Although the Beetle eventually led to the Porsche 911, it’s the Golf that’s arguably more important to Volkswagen. Initially sold as the Rabbit in the US, the Golf has been used for everything from basic transportation to dual-engine Pikes Peak racer. Then there’s the Volkswagen GTI, which kick-started the hot hatch segment, creating rivals like the Renault Clio Williams and Peugeot 205 GTI. Like many other classic cars, Mk1 GTI prices have been on the rise. But does that mean the car’s really worth almost $40,000?
The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Callaway
To be fair, the 1983 Volkswagen GTI that recently sold on Bring a Trailer isn’t an ordinary Mk1 GTI.
When the US version debuted, it only made 90 hp from its 1.8-liter four-cylinder, Automobile Magazine reports. Though, to be fair, at the time the Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder also only made 90 hp. The GTI, though, weighed about 1000 pounds less, had bolstered seats, and better handling. But, although Volkswagen gave the US GTI a 100-hp engine in 1984, that still wasn’t enough for some.
The BaT Volkswagen GTI has a Callaway turbo kit bolted on. Although Callaway is best known for boosting Corvettes, Road & Track reports, the tuner did offer VW turbo kits. With the Callaway Stage 2 kit, the engine put out a claimed 200 hp. That’s only 28 hp less than a brand-new GTI develops from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Callaway added more than just the turbo, though. To prevent engine damage, the tuner installed an intercooler, oil cooler, wastegate, extra heat-shielding and ducting, and a custom exhaust. To help the GTI cope with the extra power, a front sway bar, and lower stress bar were also installed. And while the car retains its stock 5-speed manual, Callaway did give it an upgraded clutch.
The Callaway kit wasn’t exactly cheap. At the time, it cost roughly 50% of the Volkswagen Mk1 GTI’s sticker price. Converted to 2020 values, it was about $10,700 on top of a $22,800 car. In contrast, a new VW GTI starts at $28,595.
But was the winning $38,000 BaT bid worth it?
Is it worth the final price?
As we’ve discussed regarding the $300,000 Datsun 240Z, classic car values can be difficult to analyze logically. If someone has a really strong connection to a particular car, they might be willing to pay almost anything for it.
That being said, the Volkswagen GTI Callaway’s $38,000 price isn’t necessarily that far out of left-field. A good-condition 1983 model, Hagerty reports, can go for roughly $21,000. Add in the Callaway kit’s equivalent initial cost, and you’re not far from $38k. Hagerty also notes this particular GTI was in very good condition and came with extensive documentation.
In addition, unlike that 240Z, this Volkswagen GTI appears to have been driven fairly regularly. The previous owner purchased it in 2013 and made several YouTube videos about it. Regular driving and maintenance—including coolant flushes, engine work, and so on—means this GTI isn’t just a static art piece. Plus, $38,000 isn’t even the most money anyone’s put into a Mk1 GTI.
Derek Spratt spent 12 years and an estimated $140,000 restoring and modifying his 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI. The stock 1.8-liter has been replaced by a custom 220-hp engine. The 5-speed gearbox is also custom-built, Motor1 reports, and is linked to a Quaife limited-slip differential. The hood’s made of carbon fiber, as is the hatch and bumpers. It now also has electric windows, heated seats, LED headlights, and a digital dash with a touchscreen.
Suddenly, $38,000 doesn’t seem quite as expensive.
Volkswagen GTI alternatives
BaT reports Mk1 Volkswagen GTIs do regularly sell for less than the Callaway went for. Prices typically range from $10,000-$20,0000. However, there are some more modern hot hatches that can be had for less.
A used Fiat 500 Abarth, for example, regularly goes for under $10,000. Although it’s been dinged for some interior quality issues, the Abarth is a genuinely fun hot hatch. Plus, it also has one of the best-sounding cars you can buy for such a low price.
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