Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sub-$2k MkII: 1992 Volkswagen GTI

It's getting pretty tough to find any running & driving car for less than $2,000 these days - the proverbial $500 car may still exist, but more than likely the engine is long gone and a family of feral cats have set up base camp where the back seat used to be. Blame a variety of market forces: inflation, gentrification, consternation, whatever. A fun, early '90s hot hatch for less than $2k though - there has to be something wrong with it...right? Find this 8-valve 1992 Volkswagen GTI for sale in Covina, CA for a paltry $1,800 via craigslist.

I was thinking today that as recently as the mid-90s, there were two basic types of cars that people drove in America: big Detroit behemoths with creature comforts & road-hugging weight, and little tinny crapboxes that were cheap, fuel efficient, and fun to toss around. Today there are many different sizes of car available, but none of them seem to fall into either extreme category. The small cars have gotten bloated and roomier; the big family cars have grown smaller and more manageable. We're kind of mired in this mushy middle-ground soup.

But not the MkII GTI. It is from a time when cheap little death machines were looked upon as reasonable and progressive. When I was a kid my whole family got shoved into a Mazda GLC sedan, which wasn't really any bigger than this Golf on the inside, plus it had less power and less reliability. This GTI has a bit less space inside now thanks to bigger seats from a MkV GTI, complete with plaid inserts and modern adjustability.

The 1.8L 4-cylinder in this car is the lower option of the two GTI engine; the 8V made do with only 110hp while the 2.0L 16V pumped out 134hp. Either way the little mill is pulling a fairly lightweight steel box around, so it will be sprightly and tossable. In this writer's humble opinion, while the MkI is a modern classic, the styling of the MkII is a bit cleaner while retaining most of the feel of the angular Giugiaro original. This particular car seems to only need a new owner and some interior work, and maybe some VW wheels  - unless the BMW bottlecaps don't offend you.

From the seller:

Selling a 1992 VW GTI Mk2 Volkswagen 2 Door Hatch Back 8v 4 cylinder manual transmission
Things that have been replaced...
Throttle cable
Oil pan gasket
Front end: 
Axles, wheel bearings, struts, control arms
MK5 seats
Runs good, super fun to dive. $1800 obo

See a hotter cheap hatch? email us here:

CFlo is bidding auf wiedersehen to the DTM5 this week, whilst simultaneously taking custody of the DTRoadmonster wagon - so he's thinking about tiny cars while stretching out across that big blue leather bench.


  1. Looks like a decent cheap ride (and I don't mind the BMW wheels at all).

    I am curious: Up here is my province of the Peoples' Republic of Canuckistan, cars require a safety inspection to be registered for road use. As a result, cars can be sold "As is" or "Safetied". Ads usually are pretty clear about what condition applies. So, is that also the case in California, where this Golf is for sale? Is that usually a negotiating point during a sale?

    1. We have zero safety inspection requirements in CA, only an emissions test requirement for gasoline cars from 1976-up, and diesel from 1998-up. You could be driving around in a homemade rat rod deathtrap, but as long as it's either smog exempt or passed a smog test every other year, you are good to go. Might sound ridiculous but in reality cars pretty much last forever out here. Even in the snowy Sierra Nevadas we do not use road salt, so the worst rust you're going to find is on a car that sits in the salty foggy air near the coastline. Setting up the infrastructure required to implement safety inspections would take a century, I'm sure.

    2. That's very interesting! Thanks CFlo. Frankly, I am amazed, given the extent to which the automobile seemed to be public enemy #1 to Californian legislators back in the 70s.

      Up here, it is not unusual for a 100,000 mi used car to require $1000 of work to be registered on a resale. And serious rust will simply make it impossible. Inspection standards were toughened up last year. It really makes it tricky to shop for a used car, especially private deals.

  2. So scant info, but the local Wolfsburg bargain bin has this Mk4 for 2400 -

  3. This looks like fodder for Mighty Car Mods - or a Southern California equivalent!


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