(first posted 9/23/2013) Poor Volkswagen. Their relationship with the US has always been a bit complicated. Without resorting to stereotypes, let’s just say that it was undoubtedly painful for VW to see their fabulously successful American invasion of the fifties and sixties fall totally apart. It all started slipping away so fast and ugly in the seventies, a cruel combination of a falling dollar and a rising wave of Japanese imports. That kind of thing doesn’t sit well with the Volk-meisters.
And to rub salt in the wounds, the bold and brilliant new Rabbit/Golf couldn’t begin to reclaim the lost Beetle territory. VW decided that the problem was that Americans really wanted big booties on their cars, not hatchbacks. Well, there’s some truth to that, and so VW cooked up an Ami Golf, by slapping a nice big one on the back. Didn’t exactly solve all their problems, but it didn’t hurt either. And as VW once again launches a new Ami Jetta to (once again) try to reclaim their long-lost share of the US market, let’s take a close look at the transformation of the original.
As you can see, the transformation is pretty dramatic, or something like that, given how little was actually changed. VW builds a genuine two-door sedan for the Amerikaner. And how many two-door sedans was Detroit building in 1980? Hmm.
Reminds me quite a bit of another VW two-door sedan, but one that wasn’t ever officially imported to the US. Back then, VW thought Americans wanted fastbacks, so that’s what they got instead. And what does VW think Americans want now? Cheap Toyota clones without the Toyota reliability reputation?
Admittedly, the two door Jetta was decidedly less popular than the four door version, which really comes off looking more different than two extra doors might suggest.
There’s something odd about the two-door, and it’s become a bit of a cult favorite of the VW crowd. There’s this one with an early Golf single round headlight front end around; quite nice indeed. A VW lover lives here, obviously.
The Jetta appeared in time for the 1980 MY, so its run was a bit shorter than the almost ten year run of the Mk 2. Speaking of which, that was the last to offer the two door sedan (above). Seems everyone on the web is calling that a coupe now; sorry, but that’s a two-door sedan. Which is a lot cooler than coupe anyway.
It’s probably well known that the Jetta was a big flop back home; Germans like tidy little butts. And the Jetta’s lack of success caused VW to pull a real GM Deadly Sin of name debasement: the kept changing the Jetta’s name for Europe (and certain other countries). The Mk 3 was the Vento. And the Mk 4 became Bora. Thankfully, VW went back to Jetta for the Mk5, although both those other names are still blowing away in some corners of the world. Meanwhile, VW kept dicking around with the Golf’s name in the US…can we be done with that now?
The Jetta was quite a nice little car. By 1980, the Golf’s early teething frailties were largely done with. My father in law bought one, a red four door with the new 70 hp turbo-diesel. It exuded that old-school VW quality, like in the good old days. The non-metallic paint was like that enamel they put on wood stoves. This car stayed in the family almost twenty years, and to the end, that paint looked as deep and solid as new, after a polish and wax.
For that matter, that applied to pretty much the rest of the car. The Jetta was obviously aimed a step above the Golf/Rabbit, and it came with nice nubby upholstery that was a durable as the paint. And that applied to the deeply padded black vinyl dash. This was during the time when Rabbits were being built in Pennsylvania, and the contrast between one of them and a Made In Germany Jetta was stark indeed (this example looks to be a lower level than their GL, or whatever the top trim level was called).
And it was a nice ride. It felt a bit more refined and less juvenile than the earliest Rabbits. Better sound insulation, and the Jetta weighed more, especially with the heavier turbo-diesel to match the heavier trunk. It left the Jetta feeling like what it was trying to be: a compact FWD Mercedes. The Golf’s tossability was the trade-off.
The turbo-diesel was a revelation in its own right. I’ll be doing a piece on the birth of the VW diesel engine soon, which was a brilliant little piece. But it really, really wanted a turbo all along, which finally turned it into a proper motor. Now it had a nice little surge of torque, and better sounds too. I really liked this red Jetta with its five speed stick, and the lack of available power steering was fine with me, although it left a few Americans complaining. Call an ambulance.
That Jetta was handed down to brother-in-law, who kept it spit and polished, and drove it as a second car to keep his new Mk 3 Jetta pampered. After many more years, it finally needed a new transmission, so it went to someone who knew how easy it was to do that. And it’s probably still running around somewhere in the Bay Area with a BIODIESEL sticker on the ass end. The Germans would be happy to know that.
The Dodge Swiss cheese wheels are a nice touch.
Yes, me too. I’d love to see one of the Daytonas that those wheels came from instead…
If you look at the one photo of the VW family, you see the same kind of wheels on a VW under the tarp. So – they might not be Dodge wheels.
Definately Dodge Pepperoni Wheels – Yum!
I’m pretty sure the car under the tarp is the article’s featured car. Same color, same wheels, same anomaly along the bottom of the door.
The correct Mopar definition is “pizza wheels”
Alongside the Corolla, the Golf has been the best selling car in it’s segment as far as I can remember. The Jetta was always ment only for old people or americans. And no, a sedan is never better than a coupe, as a sedan has no practical reason for excisting at all 😉 The Golf has always been the Corolla for those who prefer a European car, not sure why the quality has been a problem in the US, it has normally been better than average for a European car.
I do miss seeing 2 door sedans still though. Are BMW the only one to make on now?
Well, let’s see. If i often bought fresh fish and drove them home a long way from the market, then I might want a trunk! That’s the only convincing reason I can see, or sniff out.
Maybe US hatchbacks got a bad reputation from the early domestic models that were sold without a cargo cover. Owners felt their possessions were on display, and at risk of theft. Golfs always came with a cargo cover, but that detail didn’t keep the reputation from sticking.
I think that a lot of us Americans choose form over function with our love of trunks. We like the look of long and low cars.
I can tell you another practical reason why I have a sedan with a trunk as my daily driver though. My car usually just hauls passengers and small cargo (tools and equipment to jobsites). It’s nice to have a trunk to keep my cargo of sight for security reasons. If I had a pickup, SUV or a hatchback, i’d be hesitant to leave it parked in some locations. Another plus is that it’s nice not to get hit in the head with a toolbox in the event of an accident.
I completely reject this whole Europeans=smart with hatch love and Americans=dumb with sedan love.
Hatches are great if you have one or two people in them, then the cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is a huge asset.
However, if you actually have one or more folks in the back, or a baby seat, having a trunk has the advantage as it will be bigger than a hatch with the rear seats up. This is not to mention other advantages such as increased security, body rigidity, and noise issues.
A hatch does make sense in Europe where the majority have seen fit to breed themselves out of existence by not having children, but it makes little sense to a family.
The way around this is the small wagon, which gives the best of both worlds (minus noise and security disadvantages of a wagon) and this shape is a good one and is popular in the USofA for good reason.
At the “risk” of being that ” ‘murican” (A term I actually hate BTW), You’re absolutely right. Hell, I’m single and I won’t own a car with out a proper trunk. For the life of me I never got the appeal of a hatchback….. Buy a wagon fer gawds sake. I like to keep tools and stuff in my car, I don’t want to have to hide them or waste interior space on them. Give me a trunk!
I saw this a while back… an Mk4 Jetta (Bora) coupe conversion the guy did, custom molded side glass and everything. It looked awesome… VW misses so many opportunities!
My dad bought a Mk1 or Mk2 diesel jetta. I did a lot of early driving in that car. I can’t imagine it had the turbo, and in all honesty my memory fails me on most details of that car. I liked it, liked the radio and the inside, but it was slow. And those glowplugs….
I’m guessing it was the mk2. He got the Diesel Tornado in 1981, which didn’t scare him off diesel, but it was 15 years before his next GM product (olds bravada. OK, there was an isuzu and a saab in there too….)
Many folks are dogging VW for the new blandmobiles that will soon be pumped out of the Chattanooga plant. I would think they would be happy for a return to the VWs of old. This subject car reminds me of how plain and austere the old VW’s could be, and how much the new ones emulate that old time simplicity.
I remember reading Auto Motor und Sport when the Jetta was released in 1979, how the press really seemed to fawn over the car. Not unlike how the domestic car rags over here fawned over every fart that fell out of GM’s rear end, too. As it turned out, the Jetta Mk1 was never popular over there, but not a bad bit of market spotting in the US.
One could even speculate that the Jetta set the template for the formal roof insurrection (of the mid-malaise era), or otherwise known the three box regime. No practical hatchback/fastback cars for Real Men (TM) in the US! Real Men (TM) only drive three box cars or pickup trucks, which are three box cars with open topped trunks. SUV’s are the exception to the Real Men (TM) rules, but they lose points for the effeminate hatches on the back. Real Men (TM) won’t admit it, but they really enjoy the rear hatch. It may have something to do with their manliness, but I will reserve further comment…
The three box regime continues to this day. Why can’t you get a Chevy Cruze with a hatchback? Or a Ford Fusion hatchback? What happened to the Mazda 6 hatchback? Or the Malibu Maxx?
The 1980 Volkswagen Jetta.
Yeah, I don’t see the problem here. I’m honestly tempted by the Tennessee-built Passat TDI. It can’t be any worse than the Mexican-built Jetta, and it has more room and a nicer interior for not much more money.
Sure, an Accord (the current generation really does suck, though – I loved my 5th gen, the 6th gen was perhaps the perfect car, and the hideous 7th gen still pretty damn good) or a Camry (despite the hate, it’s no less soul-crushing than its overhyped competitors and its probably the best overall performer/value in the segment) are better buys, but the Passat is still the only Camcord alternative that actually feels unique (Sorry, the Malibu and Fusion bring nothing other than flag waving to the table).
Moreover, the Euro Passat is just a rehash of the old car, which was too small and too expensive to compete in the U.S. market. And if you’re really set on paying premium prices for squishy dashboards and cramped back seats, Volkswagen will still sell you a CC.
Agreed. The two tastes work together, mutually reinforcing. Because Real Men insist on sedans, which won’t carry much cargo, they have a justification for also owning a pickup truck, which is good for nothing else but…
You could get a Chevy,or Holden Cruze hatchback in Australia ,in fact,Holden designed the hatch version in Australia,for those markets that wanted one.
That brings back memories. I had an 84 Jetta 4 door in the same Gambia Red color as the 2 door CC that I bought in 1990. Back in the day the A1 Jetta and Cabrio were considered a better choice since they were still made in Germany unlike the deservedly reviled Westmoreland Rabbits. Personally I liked the styling of the A1 Jettas, the downward sloping trunk nicely echoed the the front unlike the boxy appendages of later generations and the pseudo Hofmeister kink made it look a bit like a squared off 2002 or 200. An odd trivia item, the 82 and up cars with the LED warning lights were so German the digital clock displayed 24 hour time. My Jetta also came with a second glove compartment where the passive restraint knee bar would sit which was handy for storing cassettes. I kept that car for 7 years and it was a solid and reliable performer except for the cheap rebuilt alternator that ate its bearings on the way to our wedding, at midnight in Kansas City in a downpour. I liked driving and the way I was attuned to its needs, if the steering felt heavy, I needed to put air in the tires, if the oil temp was a few degrees high, the engine was a quart low. I miss some of that as I pilot my slushbox equipped Saturn.
I remember when these Jettas came out. “Cool, a Rabbit with a trunk” was my response. I remember these as being a bit pricey compared to the Rabbit. My sister had a couple of the Rabbits of that generation (a 77 gas and an 81 diesel) but never a Jetta. She did own an 87 Mark II Jetta sedan, though (gas because diesel was not available then).
I saw one of the 2 door gen1 Jettas a couple of weeks ago. Its owner was attending a party in my neighborhood but I couldn’t stop because I had to be somewhere, and by the time I got back, it was gone. Just as well because this is a much better piece than I would have written on this car because a) I have no firsthand experience with this car and b) I am not german. But really, I think that one of these in a Diesel would suit me just fine.
I find it helpful to first read what you put down, so I don’t repeat it.
VW lost it’s way when the market discovered Japanese. German vehicles were respected, but no longer in vogue. The first Rabbits didn’t help VW in the States all that much, but in hindsight, the Rabbit was necessary to change the VW US market image, even if it wasn’t a home run product.
Northern European vehicles were known as technologically awesome, but over-engineered troublesome expensive vehicles as well. A Volvo, BMW, SAAB, Mercedes Benz, AUDI was considered good vehicles that needed good mechanics and a good owner’s wallet. Leasing helped change that image quite a bit, but back in those days, folks still bought cars and expected to service them.
So VW went from having a popular vehicle that you could easily fix, to a vehicle that wasn’t at all like the previously popular Beetle. I believe the market recognized that VW was going into a more traditional Northern European mode, but also sensed that based on other brands, VW might be losing that “cheap to own and maintain” image it had throughout the 1950-1960s.
When the Rabbit started having problems, this only confirmed the image that German/Scandinavian brands had at that time. The Rabbit’s problems were maginified based on the market’s perceptions.
So not only was the Rabbit visually different in every way at the time, it looked like it could have been a VW-value Germanic-styled vehicle. When that didn’t turn out to be the case – VW sales suffered significantly in the US.
The bloom was off the rose.
Jetta gave VW a re-do in the US market. It was more than a Rabbit with a trunk. It was a vehicle based on a proven vehicle, just like VW was known for at the time, as capable of doing well. Buyers with doubts could see that it was a Rabbit, but one that seemed to have been redone. Using the newer model name, “Jetta”, helped as well as signaling to the US market that VW had fixed the problems with their first year cars.
The Jetta helped VW in the US and having a trunk made it easy for the market to see instantly that this VW was better than the Rabbits they knew and heard about. The car company that produced the exact vehicle for eons, could produce a knock-off and get away with it, based on their history.
It didn’t actually help immediately, but the Jetta did salvage VW in the States.
Another point is that (IIRC) the Jetta was built in Germany while the Golf was built in the U.S. People who were still buying VWs in the 80s were looking for a teutonic driver’s car on the cheap. The American Golf was perceived as an inferior product, while the Jetta was still the real deal – a German-built VW. This was, I believe, one of the things that boosted sales of the Jetta at that time. The American VW plant was becoming a hot mess of labor relations around that time, so it is very possible that the German cars were in fact better built. I remember being disappointed to learn that my 85 GTI was built in the US and not in Germany.
How couldn’t you tell the difference? Every VW made in Germany came with a free pair of lederhosen and a Heino cassette!
I’m not an import car guy, (my only foreign vehicle had two wheels!) But I always had in the back of my head that German cars,while well built but expensive to repair. Therefore they were imports for the “rich” and Japanese cars were also well built but reasonable to repair, therefore they were imports for “regular folk”. perhaps all true or untrue, But in my mind once Japanese cars became mainstream in the US, VW needed to go “upmarket” and leave “economy” cars to Japan, Inc. The Japanese went upmarket later and hosed my theory!
A2 Jettas diesels were available in 1987 but they are not common. Meantime my 1986 is slumbering in my garage (it clattered in there under its own power just fine), hopefully to be reawakened some day (that manual steering did do wonders for my upper arm strength).
Meanwhile, what is it with most American men (and women)? I now proudly, and to date, heterosexually, drive a red diesel Beetle that may be opened wide at the rear but am nonetheless not at all terrified about being taken from behind, even though I don’t live far from the great city of St. Francis …
I didn’t know the Jetta came as a two-door, and I never realised it was a flop. The Mk 1 Golf was really cute, but it had very little space for rear seat passengers, and even less space for luggage.
Less rear seat space than what, a Cadillac? American families bought more than a million GM A-body coupes in 1975, and they had tighter back seats (except width) than Rabbits.
I really don’t get all the fuss over the cheap interior and “dull” styling on the current Jetta. The Jetta never pushed the styling envelope, as demonstrated by the “Golf with a Trunk” Mk I/II shown here. And wasn’t the Mk V widely panned for looking like a Corolla with a stupid grille when it debuted? As for the interior, most low-priced cars feel like cheap crap these days (soft touch dashboards do not automatically make an interior nice). VW wasn’t making any money in the US selling cars with premium materials and what’s the difference when the car’s going to bankrupt you with electrical and mechanical problems, anyway?
And the chronic reliability and dealer service problems really are a shame. Because even when they cheap out, VWs have a lot more character than run of the mill Detroit and Asian compacts (save for maybe the Westmoreland cars). If I didn’t think it’d be substantially less reliable than my tired, abused, nine-year-old Civic, I’d buy a new GTI in a second. Instead, I’ll probably wait until the Civic self-destructs and buy a new Civic, no matter how widely panned it is by the press and “enthusiasts,” because I know it wont be completely hateful and it wont spend half its life in the shop.
Oddly enough, the new Focus is supposed to be the gold standard for feature content and driving enjoyment, but I don’t buy it for a second. I remember the hype over the original Focus. I know about the problems with Ford’s halfbaked new PowerShift automatic. And I also own an ’11 Mustang GT with dreaded the Chinese-built Getrag MT-82, an overrated interior, crap paint and pretty unimpressive fit/finish overall. So I’m pretty confident in predicting that the ’12 Focus will prove to be a complete piece of shit, much to the chagrin of customers swayed by the appallingly disingenuous automotive press. I’ll even go as far as saying I’d rather roll the dice on a VW than buy another Ford.
This is exactly my lament–I had a new Jetta for a week on vacation, and drove it up and down California. I liked the basic-but-not-cheap, no-nonsense interior and thought it had adequate power, but I will probably rule it out for my next car, because I can’t see it as dependable over the 5-6 years I’d probably keep it.
A new GTI wouldnt be “substantially less reliable” than your Civic. It wouldnt be substantially less reliable than a new Civic either. The horror stories are not about the new ones, since 2008 they have proven to be fairly reliable, as long as they are maintained properly. That being said, your Civic would probably be almost as reliable if you welded the hood shut when you bought it and never did anything to it for the last 9 yrs. A VW cannot take that kind of abuse, it requires regular maintenance, and sometimes that maintenance is expensive. You have to love it so you dont mind keeping it up properly. Things will break occasionally, but they are no worse than most European cars. They are extremely satisfying to drive though, I LOVE my GTI, 2 yrs later its still as fun as the day I got it. Every once in a while I think I should have probably gotten the Civic Si instead of the GTI, and never had to even worry if my tranmission was going to need replacement, or is that turbo going to go bad… but then I drive my car and I remember why I picked it. Dont get me wrong, the Civic Si was still really nice, I would never fault anyone for buying one. But I would fault you for staying away from the GTI because you think its going to shed parts as you drive down the road.
Oh, and the new Civic is butt-a$$ ugly, if anything was going to keep me away from a Honda, this new Civic would do it. The last one was at least nice looking, especially as the sedan.
Problem is, we’ve been condition to expect near perfection from modern cars. No, a Volkswagen wont suffer from the sort of reliability problems that plagued almost everything in the late ’70s. But then a Honda won’t suffer from, well, anything save for some truly awful styling inside and out. And for 98% of the population, that’s all they want.
Better to drive or not, there’s just no excuse for VW or any other manufacturer to not display the same sort of durability. Especially for the premium prices the Europeans charge.
Honestly, I could probably live with the more questionable reliability and higher maintenance costs. But my aforementioned Ford has already left such a bad taste in my mouth that my next purchase will probably overly reliable and boring.
I think I remember your Mustang story, didnt it go back on the lemon law?? I can understand your thinking, like I said, occasionally I sorta wish I went with the Si, and I havent even had any problems with my GTI, I just worry… “what if jj99 or cjinsd is right??” 🙂
You are right, 98% of the population doesnt care how the car drives. I am proud to not be part of that 98%. I suppose if I turn out to be wrong, and have a horror story like others, I might change. And to be completely honest, our other 2 cars are a Toyota and a Nissan. And I am slowly shopping for a car for my next teenage driver, and we are pretty much exclusively looking at used Hondas for her now, and am not letting her even consider a used VW, not even a Cabrio. So I guess I am really hedging my bets… 🙂
Nope, I still haven’t gotten a Ford dealer to admit there’s anything wrong with it. And my transmission isn’t as bad as some, it merely pops out of gear and is crunchy, whiny and generally really balky in 2nd, 4th and 5th. But at least it doesn’t not go into gear altogether like other people’s cars!
I only drive it a few days a week though (the Civic is usually my commuter), and it’ll rarely leave the garage in the Midwestern winter. It’s not terrible, it’s just enough to really piss me off if I drive it for an extended stretch or in heavy traffic. But I also tend to overanalyze everything.
What it ultimately comes down to is do you think the added enjoyment you get from your car is worth the added headaches? Jury’s still out on mine. Depending on the day of the week, it was a stupid purchase or the best car in the world. I imagine I’d feel the same about a GTI and, believe me, I’ve had to talk myself out of buying one more than once. Life’s short, everybody ought to buy a car that defies common sense at least once.
I’d still take a GTI. Or a TDI. Or even the forthcoming GLI. Provided I could afford to unload it if it started having problems once the warranty ran out. Or didn’t have that damned DSG…for all the hype about these dual-clutch transmissions, the ones on the market are clunky, self-destructive disasters…I’d honestly rather have a conventional automatic.
Well I havent had ANY headaches so far, its been awesome. There are just all these naysayers, so sometimes it gets to me!
Funny though, I have a DSG, which is mostly what I worry about. Most reports are good, but there are some stories of self destructive ones… its just hard to determine if they were from owner neglect or abuse. If I did it over again, I would probably go with a stick, and maybe even a TDI, the gas mileage kind of sucks on mine.
Honda Civics are far from perfect. Like our 2001.
I wouldn’t call it horrible, but it definately did not live up to its reputation for build quality or reliability. It’s the car that turned me to buying what I like instead what the media tells me I should like.
The Focus trans problems are mostly perception, no onwers being “stranded” by a broken trans. People used to cushy Corollas don’t like the ‘thunks’ of the dry clutches. It is way tooo early to say ‘pos’. Besides, there will be more dry clutch trans in the future and ‘bugs’ ae being worked out, i.e. more smooth for picky, snarky customers.
I still have hype over the original Focus, still driving mine at 200,000km, no major issues.
It’s a 5-speed though. 100% of all automatic transmission trouble can be prevented by buying a standard.
The verdict came in on the Focus transmission.
When I first met my future wife she was in the process of buying a 2 year old 87 Jetta, the white Wolfsburg edition. That car looked really sharp with all the blacked out trim and alloy wheels. Inside it had different upholstery than the regular Jettas too. We used to go camping in it and the trunk and back seat would swallow all our equipment with room to spare. We went camping in my 90 Pathfinder 4 door with the exactly the same stuff and it was a tight fit…so tight I couldn’t see out the back window, we could see out the back in the Jetta! We sold the car to someone we knew and it ended up with 350,000 KM on it before it died! Great car!
Dr. Mendieta is an Artiste!
The only time Jetta was ever on my radar was when I was yard hopping in search of a MkIII front bumper for my XR4Ti. Never found a good bumper and the XR is probably a washing machine by now..
There’s a strange “chick car” vibe with Jetta. Name maybe?
The early jetta reminds me of both my 87 Nissan Sentra and my Sister’s late 80’s VW Fox. Its kind of sad that no one makes a simple, yet boxy compact car anymore because these cars, despite their limitations were reliable transportation on the cheap.
I bought my well-used Sentra when I was 16 and had it for about 6 years before forced to sell it due to problems with passing a smog test. Even then, the car ran strong and rarely had any serious problems – though I did have to replace the head gasket once.
My sister’s car on the other hand wasn’t so reliable and was summarily gotten rid of after a couple of years. I remeber the Fox feeling like it was as stiff as brick with the build quality of a tank. The clutch was stiff, the steering tight, and the door closed with the discenable thud of a German car. My Sentra on the other had was loose, well-worn, and always felt like it was falling apart. Everything but the engine seemed like it was designed to biodegrade. The Fox was the complete opposite – a very well put together car that suffered from mysterious mechanical issues.
My little brother had one of the early 1980 Jetta 2doors when we live in California, it MAY have even been titled as a 1979- what was weird and always baffled us is that it did NOT have a glovebox, it may have been a very early production model…At the time I had a first-year Audi 4000, very similar under the hood except his engine was transverse and mine was not. His was a very pretty light-green metallic and became a money machine, it was an accident magnet and he always pocketed the settlements and never fixed the car, eventually recouping his entire purchase price. In the end he sold it to someone that was moving to Tijuana of all places…
I have an ’84 Jetta coupe (it’s my 2nd car and nice-weather use only). It’s probably the last unmolested MK1 Jetta coupe anywhere (down to the hubcaps on stock suspension, a no-no with the coilover-loving, BBS-sporting crowd).
I have taken it to a few local VW shows, and the under 21-crowd fawns over it (but not as much as they do on the coilover cars). One intrepid young man had never seen “an original one” and put his hand in the cabin and felt up the headliner and seats. Ummm…
Apart from its feeble performance, it’s a good little car.
Funniest, CC, Ever.
Was this sold as a VW Derby in the UK?The Jetta was a larger saloon/sedan/wagon here.I drove a VW Derby a lot in 1979,my flatmate had a new yellow one and I was a non drinker so I drove her car back from bars and clubs.
No. The Derby was a Polo with a trunk slapped on its backside. Same idea; smaller car.
Thanks Paul,looking forward to VW week
I had an 84 Jetta 4 door in the same Gambia Red as the bumper-less 2 door. It was a nice driving car, although the rear footwells filed up due to a leaky sunroof. The trunk may have been an add on, but it was huge, which may have been the attraction, OTOH it did make getting to the spare tire a bit of a reach.
Given American preferences, I’m sure the Jetta was a worthwhile investment, regardless of how much the European press and public disliked it.
Had an 84 GLI & loved it. White w/ blue interior (favorite color combo) & crank sunroof. One of the better & more reliable of the VWs I’ve owned in my day.
I grew up in the back seat of a two door Jetta, identical to the 4 door cream one with chrome wheels pictured above, right down to the tape stripes. I really think my folks getting that car when I was 3 launched me into being a car nut. I can clearly recall standing in the garage just staring at it, wowed by how different it was from every other car in the neighborhood. It replaced a Cutlass Supreme as the family ride, and was the only non-American car in the neighborhood. The difference between the Cutlass’s bunker-like back seat, with the tufted cushions, and no real windows to speak of, to the Jetta’s bright, open greenhouse, was enormous. Even as a kid, I thought the almost entirely color matched interior (in brown even), was fantastic, and don’t get a 3 year old started on how cool a car is with a wolf right on the steering wheel!
After a 1990 Accord became the family ride, my grandmother replaced her 79 Impala with the Jetta, and that was a sight to see. She loved driving, and I can recall her making me nervous flying around corners, whipping the stick shift around like a pro. It lasted her until about 2005, when with over 250k miles, and no work ever needed, she replaced it with something newer and safer. It became a young ladies first car, so at least we help create another “Jetta girl”, :-). I still miss that car, and seeing the sedan that looks SO much like it really brings back a ton of memories, I can still distinctly recall that old German car smell inside.
” And how many two-door sedans was Detroit building in 1980? Hmm.”
Well, there were still quite a few, but most gone by 1989.
GM: Malibu, LeMans, Caprice, Delta 88, Omega, LeSabre, Skylark, examples of many A, B, C, X bodies.
Ford: Fairmonts, Panthers, and Mustang notchbacks
Mopar: ’81 K cars
I assume the booted Golf has never sold particularly well in Europe and that that is why VW kept changing the name: in an effort to make the latest version sound like it was new and exciting and not an afterthought answer to a question few European buyers were actually asking. Although there was an intriguing V5 version of the Mk 4 Bora (and I think its SEAT cousin) that was never sold here that was at least interesting. I’m not sure if the V5 was ever used in the Golf.
yet another German car with flat paint and an intentionally-rusted hood. I love that Curbside Classic is where I get all of my hip new tuner trend news as well.
I can’t quite tell if you’re being serious or not, but FWIW, I shot this car about five years ago, so it’s not exactly leading edge anymore 🙂
My dad had a 1984 Jetta Turbo Diesel GL four door, loaded with whatever VW sold on those cars in those days. Curiously, these cars didn’t have power steering, which was a mixed blessing. On the road, the manual rack and pinion was superb but it took strong arms to parallel park. The turbo was downright peppy in the light car and the handling excellent. It was a really fun little car to drive, albeit an expensive one. It went out the door for something like $14,000, not cheap at all for the time. Dad only kept it for two years and got an ’86 GL Turbo Diesel, loaded. He liked the bigger car. That one topped $18,000. Dad had an expensive hobby for sure!
I had a university girlfriend who had a Gen 1 Jetta, gas with automatic. The car drove very well but wow was it hard to steer, especially for her. At 130,000 km it started to fall apart so we sold it and bought an orphan Peugeot 505 for all of $1000. She drove that car for three years and only sold it because we went abroad.
My gut tells me the Jetta wasn’t a response to American non-acceptance of hatchbacks – I think Rabbits outsold Jettas throughout the MkI era and people were buying plenty of Chevette, Omni/Horizon and Escort hatchbacks – but it was one of the contributing factors in that it was still very much a German car while the Pennsylvania-built Rabbit had been Americanized by the Oldsmobile execs VW had hired.
Jawohl, Volkswagen woche !
Forget Dr. Mendieta’s fake-butt !
You crack me up! -silicone free.
We’ll see what happens with WV now that they will have to answer for their malfeasance regarding the diesels. VW seems to go through cycles in the US, 50s and 60s they made a splash with the BUG and the BUS, then the mid 70s to mid 80s were stagnant, late 80s were ok, almost died by 1993, revived and slowed again, revived, and now we’ll see. The current lineup doesn’t seem to be terribly exciting, the costs involved from overcoming the diesel situation will likely severely impact future development costs, and VW seems to not want to play in a number of popular and profitable market categories. That says nothing about their somewhat questionable long term quality prospectus as new models in and out of warranty are needing service at an alarming rate.
Yup. They really haven’t faired well from a quality standpoint. You forgot the marketing zeitgeist that was ” Fahrvergneugen” (sp?), Which really moved VW forward (rightfully, as compared to the Honda/Toyota handling and dynamics of the late 80’s/early 90’s in the “Driver’s Car Wars” of) in the later stage import wars. Being an early 20-something in the early 90’s meant VW was a bargain BMW. They sold a lot of (Mexican constructed quality-distressed) Golf’s and Jettas on that premise. Probably turned off a lot of future buyers in the process.
I had an ’80 2 door Jetta. Silver with sunroof. It replaced my ’77 Rabbit which t boned a ’63 Dodge pickup that ran a stop sign. It had a 1.8 engine installed by the time I got it in 1990, and really ran strong even with the 3 speed automatic. The interior especially and build quality was very good. Always thought the MK1 looks better in 2 door form but the MK2 seems to look a little better in 4 door form.
Only had it for about a year and a half, it was replaced with an ’86 Jetta GL 4 door that has AC, sunroof and 5 speed stick. I had pulled the 5 speed and conversion parts out of the wrecked ’77 intending to install it in the ’80 Jetta but got a great deal on the ’86 and really wanted AC in hot SoCal. So I sold the ’80 with the automatic still installed and sold the 5 speed and conversion parts to a co worker instead.
Huge trunk in the ’80, although the ’86’s is larger yet. I was able to fit the rear end of my ’70 C10 in it’s trunk (with the lid tied shut) when I traded it in on a used replacement. at the local U pull yard.
It was a good driving car. The ’86 is still driven today, at over 300k miles, still with original engine and trans. If it had been equipped with AC I probably still would have the ’80 today..
There is a very original-appearing Mk1 Jetta 2-door in my old neighborhood. Last saw it about 6 months ago so it’s probably still in service. Any Jetta of that age is a rarity today, the 2-door even more so, so that one is always nice to see.
I know the Rabbit sold in greater numbers but it seems like almost no Jettas have survived, with notable exceptions like the above. I wonder what the rationale is? Seems to carry over into the Mk2 cars–I still see more Golfs than Jettas, and if I’m remembering what I saw on the streets 10-20 years ago, the Mk2 Jetta was a very strong seller.
I think the americanization of the rabbit and jetta was what ruined them for many. The square headlights and big 5mph weight down the cars so much. The European spec part were lighter and changed the whole look of the car. Left US spec (Atlas Grey) Right Euro spec (Mars Red)
I am the former owner of a 1980 4-dr Jetta. Bought it in 1984 with 41K miles on it. It was a great driving car and the 1.6L got 41mpg freeway. Despite my Father or I ever driving the car hard, that Jetta had a propensity for breaking clutch cables (3), grinding up transmissions (cracked casing/cracked gear teeth), and burning up brake switches (switches located right next to the engine block with no heat shield). By 1986, our local VW dealerships could not get a replacement brake switch – turned out that the first 5000 Jettas entered the USA with some electrical parts never used on any other VW products. Fortunately, we also had a ’67 Beetle and I noticed the brake switch was the same less a bridge between the contact – saw the bridge off and the switch worked on the Jetta. After installing a third transmission and the car was in a minor broadside accident & repaired, I sold it in 1988 with 112K miles. The new owner street parked it and I last saw it parked on the street resting on milk crates after somebody had stolen all four wheels. To say the least, to this day I have never owned another VW product. I still feel bad for convincing Dad to get this as my first car and putting him through all the repair bills.
The British preferred a trunk (boot) on their cars.
A sedan (salon) version of the Ford Serria called the Sapphire eventually appeared to make the UK crowd happy.
They could have dazzled Amerikaners, and satisfied liftgate lovers, if they adopted the hidden hatch.
I never knew that the Shadow/Sundance were hatchbacks. The only one I was ever in was a convertible.
Lebaron GTS and Dodge Lancer were hatchbacks as well. They were more obvious. It was one of the best features of the Shadow/Sundance. Though, they did have a high lift over. Likely due to the extra body rigidity needed.
Well, 40 years later, it is the Jetta that remains; though VW still sells a GTi, at least in the US the Golf is gone. Darn, one more hatchback no longer available. I know I could buy a GTi, but ..I had one (an ’86 A2) and..I now lean more toward comfort, in my old age, I no longer think I’m the target audience for a GTi. However, there are fewer and fewer hatchbacks left, unless you go a size smaller than the Golf.
I’ve owned nothing but VWs since 1981 when I bought my A1 Scirocco, but I’m wondering what my next car will be..
Yes, those A1 Jettas have a large trunk, but I understand the A2 had an even bigger one. But for me a large trunk isn’t the same as having a hatch, with the added flexibility with irregularly shaped loads, I guess I lean to that, as I don’t think I’d otherwise consider a Jetta.
Or..maybe it is my family background (literally)…we kind of look like our butt has been chopped off, kind of the opposite of a big butt. So maybe liking hatchbacks is for me a bit genetic since it is like having a chopped butt (or no butt at all).