Introducing the New BF Project Car!


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Garage space has been secured, money exchanged, and title notarized… That’s right, this 1984 Volkswagen GTI is the new BF project car! We are always blabbing about the merits of saving classic cars, but we have not performed the act in quite some time ourselves. So here is a chance to put our money where our mouths are. We spotted this car the other day and have since tracked down the owner and purchased it. It needs a lot of work, but will hopefully provide an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the art of car rescue together.


Here at BF, we try to stick to pre-76 vehicles. An exception was made here though because the GTI is an icon. Well, at least that is what we have been told. Just about every article penned about the MKI GTI has been packed full of praise for these hopped up Rabbits. Even today automotive journalists have been known to wax poetic about the humble hatch from Germany. It is supposed to be one of the most fun to drive front wheel drive cars ever built.


The definition of what makes a car “classic” is subjective. Some people give allowances to newer cars, such as the first generation Miata, referring to them as “future classics”. This GTI is almost 30 years old, so we think it is safe to say it is old enough to be a “classic”. The fact that it introduced the world to the “hot hatch” concept also gives it some credibility. Read up on the history of the GTI and let us know what you think.


This car is far from being a looker. The owner mentioned that his girlfriend used some sort of cleaner on the paint and that it caused the oxidation. We are hopeful that after a few hours with a buffer and some rubbing compound, we can bring back some of the paint’s former luster.


The body appears to be solid with minimal rust. There are a few bad spots, but we haven’t found anything too devastating yet. Some of the trim is missing, but for the most part it is all there. The “snowflake” rims are in excellent condition too.


Inside many of the GTI specific parts were missing including the high bolster front seats and the characteristic “golf ball” shift knob. Replacing all these items could end up being time consuming and very expensive. We could also see evidence of a novice stereo installation job with wires hanging out from under the dash and speaker holes cut in the rear deck.


After lifting the hatch we were given a little break. There was a bucket full of interior parts, including that missing shift knob!  There were also a few workshop manuals and a full-sized spare. Even if 80’s hatchbacks don’t get your blood pumping, we think you will still enjoy following the process as we pull this Rabbit out of a field and put it back on the road! Stay tuned…

Read the next segment of this story here!

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  1. Thor

    Gonna be a lot of work, but it is a very worthy candidate. I’ll be following along :)

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  2. Perry Neuroth

    Great choice for a project car. I purchased a new 87 VW Jetta and after the mfg. warranty expired I removed the exhaust system and installed a new cam and throttle body. Ditched the 14inch factory rims for 16’s. Upgrades on the suspension system and I had really nice freeway cruiser. Plenty of power and great gas mileage. This one has it’s issues but it will make one fine VW when it’s finished. Good find.

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  3. Too cool

    I have more of a garage find. A 1985 VW Golf. Never registered or titled it went from the factory to Long Beach. There SCCA drivers interested in entering the Playboy Cup had a choice of a Red, Silver, or White one. Mine has Log books with 106 race weekends. The Speedo shows 23,000 miles. Sitting for nearly 10 years it was last raced as an ITB car and held the class record at Texas World Speedway. It still carries original scrutineer stickers. I plan to use it for track days and perhaps vintage. I will maintain it but not restore it. Your only original once.

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    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      Nice! I would love to see it, please email me a few photos. It might provide some much needed inspiration.

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  4. scot

    ~ cool, good luck. i think you have made a nice find.

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  5. Don Andreina

    Paul’s comment about the response to the Ginetta got me wondering. BF got a lot of response to this car which might say something about the shifts in audience. 10-15 years ago it was all about sixties muscle, before that it was fifties chrome and so-on. Now seems to be the right time to be addressing a car like this. There is no doubt in a couple of years an untouched R32/3/4 GTR will be the car worth arguing over. Again, congratulations Jesse and Josh. No arguing over who gets to drive!

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  6. Gary Fogg

    I wondered how long you would be able to look at all this iron before you could not help yourself anymore and bought a project car ! LOL. Just don’t do what I and many others have done and buy more than ONE project at a time ! Take this one from start to finish. Best of luck to you Jessie.

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  7. Horse Radish

    Congratulations .
    I have a black VW Rabbit with red pin stripes and it had the same exact rims.
    BUT mine is a diesel.
    and the black paint is giving way to what used to be a yellow hood and white fenders….
    At this point it has the important function of keeping a tree to fall over that supports my phone line….

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  8. Jim-Bob

    What a great little project! The nice thing is that this is what could be considered a practical classic. It’s easy to park, easy enough to get parts for (the Caddy (truck) version of this Golf was in production in South Africa until fairly recently) and has good fuel consumption. They were generally well built in terms of the basic mechanical package and so long as the engine has not seized due to sitting should be straightforward to get going.

    All I would do is pull the plugs, put some oil down the cylinders, change the oil, change the timing belt and then see if it turns by hand. If it does, try the starter. If that works, put the plugs back in and see if it will go. If it has sat for a while it is important to crank it with the plugs out until you have verified that the oil pressure has come up. Otherwise you risk a dry start that can damage the bearings. (Sorry if I am being a bit pedantic here, but I like to post these basic instructions to teach anyone reading them in the future what to do so they can successfully reanimate a car that has been sitting).

    The other general tip for those not accustomed to this sort of thing is to replace all of the rubber fuel hoses and brake hoses before returning a car to the road. These become rotten over time and can risk the car and your safety.

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    • Jim-Bob

      Ooops! I made a mistake! It was the Golf that was produced in South Africa, not the truck. The truck I was thinking of was based on the Datsun Sunny (1200) and was called the “Bakkie”.

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      • Robert J

        I bet that the fuel distribution module that feeds fuel to the injectors is also going to need to be disassembled and cleaned out. These cars need good fuel flow to run right,but when they have it they are a joy to drive. I often find myself grinning while driving ours.

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  9. Jim Johnson

    I bought a new one in 1985 and drove it for my sales job. Made getting up worthwhile, and I already knew the twisty roads in my territory.

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  10. George

    I drive an 83 GTI every day. It’s relatively unmolested, but both front and rear seats have been replaced with non matching. The original 1.8 runs great and the close ratio 5 speed is a hoot. I replaced the 5th gear with an 070 and increased mileage to 35 HWY. Have fun with your project the car is worth it

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  11. Jason

    I’ll be following!

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  12. Steve

    I’ll be following closely. I’m a wannabe approaching retirement. The dream is to overhaul and restore a P1800 so my ears went up when I read the discussion about the possible Volvo restoration. Don’t have a car yet but doing lots of reading and video watching. Last car I had was a ’49 Hudson Super Six over twenty years ago. Wish I’d kept it. Looking forward to this series! I’ve heard that the old GTI is a hoot!

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  13. paul

    These cars were always a lot of car for the $’s in terms of performance, tight build quality, quick & fun cars, great choice,good luck.
    Once you figure where your at with all the mechanicals you will be figuring out what to do with the body , the sunroof will be your first & from what I can see the most difficult deal to tackle. I suspect a salvage yard roof complete will be the way to go .Probably the least expensive would be a no sunroof roof & cut the old roof off & replace, of course tools ( mig welder) etc. & a good clear understanding of how to measure & cut the old out to get it ready to replace is critical. I bring this up now, so you can sort of figure where you are $’s wise, with your project.

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    • rancho bella

      I would fire the wire and weld the thing shut, problem solved. Oh’, I still work with lead so fire up the torch and get to wiping.

      I dig old Golf’s ……….they are fun to drive. Had one for years

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      • paul

        Roofs as well as any large surface can be tricky to weld as the metal can warp very easily, warped metal will “oil can” the gaps look large & overheating the metal to close these gaps will occure… lead is soft & will crack on this app.

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  14. Jeff

    You should have looked some more for a GTI to fix up.

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  15. David

    Don’t start it till you get home- remember last time?

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  16. Cory Cepelak

    Had a ’77 Rabbit with a Scirocco motor. Problematic car but fun. I’ll watch this with interest.

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  17. Mark E

    My boss back in the ’80s had one of these. To quote him, he drove it “like it was meant to be driven”. I rode with him once and that was enough – scared the crap out of me! I learned that they DO handle well when pushed hard by a knowledgeable person though! Good luck!

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  18. rjc

    Good find. I was also wondering how long it would take you to go get it.
    Take your time, there are always things to learn from each build.
    I’m sure there is a replacement rubber seal kit available for the sun roof.
    I always liked these, good luck Jesse .

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    • paul

      I could be jumping the gun here maybe just a seal but the bulge on the front of the roof panel I suspect could be more but it’s only a photo.

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  19. Doug M.Member

    Jesse, We are all happy for you…and part of what I like on this site is the practical approach. You are taking something on that we all might consider doing (most of us anyway?). Forget pebble beach and really spendy classics. There is so much fun to be had with cheaper and more common “rare” stuff.
    @Jim-Bob, thanks for repeating the “basics.” I just acquired a 63 Ford Fairlane “desert-find” with one of those insanely simple six cylinder motors. I was just getting ready to do the test start, but did not know the info about building oil pressure to avoid dry starts…Thanks!

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  20. Dave

    I’ll be watching this build. I too have an 84 GTI and a 87 Golf. Love these cars.

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  21. jim s

    would love to see photos of under the hood with close ups of the shock towers. this is going to be a fun project, first of many i hope. please keep us updated on the costs to get car back running again. as far as classic, i think some states will issue tags when 15 years old and most states will issue antique tags when 25 years old. i am good with that timeline. it will be interesting to watch miata prices as in about 15 months the first year cars will able to have antique tags. and every year after that more of the miatas will turn 25.

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  22. Brian

    Good for you! I remember these in my high school parking lot (ok mostly just rabbits) back in 1987-91

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  23. Ken

    When I read the title I read “BF” as something different the “Barn Finds” ! :) Either way, this will be a lot of work but with a big pay off!

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  24. Joe Howell

    That will be nifty little car when done. My wife and I have had all sorts of water cooled VWs over the past 32 years. Two favs were 84 diesel pickup (260k workhorse) and 87 16v Scirocco, what a sweet little rocket of a car. The Rabbit pickup rusted to death :( and the Scirocco went for lack of garage space back in 2004. Young guy who bought it online flipped out when he flew in to pick it up, after 132,000 miles it looked as nice as the day I bought 17 years before. Current VW is wife’s 88 Cabriolet and I find myself throwing it around the corners with great gusto:) Just a joy to drive, so much fun for so little money. It’s garage mates are both Porsches, 1984 944 & 1989 944S2 and we usually let them sit and take the VW for grins. I predict you will gets lots of smiles and thumbs up when tooling around in that GTI:)

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  25. jean Lecointe

    The Golf GTI is a legend. I just want you to know that if you need help to find parts, France is closer to Germany than the US and if I can be of any help it will be with pleasure. Many GTI have been imported in France and finding parts in the Euro zone might be eazyier.
    It would be a return help for an american friend who helped me a lot finding and sending parts for a 1949 Plymouth which is on the road today

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  26. Jeff

    If you need parts for that, let me know. I have buckets of parts that came off a wrecked 83 GTI.

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    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      Thanks Jeff! Sourcing the GTI specific parts is actually my biggest concern here. You wouldn’t happen to have a pair of front seats would you? I will email you a list of what I need after doing a better assessment this week.

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  27. jim s
    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      MKI GTIs don’t show up on eBay very often so we will have to watch this one. Thanks Jim.

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  28. Datsoon

    You will have fun when it is done. Can I offer a suggestion…open the hatch pull back the carpet and side molding. Just forward and left of the left tail light assembly reach down inside the outer fender from inside the car and look for rust or wet sand. I had an 83 with no rust at all and found this hidden wet sand just starting to affect the metal. Often missed area.

    There are a few places around that modify/make a six speed for the 83/84 GTI’s, but that might take away from the mission to restore. They are good cars I had mine for 17 years and only replaced one drive shaft. Original clutch, lots of oil changes, hoses, and many many rotors and caps. They burned out quickly. Lots of brake pads (I think it was the driver!) and tires. Tight mountain corners are what they were built for. The original seats with original foam are some of the best seats made in that time.

    What happened to my wonderful WHITE RABBIT. I was sitting at a stop sign one snowy day and along comes a driver with no snow tires going too fast trying to take the corner. It hit my drivers door and bounced the Rabbit off the curb breaking the axle/bearings/suspension. With the door and sill on one side and the suspension on the other the insurance company just wrote it off. I was able to show all of the bills and maintenance records which increased my “check is in the mail” substantially. I still miss that Rabbit though.

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    • Horse Radish

      Do You know that:
      even when totaled, most insurance companies let you buy back the salvaged car ?
      Sounds like this was fixable with a little of your own time and effort.

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  29. Datsoon

    One more GTI tidbit. I brought the Rabbit into several dealers and two big name tire shops. In the cold weather the tires would loose a few pounds of air each week. It was important to check them often. No one at the dealer really knew what was happening. I did change the tires to a completely different brand. The big name tire shop said that they have had several “snowflake” style rims leak in the cold weather. They put some kind of compound around the edges to seal them up which helped somewhat. I finally put inner tubes inside and had them carefully balanced. They weren’t too happy doing it but I never had another problem.

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  30. rusty

    David said “Don’t start it till you get home- remember last time?”

    that made me laugh.. I remember reading that thread with horror…I think this car will be an interesting rejuvination project…rejuvinate and enjoy.

    ps: had to add a reply now just to keep me notified of this interesting thread. [somehow I thought I posted on here yesterday but I didnt receive any notifications so I checked the thread today. perhaps its because I have found my email details disapear even though the thread is open..maybe i typed it and had no details up???

    anyway to put my little joke in I tried yesterday just to keep me notified.

    Jesse said ”
    Even if 80′s hatchbacks don’t get your blood pumping, we think you will still enjoy following the process as we pull this Rabbit out of a field and put it back on the road!

    Rabbit eh! So it will no longer be a Hot Hatch but a Hot Hutch

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  31. Chris A.

    My first “fix it” car was a 1958 Borgward TS that had been sitting in a scrap yard for 8 years. “it ran when it came in” was the scrap dealer’s comment when Dad hauled it home. As it didn’t turn over, Dad pulled the plugs and poured in heated Liquid Wrench then just let it sit. He pulled off the valve cover and did the same to the valve stems, rockers and rocker shaft. After another week of putting liquid wrench in, he then drained the sump, cleaned it put it back on and was able to turn over the engine by hand. He filled the sump, and then pulled the distributor and turned over the oil pump with an electric drill and steel shaft that was machined to fit and drive the oil pump slot. my job was to slowly turn over the engine by hand. When oil started coming out the rocker shaft holes as the engine was turned over, we knew bearings were lubricated.

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    • Horse Radish

      you should add that to the next Borgward post……good info !

      Like 0
  32. Jesse JesseAuthor

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Barn Finds