Hot-Rod Rabbit! 1984 Volkswagen GTI

Here’s a tribute to the Catman! That probably makes no sense but the Catman was a friend that I knew many years ago and he bought this very VW GTI model, color and all, new in 1984. And the surprise was that he was the “Scratch and Dent King” and preferred used. But not this time, he knew a great buy when he saw one, so, living large, he took the plunge and ta-da. Now, thirty-six years later, we can relive the Catman’s novel experience by reviewing this nice-looking GTI, located in Greenlake, Washington and available here on craigslist for $7,000.

The GTI was based on the Volkswagen Golf, which for those of us in the U.S. was known as the VW Rabbit. The Rabbit name was dropped in ’85 and replaced with the global Golf moniker. The GTI was and still is, a performance variant, having initially been offered in 1976.  Earlier this year, Autoweek author Robin Warner penned an article entitled, “Driving a 1984 Volkswagen GTI Forces Retrospection”. Warner summed up his drive as, “A total of 90 horsepower. Really? What’s to get excited about here? The 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI takes 9.7 seconds to reach 60 mph, has about the same road-holding grip as a modern Ford F-150, and buzzes and rattles like a tin can shaking in the bed of that same truck. But I just drove one and had more fun with 90 horsepower than I’ve had in any car in a while”.  That’s the most passive-aggressive auto summation that I think I have ever read – but I get his point.

Our subject car is notable for its quarter of a million miles of driving experience. The seller claims that the 1.8-liter, inline, four-cylinder engine has been rebuilt “but there are no records for it”. The seller adds that this GTI “drives excellent” and has new tires, battery, thermo time switch, shift bushing, water pump, radiator, passenger CV, driver’s wheel bearing, and all new fluids for the engine, transmission, brake, and cooling systems. As is typical, power to the front wheels is via a five-speed manual trans-axle.

The exterior of this diminutive VW has held up well, especially considering its age. The GTI wore silver well in ’84 and this example still does today. It is listed as being in original condition and needing “light cosmetics” as well as a windshield. The seller adds that there are no signs of accidents – the body panels do seem straight and well-aligned; the black rubber trim/bumpers are still holding their own too.

Inside, suddenly it’s 1984! It’s all boxy angles and rainbow patterned upholstery. Speaking of the upholstery, it’s starting to let go on the driver’s seat – that pattern may or may not be something that is still available but there are always other options too. The carpet, dash pad, and instrument panel have all handled the passage of time well as they are all still presentable. The seller does not make mention of instrument/gauge operability. The only thing missing is the radio. Of note is the gear shifter ball, what else but a “golf” ball!

Admittedly, the mileage is a bit alarming though the claims about the engine rebuilding and parts replacement are encouraging – it would be good to know how long ago the motor was rebuilt though. Appearance-wise, this GTI is still cutting it, it was a notable design in ’84 and still is today. To my eyes, it doesn’t look current but it’s not dated either. I’m debating it, maybe I should call up the Catman and see if he’s interested in a second time around experience. Who says you can’t go home?

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    With the prices of GTI’s going crazy right now,
    this could be a really good deal.

    Like 5
  2. Stangalang

    A girlfriend of mine bought one same year and color new and I took her to pick it up from the dealer..I bet we drove 500+miles that day and of course we took it kinda easy (break in period) but we found out in a hurry that it handled like it was on rails. These were some good cars and she drove it a long time..bout 200000 miles. She finally sold it some years ago and bought another newer GTI. This is a beauty and I hope it goes to a good home GLWTS

    Like 9
  3. Billy1

    Best year GTI made as far as I am concerned. The new GTI’s weight almost a 1,000 pounds more than this. I am all for modern safety-but 1000 pounds?!!

    Drop in a modern 1.8 turbo and it’s even better.

    Like 2
  4. Chunk

    First car I ever got in that I couldn’t get into – they’re TINY on the inside.

    • ken tilly UK

      You must be a really big guy as I’m 6ft2″ and have never had trouble getting into any VW Golf. This was known as the first of the “Hot hatches”

      Like 6
  5. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Shame the condition of the interior is not a match to the exterior. Could use a really good detail job. That is very uninviting. Why not scrub and shampoo the carpets? Those German carpets from the 80s are like woolen chainmail. Having owned one of these and a friend having owned two this is a deal only if it hasn’t been ragged by previous owners.

    Like 1
  6. Steve

    I wouldn’t touch a VW from that era with that many miles with a 10 foot pole. I had an ‘81 “S” (equivalent to a GTI) I did love driving it, it was a blast but, to keep it running you need a 2nd or 3rd job 🤣 a water pump on that thing in 1987 was $1400 installed if that tells you anything…..

    Like 1
    • KEVIN L HARPER

      Where are you getting your prices?
      A water pump for one of these is 65 bucks and changing them is not hard. Worst case scenario is 3 hours

      Like 1
  7. Dennis Froelich

    Steve,
    Whatever happened to your Rabbit S?

  8. Ernie

    I bought a new ’83, black over red. Took it with me when I got transferred to Germany in early ’83, brought it back in late ’87. Put Konis on it and a strut bar while in Germany, and added the European GTI cam gear for more high-end hp. I swapped the position of the radio and gauges, making new panels to fit them in their places. It got a new windshield (rock chip) and muffler (rusted out) while in Germany.

    When I returned to the States it had 63,000 miles on it and I traded it for a new Harley 1200 Sportster. Why? Because the radiator support was rusting through at the hood latch, and there were cracks in the body just behind the B pillar, probably from having a sunroof and body flex. It was a fun little car, but the quality was not as I would have expected.

  9. Ike Onick

    hot wod wabbit!

    Like 1
  10. TRPIV

    How many of you wanted to correct the rotation of that steering wheel?

    https://cdn-0.barnfinds.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/1984-GTI-interior-e1600961784137-630×390.jpg

    Like 2
  11. Raymond Keck

    I bought this same car in the same color combo new in ’83. It was a fun car, though the Harrisburg, PA cars were far inferior to German-made models like my ’81 Rabbit convertible out of Karmann. I added a grille with Hella lights, a VDO oil pressure gauge, deflector on the sunroof, Konis on all four corners. It was a blast to drive on curvy roads!

  12. Jon Evans

    I would have a 16 or 20 Valve Turbo/Twin-Cam Engine with Intercooler and a 6-Speed Manual Transaxle put in so fast the Ferraris, Z-Cars, Vettes and WRXs wouldn’t know what hit them- I would also update the Car Stereo. OTHERWISE, I would leave the car stoned stock

  13. Doug

    They were built in New Stanton Pa. About 2 hours west of Harris burg. I had the same car except it had a red interior. It was a blast to drive in solo 2 autocross. I ran SCCA g stock. We also used to put cams out of 1.6 litre cars with carbs for street use. It would really wake the 1.8 up. Awesome

    Like 1
  14. Sal Calabria

    I had an 84. Stolen. Bought another *added and alarm and a kill switch.

    As quick as a Z28 back then, but fit my 6’3″ body in the front and back seat. GTI’s were made in Germany while other Rabbits were made in Westmoreland PA. That car stuck like glue and even with only 90 HP, there were few cars that could catch it around town. Needed a 5th gear though for the highway. Really wish I still had that car!

  15. Turbo

    My dad had one back in the day- I think he bought it when it was about 2 years old and he used to drive it like he stole it. He was well over six feet tall but always liked small cars for whatever reason and he fit in it easily. It had the red interior. I just remember that it seemed to take corners well and that the interior was kind of cheaply built. No major repairs but AC vents and door handles cracked and broke and so forth. But we had it for a number of years and it ran like a top and got good mileage.

  16. Christopher Gentry

    I bought my son a 89 “Rabbit” cabriolet last year. We don’t even really know the millage as the odometer doesn’t work. We be had to rebuild the rear brakes (locked up driving it home ) and put in a new clutch. He’s changed the oil pan and valve cover gasket. Oh and the top leaks like a colander. But we both love that car. It’s a blast to drive , not fast but 50 feels like 90. Parts prices vary wildly. Some things are amazingly cheap. Others are on my gosh ! Are they kidding expensive. Worth every penny

  17. Sisko Johnson

    A old friend had I think a 82 or 83 but his was fuel injected diesel. He sad that 56mpg on hwy was average. But he had some bad experiences on certain things returning on him. The injectors would give out quick and they weren’t cheap and body integrity issues like door handles would break easy over time, using a non heavy hand too. All and all, he loved it. He was a big guy too over 250lbs and he said he seemed to have room. He joked about his weight being a main reason it took almost 50 seconds for the quarter.

    Like 1
  18. john hugh

    fun car..nasty inside..3K SOUNDS RIGHT

    Like 2

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