High Mileage Survivor: 1983 Volkswagen GTI

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This 1983 Volkswagen GTI is in surprisingly clean condition considering it has 250,000 miles on the clock. At first glance, you might think that it’s impossible for such a car to still look this good and be unrestored, but there are plenty of cosmetic flaws when you inspect it up close. Regardless, for anything to not be a pile of rust or otherwise a total project with those kinds of numbers on the odometer is a tremendous achievement, and the seller claims the GTI still drives as good as it looks. Find the MK1 hot hatch here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $8,000 and the option to submit a best offer.

The MK1 GTI needs little in the way of an introduction, considered by many to be the model that coined the phrase “hot hatch.” While power output was not significant, its low curb weight and lively handling made it feel far faster than it was, and few cars could keep up with it once the road turned curvy. The GTI did get numerous improvements over its Rabbit sibling, from its fuel-injected 1.6L engine to firmer suspension components to deeply contoured sport bucket seats. All of this combined to make the MK1 GTI an immediate darling of the automotive press and car enthusiasts everywhere, and it’s a testament to the build quality of these early sport compacts when examples like this show up for sale.

The interiors of these first-generation GTIs seem to have the same mildly indestructible qualities like the W123 Mercedes, as we’ve seen numerous examples over the years that still look halfway decent inside even with considerable mileage on the chassis. The seller notes there are some tears in the upholstery and areas that have been patched, but overall, the GTI-specific upholstery looks to be in good shape, and blue with red striping is a refreshing change of pace from the cardinal red interior we often see in these VWs. The GTIs came with the auxiliary gauge pod in the lower console, present and accounted for here; whether the gauges still work is another matter entirely. The dash appears to be crack-free, too.

The GTI benefits from several recent mechanical improvements, including new tires, battery, radiator, shift bushings, and a passenger-side CV. The last repair makes me cringe a bit, as the smart money says to do both CVs at the same time. The seller notes there are some issues outstanding, including looseness in the steering due to needing the tierods replaced. The GTI is somewhat hard to start, requiring a few extra pushes on the accelerator to get it to fire up. The seller includes numerous photos in the eBay listing which show a rust-free chassis along with the cosmetic flaws you’d expect after 250,000 miles, but it’s still in way better shape than the odometer would otherwise indicate.

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  1. alphasudMember

    Nice GTI and the only way it survived is because it’s been in the PNW. Most Rabbits are long gone due to salted roads. This is the kind of car I cut my teeth on as a tech. The new owner needs to find a shop that knows CIS injection to make it sing again. The beauty of CIS is its so easy to get them to run right once you know the system. A couple other things the new owner can do to really transform a tired GTI is new shocks, bump stops and strut tops, a new passenger engine mount, door strike pins and realigning the doors, and rebuild the shift linkage.

    Like 7
    • Dave

      Replacing the O-rings on the injectors will eliminate the starting issue. It did on mine. They shrink and allow uncontrolled air to enter the intake system which prevents the air flow plate inside the fuel distribution box from moving to where it needs to be.

      Like 3
  2. JCAMember

    Minor correction, the 83 GTI was a 1.8L, not a 1.6L. I bought a few of these cheap back in the day because they had “high miles”, meaning over 100k killing resale or trade in values at the time. Very strong internals on these engines, they can go many hundreds of thousands of miles.

    Like 4
    • Dave

      The odometers on these have a tendency to fail and the mileage recorded becomes unknown. I bought an 83 GTI from a local auto auction cheap because it showed 500,000 miles and no one wanted to touch it. I live about a mile and a half from the site and put 1500 miles on it getting it home. Early GTI’s like mine (serial 000235) have an 85 mph speedo with the upshift light. Buy it on condition, not mileage.

      Like 3
  3. JoeNYWF64

    Surprised to see the door triangular vent windows that can be opened! May have been an option. I don’t think early rabbits had that option.
    Not sure if those are 5mph bumpers – could this be a german market car?

    Like 1
    • Vwpat

      US spec and they are 5 mph bumpers.

      Like 0
  4. schooner

    The condition really isn’t surprising. It’s 37 years and 250,000 miles, about 6700 miles / year. That’s a short commute garaged DD off the road during the winter.

    Like 1
  5. princeofprussia

    I could be mistaken, but I think those bucket seats are from a later model GTI. First gens, I believe, had plaid upholstery.

    Like 0
    • Jamie

      Those are OE colors, also available in a similar pattern in red. Test drove one of these when new (bought a Volvo turbo instead). Have had several GTIs since. The cloth has a tendency to split along the stripes.
      Plaids were available on MK2 Golfs, later in the States.

      Like 0
  6. Raymond Keck

    This is exactly the same car I bought new back in ’83. I had a lot of fun in that car, my last new one with operable wing windows!

    Like 3
  7. Christopher Gentry

    Have a 89 VW Cabrolet, also no idea the actual mileage either. But she was rust free here in Tennessee. We’ve put a new top , oil pan gasket , tie rod ends ,shift linkage, new clutch , heater “stuff” and some trim. But my gosh that little 1.8 just purrs happily. And yeah opening wind wing quarter windows.

    Like 1
  8. Matt

    A month ago I sold both of my 83 GTIs with red interior (one ran, one didn’t) both compete to a guy in MD for $7500. The running one still needed quite a bit if work but was solid. Had it shipped from Michigan. I even had 3 others that were really junk and stripped, that I sold for $1200. Just never got around to them. Decided to dump them. Still want a done one, but not for this amount. Hard to believe you could buy them in the 90’s for $500!

    Like 0
  9. Paul

    I had an 83 GTI in the late 80s to mid 90s. Great car for high school and college. Interior looks exactly like mine did. Super fun car. I wanted to get one a few years ago. I could justify the price for it when I could buy a 2008 Audi A4 for the same price. Newer technology and more power. I can confirm the one guy saying you could buy them in the mid 90s for $500. I sold mine with around 150K miles for $500. It did have dents in the body. For $500, I should have kept it.

    Like 2

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