Junkyard Gem: 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

The speedy Jetta counterpart to the Rabbit GTI.

Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI / Image Credit: Murilee Martin
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With the hot-hatch craze in full swing by the early 1990s, so many Rabbit/Golf GTIs flew out of American Volkswagen showrooms that I have no problem finding discarded GTIs in the big self-service wrecking yards nowadays. The European hot-sedan craze never was quite as big, and so Jetta GLI 16Vs from the 1985-1993 era have become real junkyard rarities; they're not worth much now, but so few were sold that most got crushed years ago. Here's a 225k-mile example I found in Denver last month.

Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

The 134-horsepower GLI 16V competed with... well, not many cars. There was the Civic EX sedan, which had the same 108-horse engine as the Si hatchback and sold for $11,450 (versus the GLI's $13,725 price tag, equal to about $27,100 in 2019 dollars). The 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Edition sedan got a mighty 160 horses from its Quad-4 engine and could be had with a five-speed (few were), but it cost $14,995 and weighed 300 pounds more than the GLI 16V. Turbocharged Saabs, BMW 3 Series, and the like cost way more than this car.

Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

This engine will look familiar to you owners of 1990 Golf GTIs.

Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

VWs of this era didn't have a great reputation for reliability among maintenance-averse American drivers (who thought nothing of going 60,000 miles between oil changes on their poor abused Chevy Luminas), but this one had owners who took care of it. 225,569 miles would do credit to any Honda or Toyota of the era, though it can't touch the 930,013 miles on this '82 Rabbit.

Junked 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

It's not rusty and the body looks decent apart from some swapped-on fenders, but nobody wanted to rescue this Colorado-sold car from its depressing fate next to a generic Japanese commuter appliance.

Safety and Fahrvergn├╝gen!

Volkswagen Jetta Information

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