The Honda Civic Si. The Ford Fiesta ST. The MazdaSpeed 3. Every one of these cars owes its 15 minutes in the automotive limelight to the originator - the Mk. I Volksagen GTI. Fortunately for you historical thrill-seekers, you can now buy an all-original example of the GTI for the price of a used ATV. Three cheers for the free market!
This 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI was a quick little runaround in its time. Its 90 horsepower 4-cylinder engine got the ridiculously light hatchback from 0-60 miles per hour in a hair under 10 seconds, which for a car with 2-digit power output, was lightning quick. Its claim to fame was that it was just as reliable and practical as its grown up and slower brethren, with 10 times the driver excitement. It was truly a sports car for any budget.
This car is original and 30 years old. Having said that, it is in remarkable condition, with no accidents on its history report. Here's an excerpt from the description:
The interior and exterior are both in great condition. There is no damage to speak of on the body, just minor scuffs and scratches, and same could be said about the interior. A few small rips in the original interior that could be stitched or patched to keep it intact for years to come.
There are a couple repairs to small parts and interior trim pieces that I had planned to get to, but haven't had the time and will probably hand those off to the next owner. For instance the door handles work, but are finicky and need replacement. I purchased replacement handles, but haven't yet installed them. Also, one of the rear bumper guards needs to be replaced. I have two of those for back-up, but haven't installed them. Most importantly the passenger seat belt needs to be fixed because it isn't locking in - a very minor repair to make. But these will be handed off to the next owner of this great car.
Mechanically this car has been incredibly sound and reliable for me. I put about $2,000 into it when I got it. I told my mechanic to address whatever he thought it needed to survive a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and he did quite a bit of repairs and routine maintenance: belts, bearings, radiator, brakes, hoses, fuel pump, filters, etc... Then last year the same mechanic reported a leaky head gasket when I brought it into him, and he rebuilt the top end. So the engine is running like new. I should also mention people always comment on the sound of the original exhaust, which is trademark on these cars.
Not only is this one of the cleanest examples of the original hot hatch (barring a few things that would need minor repairs), it's every bit as delightful to drive as it was in 1984. It'll still return 30+ miles to the gallon and will have cheap to replace parts on its simple body and engine configuration. If anyone wants an iconic and likely appreciating classic for no money at all, or just an interesting and cheap running daily driver, look no further. It's a lot of car for the price.
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Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.