Clean MK1 Coupe: 1980 Volkswagen Jetta

I remain amazed at how few Volkswagens from the first and second generations are seen anywhere – on the road, in classifieds, or parted out in the junkyard. It’s a mystery to me as to where they all went, as they were fairly popular as economy cars throughout the 80s and 90s. This clean first-generation (MK1 for those in the know) Jetta coupe remains in excellent condition, and is a true survivor listed here on craigslist with a $1,650 asking price. 

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Miguel for spotting it. Although not the desirable sporting spec known as the GLI, this rare two-door remains in excellent cosmetic condition with an absolutely gorgeous interior that’s recently been redone. It sounds like the Jetta has been standing for a while, as the seller notes lots of documentation for years of past maintenance but still in need of some mechanical sorting.

I was hoping the interior was original, but it’s not; still, at least it’s been redone in the correct upholstery style and pattern. These seats are ridiculously comfortable, having plopped down for a breather while tracing through different junkyards. The seller notes that the Jetta will come with some worthwhile spare parts, including shocks, water pump, ball joints and more.

These are simple cars and not particularly fast; they’re front-drivers, too, but they can be made to handle. There’s a strong enthusiast network behind these cars, so finding spare parts and advice shouldn’t be a challenge; I also happen to know where two fairly complete GLIs are hiding out in a Rhode Island junkyard if anyone needs parts!

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Comments

  1. KevinR

    It looks like a reasonable price for a fairly complete (though not original) specimen of a quickly disappearing car. If it was on this side of the country, I’d probably be making arrangements to go check it out.

    The dash and door panels are the correct, 1 year only pieces for an ’80 Jetta. The wheels are from 1983-on, and I can’t tell what color that’s supposed to be, but it’s not original. You can see the paint line in the door jamb picture.

    The seats look like they may have come from an Audi, but they’re definitely not original Jetta pieces. The car looks like it might have an aftermarket sunroof too.

    Here are the parts you want from a Mk1 GLI: Engine, transmission, front brakes, springs, rear sway bar, rear license plate trim panel, instrument cluster with tachometer, steering wheel, sport seats, center console with gauges. The lower side molding is specific to GLIs (4-door only in the US), but ’83 Wolfsburg Edition Jetta 2-doors had similar molding. I think that’s all of the GLI-specific parts…

    • Miguel

      Kevin, it sound like you know a lot about these cars.

      Do you know much about the Mexican versions called the Atlantic?

      Here is one I am looking at.

      Like 1
      • Miguel

        Here is the interior the owner put in.

      • Miguel

        I guess he didn’t think people knew the car was an Atlantic so he did this.

        I know this car would look 200% better with a set of the original wheels.

        Also I think this model was available until 1987 in Mexico.

      • KevinR

        Miguel, unfortunately I don’t know a lot about the Mexican versions. My understanding is that they continued on with production of the older models after they had been replaced in the German market.

        Looking at your pictures, I can’t tell what car donated the front seats, but they are definitely not from any VW model I can recall. The back seat looks correct (but reupholstered) and the rear deck looks like an aftermarket unit with pods for the rear speakers molded into it. The dash appears to be the same as the US spec Rabbit from 1981-1984.

        I agree that it would look better with original wheels, or smaller diameter wheels at the least.

        I did find this bit of information: https://www.thesamba.com/vw/archives/lit/1983_atlantic_mexico.php

        Like 1
      • CanuckCarGuy

        Miguel, out of curiosity how difficult is it to import a car from Mexico to the US? I’ve seen very few Mexican sourced vehicles for available in Canada, and presumed importation wasn’t a user friendly process.

      • Miguel

        CanuckCarGuy, because of the 25 year rule now, it is super easy.

        I don’t know if you would be able to get the car in to Canada though.

        The car I posted pictures of here looks interesting to me because most of these cars here are 4 doors and not in the best of condition.

        It is rare to find somebody that put any work into one of these.

  2. Bob C.

    I almost forgot about these first generation Jettas. They were pretty much a longer Rabbit.

    Like 1
  3. Bill D

    Mk I and II VWs, at least in the states, usually got handed down to the high school or college kid in the family as a “reliable beater”. As such they were thrashed, neglected, modded, and wrecked. They also suffered badly from rust. I had a Mk I Rabbit that suffered rot in the driver’s side door pillar. I scrapped it because it wasn’t cost effective to repair it.

    Like 2
  4. Michael Cosgrove

    Wow that car is a gem!

    Like 1
  5. Billy Bob

    Our old cars are shipped to other countries. Jetta’s were great cars, much better than the Asian cars of the day.

  6. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Plenty of power ! Just as is stock, red-lined in 2nd or 3rd gear, up on 3 wheels you can’t ask for more fun.

    Like 1
  7. CanuckCarGuy

    I’ve always liked these, but they are a rare find these days. This would be a nice starting point for a performance/handling build up, as there’s a sportiness to the coupe’s body lines that really appeals to me.

    Like 1
  8. Brian c Member

    Fun cars. I had one and did a gti transplant. Sold it and it got wrecked within two weeks.

    Like 1
  9. mikestuff

    I was still working at the VW dealership when the Jetta was introduced. The first ones we got were both 2 doors and neither one had a right side rear view mirror. I’m not sure if we ever knew why they didn’t have one but even the Westmoreland Rabbits had 2 mirrors.
    We sold every Jetta we could get.

    Like 1
  10. Doug

    Most were made from compressed rust – and they often blew up. P.O.S. So many better cars at that time from Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, and even Datsun.

    • Scott Tait

      Calling BS on that ^^

  11. Bodyman68

    East coast turned them to rust ,junk yards had plenty of them ,now all crushed . The diesels were great runners, just rust prone bodys didnt last .

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