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Nice And No Reserve: 1986 Volkswagen Golf

We normally only get excited about VW Golfs when they have GTI badges on them. This plain-jane five-door caught our attention though for the simple fact that most of these have been driven into the ground. This particular example has covered 90k miles and looks to be in excellent condition. It’s located in Channahon, Illinois and is listed here on eBay with no reserve!

Under all those hoses, there’s a 1.6-liter four-banger. It isn’t anything to get too excited about, but if it’s been properly maintained and the mileage claim is true, you should be able to get another decade or two of use out of it. I would be sure to ask when the timing belt was last done and if it needs CV joints or shocks. We can’t be too picky since this is a no reserve auction, but you need to know what to budget for.

The interior looks excellent and that’s a very important thing. Besides rust, the interior can be the hardest thing to put right on a car like this. You can get all the mechanical bits, but good interior trim can be very hard to find. It sounds like the speedo might need some work, but luckily it has functioning AC! Air conditioning may not seem that important right now, but it will be in a few months.

You could get a 3-speed automatic in your Golf, but the 5-speed manual is the way to go. Being able to shift through the gears yourself will help you squeeze every last horsepower out of that little engine. Without it, this car would feel slow, but with it, you might actually have some fun. The people who are considering this are probably more interested in things like utility, fuel economy, and price though.

If this were my commuter though, I’d be tempted to perform some upgrades on the suspension. It probably needs new shocks anyway so why not? Some Bilsteins, GTI springs, and sway bars could really turn this turtle into a rabbit! It wouldn’t be a hot rod, but you could have some fun in the corners while still satisfying your sensible side. Kind of makes you want it more, doesn’t it?


  1. KeeterVermont

    Nice one. This is the car my mother had when I turned 16. Got my license on this thing. I was under the impression that it was a 1.8l.

    Like 0
    • connbackroads

      It is a 1.8l engine.

      The diesel was 1.6l.

      Like 3
  2. Ralph

    That material on the seats is making me itch just from looking at it…….

    Like 0
    • Cary A Gay

      Good idea, name the base model Golf, upgrade the suspension and call it the Rabbit, and upgrade engine and suspension then call it the GTI! Add all wheel drive and it will be the R.

      Like 0
  3. Ed Bolton

    I had almost the exact same car bought new after having owned an older used Rabbit purchased for $1500 that I totally loved. The Golf was a good car, but I never liked it as much as the Rabbit. The transmission ground to a halt in mine at ~150,000 or so. We kept it in the driveway for a year or so as we argued about whether to fix it. By the time repair was greenlighted, the radiator had rusted out at the waterline and wildlife had infiltrated the car. It ended up getting towed to the boneyard. A sad end for a good VW.

    Like 1

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