller says that it was originally a tan color but was painted red 8 years ago and any rust was cut out and repaired then, and the paint still shines like new. This car was factory undercoated and “inner” coated, and as such, there wasn’t much rust and it still has the factory plugs. But, the driver’s side strut tower was starting to show rust and it was reinforced with a few steel bars. The seller has sourced a set of strut towers that go with the car in case the next owner wanted to change those.


The dash is crack-free and still factory soft and supposedly the seat covers are just to protect the original seats. There are no engine photos, but they say that it’s a factory non-turbo 1.6L diesel and it was rebuilt about 100,000 miles ago. It’s uber-reliable and gets about 50 mpg consistently, even at highway speeds. It has a new alternator and new CV shafts, new nylon shifter fork bushings, glow plugs, exhaust, etc. This thing has been gone through top to bottom and turned into a reliable daily-driver, although not a fast one with a naturally-aspirated diesel. What are your thoughts on this car? Given the amount of work that has been done, is this a good price for a 50 mpg two-door Jetta?


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  1. Fred W.

    Impressive that the car has made it 352,000 miles, but the components of this car outside of the engine aren’t known for longevity, so I’d be a bit concerned about using it as a driver. Unless EVERYTHING has been rebuilt, including brakes, transaxle, etc.

    • Jay M

      Totally agree, Fred. I put 660,000 km on my 93 diesel Jetta (non TDI) the engine and trans were reliable, but brakes/wheel bearings/suspension components just did not hold up as well.
      Finally retired it when my feet went thru the floor. Still got $1,500 for it as a parts car. Engine went into a Toyota 4×4 or something.

  2. RandyS

    A nearly 2000 word ad. Like!

    • Scotty G

      Ha, I know, it’s usually a 10-word ad for Craigslist ads!

  3. Tirefriar

    This car needs to retire in a dry warm state, California?

  4. Will

    I have always thought these were just Rabbits with a huge trunk grafted on. They should have just been called RabbitXL

  5. motoring mo

    From back when VW wasn’t lyiing and cheating….

  6. Don E

    @Motoring mo: now we have an open can of worms. For years, when behind a Toyota with foot to the floor climbing a hill, I have to ask myself about the pungent sulfur smell bellowing out of their exhaust …. did they just figure out how to hide it better than VW, years in advance ?!?!

  7. Paul B

    The original Jetta was as Will says a Rabbit with a big trunk. Kind of pretty. Despite all the work, price is about right on this one IMHO, maybe even a little high given the shock tower issue. These are kind of interesting but aside from the engines they really were not that reliable, as. Fred W and Jay M attest. All my friends back in the day who had these FWD VWs experienced one problem after another. The ’66 Saab that I had at the time was more reliable.

  8. David Miraglia

    Always liked the looks. Owned a 1975 and a 1979 rabbits back in the 1980’s

  9. Jubjub

    Looks decent in pictures but I bet it’s a creepy, crusty, polished, rattly, old pig. I was never aware of that front end even on Euro models. Looks like they cobbled some parts from a Scirrocco or Dasher and god knows what else.

    Friend had a gas Jetta like this in the late ’80s. Fairly robust & forgiving at its deepest mechanical soul but ready to fall apart every other way.

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