California Survivor: 1985 VW GTI

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In the back of my head, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a second- or third-generation Volkswagen GTI. Similar to my junkyard find Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth, I wanted one in my youth and now feel the pangs of nostalgia kicking in, big time. This 1985 GTI isn’t even the preferred 16 valve model, but it’s so clean that you can easily overlook the underwhelming performance. Find the GTI here on eBay with bidding barely over $2K and no reserve, located in sunny Palos Verdes, California.

This GTI presents extremely well, with no visible modifications from stock and awesome period details still with the car. This includes the Motor Trend “Car of the Year” sticker still in place in the window glass, the specific-for-85 bottlecap wheels, the for-85-only “Sunset” interior, and more. The paint looks to be in excellent condition and is said to be completely original. The seller notes 120,000 miles on the odometer.

The interior really is a treat. If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at GTIs, you’ll know how often this seat fabric and bolsters are usually completely trashed. This cabin is in outstanding condition, particularly for the mileage. Speaking of, you’d expect a car like this to be wearing under 50,000 miles, making its condition all the more impressive. The seller says the GTI is part of his collection of vehicles and it doesn’t get driven enough to justify keeping.

The engine has also received an impressive amount of refreshing, including a new head, timing belt, radiator, plugs and wires, and more. The seller says it runs very nicely going down the road, and even as a non-16V car, the light weight should make it feel light on its feet. New tires have been installed but I might still look for the stickiest rubber I could find to exploit the sharp handling even further. This one makes me wish I lived far closer to California than I do.

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  1. Jason

    It’s definitely rare to see an unmolested example of this car. But I seem to see far fewer third generation GTIs than second generation models these days. Were they just not made as well?

    Like 0
  2. 8banger Dave MikaMember

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss that motor. They are hi-compress, and very anxious.

    Like 1
  3. Rhett

    In 83, me and my buddies went down to the local Porsche/Audi/VW dealer to run the brand new GTI through the autocross course set up with cones in their parking lot. Being the V8 drag racer I was, I didn’t even bother to drive one but do remember watching that thing (it was silver) go around the cones on three wheels and laughing. I had no idea at the time how much I would come to appreciate those cars and what they represented. I also came to feel these GenII Golf/Jetta’s were a very handsome design. Priced right (so far), still leaves room for a plane ticket and a week of PTO. Hmmmm…..

    Like 4
  4. Superdessucke

    Finally, something on BF that pauper who hasn’t benefitted much from the best economy in U.S. history (i.e. me) can afford! If it wasn’t so far away I’d be all over this.

    Like 4
  5. NotSure

    I had an ‘85 GTI like this in blue with the Diesel engine. (Okay, okay… it wasn’t a GTI…)

    Like 1

      Had a buddy in college that had one of those diesels. Thing wouldn’t die…and he definitely tried to kill it. He was so cheap that every time he’d get a flat he’d end up replacing it with a space saver spare. By the time we graduated he had them at all four corners! LOL! Was purely a city car so the speed limit on those space savers was never an issue. It was strangely good in the snow!

      Like 0
  6. Fahrvergnugen FahrvergnugenMember

    Mileage is questionable ONLY because I remember the gears on the odo of my Jetta not quite engaging after 85000 and I know I wasn’t alone. Plus O2 sensors and fuel pump relays were challenging. Still a darn fun ride though.

    Like 1
  7. Daymo

    It still amazes me how different the same car can be in different markets. Mk2 Golfs (or Rabbits) here in Europe only ever had circular headlamps whilst he rectangular lamps on this one only appeared on the Jetta/Vento/Jetta.

    Like 0
  8. Graham Line

    Unless you do a steady diet of 65+ mph road trips, the 8V engine is a lot nicer to live with. The MKIII GTI was kind of a slug, the MKII is much more fun. Have had a few of these over the years.

    Like 0
  9. Bakyrdhero

    Another one that I remember brand new. Looks as good today as it did in 1985!

    Like 1
  10. SquirrleyGig

    This seems to present quite nicely. I wish these particular ebay photos had the “zoom” option for a bit closer defined detail. The pristine conditions of the door cards tells me that the drip rails are in good shape, but still something that should be looked @ closely for overall condition. For those not familiar, the drip rails are the rubber piece that runs the length of the roof line, where the sides of the car meet w/ the roof, just above the door & side windows. it is also the primary weather seal between the top of the door & the body. They are almost always one of the first parts of these cars to deteriorate. This is the holy grail piece(s) of these cars & have an almost unobtainium status for a set. Without them your interior will be wet & door cards will die. Again, given the interior condition of this car, they’re most certainly OK in this case.
    Just something for a future owner to consider. If you can find a set expect to pay a minimum of three bills (that’s a bargain) for a decent used set & the sky’s the limit w/ a new nos set. I hate to say, good luck finding some. W/out them there’s no sense trying to build or maintain a nice example of these cars. Nobody does a remake/replacement. MK2 parts in general are difficult to find in decent shape.
    Not trying to thread jack here or anything & I hope I’m not out of line, but I have an ’85 GTI that I have been considering putting up for sale here on BF. I have a used set of drip rails for it in excellent or better condition. I thought it would be funny to advertise the drip rails for sale for the price I’d like to get for the car & state that they come w/ a free GTI! 🤣

    Like 0
  11. Rusty

    Jason, for a good part of the model run, the 3rd generation GTI was just an unpopular sporty trim package on a not-so-sporty car. Then came the VR6 for the last couple of model years, but that engine did not age gracefully. I suspect these two factors led to the lack of GTI IIIs these days.

    Like 1

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