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Our Project GTI Has Gotta Go!

GTI Project

Update 2/4/14 – Our project GTI has less than 24 hours to go and it looks like it is set to sell. We finished putting a few interior pieces back in, fixed some squeaks and took it out for what might be our last drive. We also added some photos of the underside to the gallery, so be sure to check those out!

After hours of hard work, lots of buffing, and considerable tinkering, our project 1984 VW Rabbit GTI has got to go. It still needs a lot of work, but considering what it was like when we found it, we are proud of how far along it’s come along. It had been left for dead in a field after a catastrophic CV joint failure, but as of today it not only runs and drives but even cruises nicely on the highway. We have achieved our goal getting it back on the road, so the time has come to let another enthusiast take over. Find it here on eBay with bidding starting at $200!

GTI engine bay 2

Although the engine is running well now, we would have liked to have replaced all those vacuum lines and tested all the regulators and sensors. Fuel injection is a little over our heads though, so we will let the next owner have the privilege of that bonding experience. It does start every time and has enough pep to drive in traffic. We think it is developing an exhaust manifold leak, but it does run well enough to use while the next owner makes improvements.

VW GTI overhead

The badly oxidized paint buffed up nicely, but it still has a lot of problem areas. We cleaned it up the best we could without sanding or painting anything. The previous owner glued the sunroof shut and we left that alone because it is going to need a new gasket and some adjusting before it can be water tight again. There is a little rust on the passenger side rear fender and the rear valance, but other then that we couldn’t find any serious corrosion. It should make a solid starting point for a rolling restoration.

VW interior 1

The interior of our little GTI may be the area that still needs the most attention. The headliner is shot and the front seats are not correct. The rear one is in good condition though. We put the dash back together the best we could, but some of the trim is cracked or missing. The sun was not kind to the plastic bits in here so a lot of pieces are brittle. You will want to find a donor for the interior or you could start watching eBay as the GTI specific parts do show on occasion. You will also want to find some new quarter vent windows and side mirrors while you are at it. We will include a box of all the parts that came with the car and everything that we have acquired as well.

1984 VW GTI corner

Don’t be deceived by Josh’s great photos, this poor Rabbit is rough. It is fun to buzz around in though and with a little more work could make a great little daily driver. These cars are becoming more sought after with each passing year, and dare we say it, the GTI could even be considered a modern classic. It may look pedestrian today, but it was a revelation when released. The GTI created the hot hatch segment by combining practicality with driving fun. Car and Driver Magazine even crowned it king of their 10Best back in 1984!

To find out what we did and how much we spent to bring this GTI back to life, visit the posts below:

And finally, here are more photos. Please leave any questions in the comments below.


  1. Charlie

    Now I don’t feel so bad about not knowing that much about EFI. I’ve got a ’96 LHS sitting in front of my garage these past four years that I’ve tinkered with, but to no avail.

    • Josh Staff

      I’ve worked on a number of fuel injection systems, from a 2nd gen RX-7 to an Audi A4, and I have to say the mechanical fuel injection on this GTI has to be one of the most challenging fuel systems I’ve ever dealt with. The next project we get is going to be carbureted, at this point I’d even be alright with a multi-carb configuration. As much as I’ve come to dislike K-Jetronic injection, I have to say this car has been a blast to work on and even more fun to drive!

      • Robert J

        Amen to all of that Josh. They are finicky, but they can be a lot of fun. I finally caved and took my fiancees’ MK1 VW Cabriolet to “Karmachanics” in Berkeley to have them address the ongoing fuel system woes. This was after I replaced several lines, the primary fuel pump, the fuel manifold, gaskets etc… They fixed it and it runs like a champ now. The bad news? It cost over TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! to get it running right. Good thing we got that car for free.

      • Josh Staff

        I’m sure if I were more daring, I could get it running perfectly again, but I figure if it works I’d rather not risk breaking something. Other than idling high and hesitation during warm up, once it’s going it actual runs good. It’s probably the funnest little beater I’ve ever driven around, and I’ve had some fun beaters. I’ve definitely gotten a lot of looks when I drive it around town, whether that’s a good thing, I don’t know.

    • Jim-Bob

      I am actually very comfortable with EFI systems (especially OBD II), but there are some systems that are better than others. Typically, Japanese cars have the best systems and American cars the worst (and Chrysler is the worst of the American brands!) . Even still, the same basic theories apply to EFI that apply to a carb, they just have different ways of going about it.

      For example, I am going to be resurrecting a 1995 Ford Probe GT that has been sitting in a garage for 2 years in the coming months. It belongs to a friend of mine who brought it to a “mechanic” to repair an odd problem where it seemed to be running out of fuel and backfiring through the intake. The “mechanic” fixed it by duct taping the air inlet duct rather than fixing the underlying issue. On a car with mass air fuel injection this causes the engine to have huge problems as soon as the duct tape unravels in a few days. Why? Well, the tape was after the MAF, so the engine is now ingesting a huge amount of air the ECU doesn’t know is there and thus cannot compensate for, causing a lean out condition. The solution? A new duct AND probably a new motor mount since that is the likely reason the duct got torn in the first place.

      I also successfully diagnosed blown coil packs in a Pontiac Grand Am just by knowing the car’s history. I figured it had never had a plug change, and knowing GM vehicles, I knew it blew a coil pack. I took out the coil packs, tested them with a $2.99 Harbor Freight DVOM, found the failed one and fixed the problem for very little cash. I even won a bet with someone that I couldn’t fix a S-10 because the guy was a Honda kid and “knew what he was doing”. I diagnosed that one in about 10 minutes- bad coil pack and module. All I needed was a timing light and my eyes. GM and Chrysler used very poor quality components in the 90’s-2000’s and have problems you will almost never see in a Japanese car. However, it makes them predictable because the same things fail all the time.

      Now as far as these older mechanical and electro-mechanical European systems go, I have to admit ignorance. I have never had occasion to deal with one as the only vehicle I have ever worked on with such a system was a mechanical indirect injection diesel Mercedes (W126 with OM-617). The injection had no issues for me to fiddle with, so (unfortunately) I was unable to tinker with it. I imagine that I would need a set of factory service manuals to even begin to figure it out as that is how I learned Japanese EFI systems so well. I would imagine there is a set of basics and fundamentals you need to start from first to get a solid baseline to tune from. Hmm… This makes me want to find one of these things to tinker with…

  2. Chris

    I live in San Diego and have to go to Salt Lake City on business and was thinking it would be fun to fly in, take it to SLC while I am there on business and then drive it home…

    Am I crazy?

    Keep up the good work! Love getting all your email!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I have done more foolish things. Maybe not crazy, but brave, yes.

      • Chris

        Well bidding was fun but there are obviously people out there with bigger allowances from their better halves. Oh well still got two barn finds in the garage that need completing anyhow. Best of luck with the move and the sale!

  3. jim s

    the winning bidder is going to have a fun car. i hope they make a daily driver out of it. but at the current bid it might become a race car for one of the $500 racing events. this will be a fun auction to watch.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Looks like it just left LeMons territory Jim.

      • jim s

        yes it has, which is good news, i think

  4. rusty

    “We drug it home with the intention of getting it back on the road”

    boy is that some kind of date drug or something? What you’d do to get a GTi home with you. hee hee

  5. rusty

    Just kidding…Going to be curious of the comments on here after every other seller gets drawn through the coals on all these type of blogs hee hee [but admitedly less on this blog.]

    This should be interesting to watch…will being a Barn Finds car increase its awareness and produce a startling result..I think it will…the audience is already there…a pet price for a pet car…perhaps…what would be an expected price of one of these if no media attention.

    The buyer should be made aware we want them to keep us updated on its resto progress after the sale. hee hee

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      It will be interesting to see where bidding goes. The GTI does have quite a following so you never know. Ours is a beater though so we don’t anticipate anything too astonishing. We would be happy to just get part of our money back so we can start on another project after the move.

      I agree that the next owner had better keep us in the loop!

      • Horse Radish

        Jesse, in case you overlooked:
        there is and probably a couple of other (Rabbit etc)forums out there. Drop them a line or a post and you’ll get a little more interest going. (You don’t mind a little more money ?)

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks HR, I posted it to thesamba. We are happy with bidding where it stands now ($1,200) because it will our expenses (minus our time and supplies). Let’s just hope the high bidder doesn’t flake out on us because that money is going to be used to fund our next project!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Here are two other GTIs that recently sold on eBay for comparison:

      • rusty

        Thanks for those links..being located in another country I am not privvy to your prices of cars…

        Whatever the outcome you certainly started at a cheap price so It cant be said that you are flipping this car …infact chances are you could loose money..but i have a feeling you might do OK…if it can fund some of your move or a new project I wish you high bids.

        And I wish the new owner a lifetime membership to Barn Finds with their official Barn Finds souvenir T Shirt. I mean souvenir Car. …

        how many can say they have a Barn Finds souvenir Car…

        see I just increased your bids with that one simple statement…why isnt it in your advert…

  6. siggy

    I bought an 84 Rabbit GTI in Laramie, Wyoming while going to Wyotech in 2007. I paid $1000 for a one owner VW GTI with 120k miles on it. I drove it to Phoenix, AZ 3 times from Wyoming on $90 in gas (one way). It was my second car. Unfortunately when I relocated to Phoenix it had engine trouble. Stalled when it got hot. I never found out what was the issue and sold it for $1000. Great little car that got as many thumbs up as my 67′ VW Bus gets.

  7. Haig Haleblian

    I bought a GTI new in 1983. My favorite, favorite, favorite, daily driver until 2003 when my daily driver became a 03 Cooper S. I want both in my garage before I go out feet first. I’d go for this one, but I don’t think it would make it to Chicago
    hassle free. But, I’m still thinkin.

  8. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    An eBay user just sent us a message to let me know that those seats are from a MK1 Scirocco. They figured someone could easily sell them to help fund some replacements. Thanks sharon4001!

  9. Mark E

    It’s good my wife can’t see this post: In the unlikely event you can’t make your expenses back, I’ll buy it for what you have in it & drive it home! (This would be a GREAT present for my bro-in-law who’s a VW collector!)

  10. Mark E

    Ooops, had not checked the auction lately – you’re headed into the black, if my finance degree is correct…

  11. Dave Wrigt

    Welcome to Idaho……….let’s do dinner at the Basque district some evening…….or come out to the ranch.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks Dave, I have never eaten down there so it sounds like a plan!

  12. jim s

    the car has a lot of interest/bids. so what is going to be the next project car/truck?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Something older with carburetors…

      • jim s

        carburetors would be good. i would like it to have a dual master cylinder for the brakes and manual transmission. thanks

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Yep, has to have a manual. Maybe we should ask everyone what car they would like to see us work on. Of course, it will come down to what we can find and budget, but it will be fun.

      • jim s

        yes it would be interesting to know what people want the next project to be. i want it NOT to be a midget/sprite. thanks

      • Connor

        If you could find a divco milk truck that would be an interesting project to follow.

  13. Jim-Bob

    We should do some predictions to see who comes closest to the sale price of the GTI. I’ll go first and predict $3200.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I predict that it will go for half of that, $1,600? I have seen worse GTIs sell for more on eBay recently and better ones for less, so you never know…

      • jim s

        you were close. i wonder if the new owner is someone on this site!

  14. Bill


    • Chris

      I’m predicting about 2,000. I might have to bid again if it looks like it is going for less than that.

  15. jim s


  16. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Sold for $1,525!

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