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  • Frank Oles

1984 VW GTI


Oh, the adventures I had in this car. Broke the transmission driving my friends to see Pulp Fiction at top speed - WE WERE LATE! Turns out there was a weakness in these 5 speed transmissions that finally gave up. Not too expensive to fix.


I purchased this car for $700 locally in Chicago. Woman who owned it was going through a divorce, and her ex put sugar in the gas tank. She took the car to the dealer who DID NOT drain the tank - only changed the fuel filter. The car ran for a week, quit, and she sold it to us, non-op. We got it home, drained the gas tank and saw that it was full of sugar - heaping handfulls of the stuff! There must have been a half pound bag in there. Car ran like a top ever since. Odometer never worked either.


THE GOOD: This 1.8 engine liked to rev and felt unburstable. Seats were factory Recaro clones and were comfy on long trips and offered good side support. Black / red color combo was tres chic! Velour fabric!


THE BAD: No air conditioning. A habit of eating motor mounts. A theft magnet (a CD changer was stolen from dash - thief used a screwdriver to pry under door handle). Massive torque steer from unequal length driveshafts. And ultimately, it felt like a tin can on roads that were becoming increasingly populated by SUVs.


I would have kept it, except our efforts at repainting the hood and driver's door (the car had chips, and a poor repair on the driver's side) did not turn out great. Also, I was fixing it every weekend - new radiator, engine mounts, brakes, drive shafts, electric gubbins, you name it. One winter, I had to replace the fuel pump twice because Pep Boys could not source the correct one. Gas is ICE COLD on the hands in the dead of winter on the frozen ground on your back. I was done!


I did test drive another years later, and found it to be slower and less involving that I remembered. Best left to rose-tinted memories.

Here it is as I purchased it. I did not car for the amber turn signals. Later, I applied some window tint which minimized their appearance. Euro look with round headlights was much cleaner.

The view from the rear, missing reverse light plastics. Also visible is my grandmother’s Mercedes 450 SL, also in a black / red color scheme.

Acres and acres of red velour. Comfy seats. And the smell of a Drakkar Noir air freshener mixed with anti-freeze from the time the heater core broke. Ah, the memories...

The 1.8. This engine ran strong. Never had the engine internals apart, or even a head job. Never smoked. God knows how many miles!

Snowflake Alloy Wheels! These were hard to clean but looked great. They also loved to bend. One particularly cold winter I hit a pothole and dented one on the highway, causing a flat. Could not get the rim off the hub - frozen! Had to limp to the nearest exit, ruining the rim. New ones only cost $125 each.

The MK1 GTI is an icon. It’s everything a hot hatch ever needed to be. They handle great. Except for that time it was icy out and it understeered right into a curb bending back the A-arm. The memories...