At $8,000, Is This R32-Swapped 1987 VW Jetta A Total Coupe De Grâce?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

With four-doors’ and crossovers crazily co-opting the mantle of Coupe, it’s a relief to have a car like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Jetta around to legitimately own that birthright. Let’s see if this VR6-swapped two-door can also lay claim to the crown of being the king of good deals.

I’m ashamed to admit that amongst the dozens of cars I’ve owned in my life, not a single one has been Italian. Oh, I’ve driven plenty of Italian cars, everything from lowly Fiats and an actual Innocenti Mini all the way up to Ferraris, Maseratis, and De Tomasos. It’s not that I don’t dearly love Italian cars, it’s just that I haven’t yet gotten around to actually calling one my own.


That likely would have all changed if yesterday’s 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce had been within spitting distance of me. At $3,500, I could probably swing it, I do have one of those fancy new Apple Cards after all. I also didn’t think that any of the work it needed was beyond my skill level.

Most of you agreed that it would have been a reasonably good idea, showering the car with praise in the comments and awarding it a solid 70 percent Nice Price win. Sadly, distance denied me the opportunity, dooming that requited relationship once and for all. I for one, have sadly moved on.

Now, I want to start out today’s discussion by first apologizing for featuring two VW’s this week. I do try to mix up makes, models and nations of origin here as best I can, but sometimes a cool car comes along and throws me a monkey with a wrench flying into the ointment.


This 1987 VW Jetta is that cool car and you’ll notice one major cool feature of it right off the bat—it’s only got two doors. The two-door Jetta was totally a thing through the model’s first and second generations. After that it was all four-doors or GTFO. It’s been so long since VW offered a Jetta without backdoors that now they look interesting and a little odd.


Another cool feature of almost the entire Volkswagen line is the interchangeability of parts between cars. You can grab a lot of parts off of a car from one particular generation and bolt it right into a different model from another without much trouble. They’re like Legos with wheels.

This MKII Jetta is a prime example of that facility, as it rocks a VR6 engine late of a much newer R32 Golf. Now, it’s apparently just the R32 mill and gearbox here, not the additional RWD parts, so don’t get too excited.


Still, the top power output in the U.S. MKII Jetta was a modest 134 horsepower from a 2-litre four. This 3.2-litre narrow-angle six offered up 237 horses and 236 lb-ft of torque when in its original digs. Matched to that is a six-speed stick with notchy action but well chosen ratios.


That’s a pretty good boost for this old Jetta and the engine install looks to be pretty well executed. There’s apparently no A/C but it does alook like the heater’s hooked up. The battery has been relocated so the bay appears roomy even with the big six in residence.

The ad says that the drivetrain has 4,000 miles under its belt but doesn’t give the total mileage for the car itself. The bodywork doesn’t give any indication either as it looks to be clean and without issue. The forward side-markers have been removed and filled in and the car rolls on factory steelies as offered. A set of BBS alloys could be added to the purchase if you’re into such things.


The interior has been completely redone and… well, let’s just say it’s unique. It features a set of Recaro front seats which is a plus, but the toast and grey color scheme, and choice of upholstery material may not be to everyone’s taste. At least it’s clean and seemingly all there. A later head unit and wood-rimmed steering wheel are additional updates.


The suspension seemingly hasn’t been left out of the update equation here either, however details are not forthcoming in the ad. The car does ride at a lower than stock level but is otherwise laudably anonymous in its presentation. There’s no gaudy paint nor wheels here, nor anything to let on what demons live under the hood. That’s the way I like it—let the exhaust note do the talking. Those of you familiar with the VW VR6’s melodious exhaust note will know its intoxicating joys.


Wrap that in this classic Jetta’s body and maybe there’s now a Swiss Army Knife’s capabilities in this German car. This could after all both draw a crowd at the local Cars and Caffeine meet, and do daily driver duty as well.


What might that versatility cost? Well, the asking is $8,000 and yes, that’s a lot of Benjamins for an old Jetta. The thing of it is, this isn’t just an old Jetta: it’s an old Jetta with a not-so-old hot mill. Could that all add up to the seller’s $8,000 asking? Or, is this custom Jetta’s price, like its interior, something that only that seller could love?

You decide!


Fairfield, NY Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Richard G for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.