David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/20/16 11:40 a.m.

To fully realize the impact the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI made on our scene, we need to take a ride in the wayback machine. The early ’80s were desolate times. The once-mighty Mustang GT made only around 150 horsepower. The Corvette could barely muster 200. Many of us wore mullets.

A few bright spots existed, including the Rabbit GTI. While available …

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kanaric Dork
12/20/16 12:12 p.m.

Speaking of shopping for them these days if you really wanted a clean GTI and don't care paying a bit extra you could probably find a clean first gen overseas and import it as well. Though if I did that and wanted an 80s hot hatch it would be hard to not look at a Peugeot 205 GTI as well...... then you have the Familia (323) GTR and Pulsar GTIR....

The Euro GTI would be worth the extra price.

84FSP Dork
12/20/16 8:44 p.m.

Loving the GTI archives. Running around town eating mustangs as a passenger in my older brothers GTI was great fun.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/20/16 8:49 p.m.

of all the people, my Grandmother owned one. In 1983, I was 13 and I remember her ripping through the gears all the way from my parents house to hers a good 20 miles away. This was a women who had owned big block caddies and V8 novas, she LOVED power and speed. Obviously she learned to enjoy handling too.

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/21/16 10:05 a.m.

Is the accompanying photo from the archives, or is that a current photo? It certainly looks new.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/21/16 10:30 a.m.
pinchvalve wrote: Is the accompanying photo from the archives, or is that a current photo? It certainly looks new.

It's a recent photo. The tires give it away.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/21/16 12:33 p.m.

Ironically the Featured Readers' Ride just showed my old GTI.

It was a good car. We did a full project car series on it. This was back when GTIs were pretty much disposable.

JohnnyBquick Reader
7/5/18 2:43 p.m.

In the later part of the 80's I was looking to buy one, but also test drove the Dodge Omni GLH.

The GLH was so much quicker. Ended up with a GLH and then a GLHS.

USGUYS New Reader
7/5/18 6:49 p.m.

My favorite SCCA Showroom Stock race car. Bought it used in 1985 and drove it everyday to work and raced it in both autocross and club races.  

I put about 27000 miles on the clock including nearly 3000 racing miles.  Other than tires, the only parts I replaced were the front struts, a water pump, and front brake pads every race weekend.  

Many wins and 2 track records. Ran the 1986 Runoffs at Road Atlanta.  Started 10, battled for 3rd, got spun, and finished 10.  
Sold the car when was no longer eligible for SCCA Nationals.

It is with fondness I look at the picture of the car at the Runoffs that hangs in the race shop. It is and was my favorite race car.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
7/5/18 7:27 p.m.

I always ask. Besides a Miata: What’s  today’s $1500 (or $3500) disposable GTI that has a bucket load of reasonable performance parts I can buy?

thale None
7/5/18 8:32 p.m.

I own 4 1983 Rabbit GTI cars. One completely gone through the others are rough. I live in Northern Maine.  The Rabbit served me well. I tried autocrossing it a couple years ago and it and its driver were slow compared to modern cars. I had rock hard tires and little experience. I hope to sell all of them in one fell swoop. Moving on to other things


cchristo GRM+ Member
7/6/18 10:15 p.m.

I have many fond memories of driving my black 1983 GTI. And one horrible memory when it was stolen shortly after I moved to Manhattan in 1985. It lasted about 2 weeks on the city streets. After that I only drove crappy cars, until I moved out in 1997 and bought a Miata. I still have that Miata.

sfisher71 New Reader
7/10/18 3:02 p.m.

Flashback... in 1988, I threw myself somewhat seriously into autox in the San Francisco Bay Area, driving my trusty steed, the Biscuit Tin of Steel, a silver '84 GTI. Budget dictated stock class, so while I read all about the upper and lower stress bars, they were forbidden in my class.

After the ubiquitous shoe-polish test showed lots of rollover at the front even WITH higher tire pressures, a friend with an '83 GTI showed me the neat trick of adjusting front camber. You needed two tire-changing wrenches, and we had two GTIs, so we went at it. 

The procedure involved loosening a lock nut and then levering the eccentric adjuster. Since we were in the paddock at an autocross at the time, we didn't have a camber gauge, or even a level, so we eyeballed it, adjusting the eccentric (and no, that's not a euphemism for the nut behind the wheel) till the top of the brake disc looked as far inboard as it was going to go.

I ended up taking second in E Stock for the season, and always considered that a trophy for Not Giving Up rather than for any actual talent.

I drove the Biscuit Tin of Steel with that front suspension setting for about a year, and saw flat wear across the A008s (remember those, kids?). Then I got a different daily driver, my wife started using the GTI for kids and shopping, and corded the insides of the tires within six months.

When we replaced the rubber, I had the tire shop do a stock front camber setting. The driver's side had maximum negative camber, on the freaking money. The passenger's side was a hair more positive. That was clearly when I still had good eyesight.

Every so often I get the atavistic urge to get another GTI and do it up the way I always wanted to do, now that the rulebook isn't the boss of me. Had we but world enough and time, as the poet says. And money, as his accountant always responds.

10/19/23 4:36 p.m.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/19/23 4:56 p.m.

In reply to MarcusT :

Don’t try this at home, kids!

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
10/19/23 9:38 p.m.

Bought my new 84 GTi after driving an 83 that belonged to Andy Pilgrim - yep, that Andy Pilgrim multi year GM factory driver for the Corvette and Cadillac race teams and member of the Corvette Hall of Fame, the GTi was his first US race car.  Andy started by autocrossing in the El Paso and New Mexico area, moved to Renault Cup, then to Pontiacs in IMSA, then to the Crovette abd Caddy teams, with an overall win in the Daytona 24 Hours along the way.  Gtis were outstanding cars for the day, loved mine dearly.

myusdmcavalier New Reader
10/20/23 8:28 a.m.

My dad drove a mk1 caddy diesel when he worked at a car lot, they're pretty similar in the chassis. It was the slowest thing he had ever driven according to him. I hope the gti's were faster.

rustomatic HalfDork
10/20/23 5:43 p.m.

My high school karate instructor had a black MK1 GTI with red velour interior; it was kind of the pinnacle if you had to have a 2wd vehicle.  I would eventually have two MKIIs and a MKV.  They just did everthing so well from the first day . . .

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/20/23 6:51 p.m.
myusdmcavalier said:

My dad drove a mk1 caddy diesel when he worked at a car lot, they're pretty similar in the chassis. It was the slowest thing he had ever driven according to him. I hope the gti's were faster.

90hp ain't much but the cars weighed a bit under 2000lb and the GTIs were geared for fun.

preach GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/21/23 9:12 a.m.

I'd almost kill for a mk1 GTI.

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