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Rusty Rabbit: 1984 VW Rabbit GTI

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 1

VW had a hit on its hands with the original GTI and even though this one isn’t in great shape, rust-wise, it’s probably worth bringing back to life. This 1984 VW Rabbit GTI is listed here on craigslist in Fairport, New York, southeast of Rochester. It’s a little rusty but for an asking price of $400 there should be enough meat left on the bone of this bunny to make this a good buy.

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 2

We all know that the Rochester, NY area gets snow; a lot of snow. And, with that comes road salt. After three decades it has taken a toll on this black GTI, but it doesn’t look like this car has been crashed up and beaten, other than by old man winter. After 125,000 miles you’d have to expect to have a bit of welding to do on a car from that area and this one is no different. The seller says that the “car feels solid, but the floor plans are rusted through.”

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 7

Boom, there it is. It’s a good thing that there are a ton of replacement parts available for these cars. In checking on the NADA value of the 1984 GTI, it’s listed as being worth somewhere between $2,225 and $3,500. They must be the same folks who have been messing with my IRA over the last few months. It seems like I remember seeing GTIs selling for two or three times that much and there’s one listed on eBay right now for $14,500. I know, a seller can ask a ridiculous price for something and that doesn’t make it worth that much, but wouldn’t a perfect GTI be worth more than $3,500 in today’s crazy marketplace?

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 5

Speaking of replacement parts, this car doesn’t have the original seats and it doesn’t even have a backseat. But, other than that it looks decent in there. It’s hard to beat a red interior on a black car, or on any color car for me.

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 6

Supposedly, there has been a new clutch installed and the engine “runs strong”, according to the seller.

030916 Barn Finds - 1984 VW GTI 3

If you want the BBS wheels it’ll double the asking price, it comes with black steelies and studded snow tires, just the thing for those NE winters once you get it back on the road again. These sure are fun cars when they’re sorted and working great. Is this Rabbit worth the work or would you hop over it for a nicer and more expensive one?


  1. Avatar photo redwagon


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  2. Avatar photo Mike H

    Mentioned here is the NADA pricing for this car. I’ve never been sure as to where NADA, KBB, or Edmund’s get their numbers, but at any given time a vehicle is “worth” what the market will bear.

    Last spring I went to sell my 1998 Civic EX Coupe. 224k miles, and it was meticulously maintained. New exhaust from the head to the rear bumper, including the catalytic converter. New tires and brakes, the interior was clean and functional, everything worked (including the A/C), and the car was riddled with door dings and small dents, but no rust. “Blue Book” values claimed this car at $1600-$1800, depending upon your interpretation. At the time I sold it there were (11) sixth generation Civics available in my area on The Craigslist, with prices anywhere from $2400 for a total basket case to $4400 for a near pristine sub-100k example.

    I listed mine for $2850 and sold it to the first person to look at it for the full asking price. My phone went wild for (24) hours after my CL ad went live; I had people wanting to see it in the middle of the night. My point here is that “Blue Book” values are speculative. . . Desire and availability are what drives price. Is the original GTI desirable? There is a market for them. Are they rare or hard to find? A little, but not impossible. Can the owner of one in pristine condition hope to get $14k for his?

    Absolutely. Is this rust bucket worth $400? Not to me, but there’s likely someone who’s trying to decide whether it’s feasible.

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    • Avatar photo The Walrus

      KBB ad NADA are not appropriate for collector car values. They are dealer guides and dealers rarely deal in vehicles more than 20 years old. The guides use real transactions sent in from the dealers to set the values. Because of this, once a car hits about 15 years old, you won’t see the prices in the guide change. Most dealers that deal in old cars don’t report to them. If you figure that in say, 1999 there were probably a couple thousand transactions involving ratted out GTI’s for less than $1k, but then in 2014 you have a handful at say, $8K, those few cannot possibly bring the average value up for the guide.

      The NADA Classic guide is a bit better, but actually suffers from the opposite effect, as it only uses dealer numbers, which are inflated from real world transaction price.

      IMO, the best, most stable and reliable guide is Old Cars Price Guide. It sets pricing based on auction results from every published sale. This is the market where most old cars, or at least those that aren’t ratted out, are sold. Because it is continually updated, the prices move, but because of the age of their database, you don’t see wild swings in valuation as you might on sites like Haggarty, which use little real world data and instead rely on ‘expert appraisals’.

      While expert appraisals are good for insurance purposes, they are often inflated, as replacement cost and ‘value’ are not the same thing. Replacement cost typically involves the search, commission and transportation costs associated with finding a replacement. So, if you are trying to conduct a private sale, that inflated value sets an unrealistic precedent.

      Back to this GTI. OCPG is published Quarerly. Each issue does not include all makes and models, however over the course of the year they provide a dossier of values ranging from 1896-1991 of both foreign and domestic models. Basically, if it was sold as a new model in the United States, you’ll find it in one of the guides throughout the year. The values I am listing below are from the guide issued in June of 2014 (the last time imports this new were listed). They use a 6 tiered system, where a #1 is a nearly perfect car and a #6 is a parts car/basket case. Super nice unrestored cars and over restored newer cars often bring 50% more than the top value when the markets are going up (as you can see, even in this nearly 2 year old guide they were $6K)

      1984 Rabbit
      2d Conv 6: 300 5: 950 4: 1,550 3: 3,510 2: 5,450 1: 7,800
      2d L HBk 6: 200 5: 600 4: 1,000 3: 2,250 2: 3,500 1: 5,000
      4d L HBk 6: 200 5: 600 4: 1,000 3: 2,300 2: 3,550 1: 5,100
      GL 4d HBk 6: 200 5: 650 4: 1,100 3: 2,480 2: 3,850 1: 5,500
      GTI 2d HBk 6: 250 5: 700 4: 1,200 3: 2,700 2: 4,200 1: 6,000

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      • Avatar photo Mike H

        I agree with this in concept, but in practice it falls on its face. Lately, we’ve all seen vintage J-Tin which should have pricing (values) in the low four-figures. Instead, we’re seeing seventies vintage Celica’s selling for $20k+. Just yesterday Autoweek listed a 1967 Toyota 2000GT as one of the top nine cars to watch at this weekend’s RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction. Estimated to sell close to $1M, nobody EVER would have thought that J-Tin would ever bring these values.

        Same goes with any GTI, E30 BMW, round tail light 2002, (insert object of your affection here): it’s question of quality and availability at any given moment. It’s the reason why the air-cooled P-cars are suddenly worth twice what they were a few years ago: suddenly they’re madly in demand and there isn’t a copious supply, so the costs go up.

        For classics, I don’t subscribe to any pricing guide. . . I prefer to see what’s available on the market at the time anything is selling. If there’s only one for sale at any given time then it will try to command the greatest price possible. If there are many, even a prime example isn’t worth much; it’s ultimately all about the selection. GTI’s have a following similar to any of the Honda Si or the Nissan SE-R; there is a culture which wants them and will pay what they have to in order to have one. Fortunately for me, I had mine in the early 90’s when they were still reasonably common and could be had in nice shape for $1500.

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  3. Avatar photo Jim

    I’m surprised it still has any sheet metal left after so many years in Rochester. Maybe it was cared for the first 20+ years. The condition of the floors screams “I don’t give a crap”, you wonder if the oil was changed. I know it’s a beater but keep the water off your feet. These were good cars, a boss had a ’76(+) diesel version, he ran it 250k before giving it to a kid going to college in the nineties. One engine rebuild at about 185k cause the oil pressure was going low. Last I spoke to him the kid ran another 50k before an accident totaled it.

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