A well stocked junkyard is a splendid thing. It is a sort of scavenger hunt for the connoisseur of pre-owned vehicles in which, unlike that affair in the historic graveyard in Boston put on by the makers of Dr. Pepper, you might actually find something of use. The art of cross-pollinating and splicing car-parts between models and makes is fun and challenging. For example, last summer, I made a license plate bracket for my ’74 Baja out of Jetta ignition coil brackets, a bit of used radiator hose and a Porsche 924 plate holder. The only store bought piece was the bulb holder that I wired to light the plate. Had I been more diligent, even this part could have been sourced from the yard. It was a cheap and easy project and, after the application of a little paint, the finished product was not at all bad to look at. Delicious, just thinking about a trip to the junkyard, makes my dendrites grow.There are a handful of junkyards in my area and they run the gambit from pick-and-pull yards to ones where the owner, or rather his lackey, fetches the desired part for you. I like the hands on method, so, I tend to go to the local pull-your-own yard in Colchester. If you’re familiar with the area you know Rathe’s Salvage Yard as the consummate source for late model used parts.
Today, I am looking for window cranks for the ’80 Jetta, if you recall this is the one painted Inari Metallic Silver. The plastic, window cranks that came with the Jetta have hardened and cracked as a result of years in the sun. Ideally, I would like to exchange these with a direct replacement from an early ‘80s Jetta. This is the only item on my list, but, as always I am on the prowl for anything that might look useful.
Rathe’s keeps all the Volkswagens in one corner of the yard, unlike some other yards that have cars of all makes and models spread helter skelter across their property. This would seem like an advantage except that, with the cars all together, fellow parts harvesters don’t have to work too hard to locate their quarry. As a result, the Mark I Jettas and Rabbits are picked over pretty good and my mission seems a bust. So, I decide to check out the two nearby Sciroccos. Both Sciroccos will have to have matching window cranks for me to make a set because the Scirocco is a two-door and my Jetta is a four-door. See, I’m good with math. As it turns out, neither car has an intact window crank. Maybe I should convert to electric. No, that’s so ‘90s. However, one of the Sciroccos piques my interest. Its rear seat looks to be a perfect match to the interior of the ’80 Jetta.
A couple of months ago, I located a pair of bucket seats for the ’80 Jetta and have since been looking for a matching rear, bench seat. The front seats came out of a 1985 Jetta that is currently decaying in a junkyard in Charlotte, Vt. The back seat in that car was in less than useable condition, read as stained and stinking of beer. So, this leaves me looking for a match elsewhere. The list of potential donors includes most of the VW products of the early ‘80s and ‘90s. Obviously, the metal framework for the back seat varies from model to model but Volkswagen used common fabric across most of their line. This means that I’ll have to mess around with putting this matching fabric onto a Mark I Jetta seat frame. I’m okay with this so I grab the seat.
Some of you might not be Volkswagen aficionados and therefore don’t know the difference between the Mark I Jetta/Golf and the Mark II Jetta/Golf. There are other-newer-“Marks” but, unless they are parts donors, I really don’t concern myself with them. The Mark I was the original Jetta/Golf available from 1974 to 1984 in Europe. This is the car that started the hatch-back revolution, the impact of which can still be felt today. By the way, in South Africa the Mark I Golf is still available under the moniker of Citi Golf. However, the Mark I Jetta and Rabbit(what the Golf was called on this side of the pond) did not officially reach the United States until 1980. In the US these economy cars came with a few engine choices. The early, base models were powered by a 1.6l cam-in-head four-cylinder engine that produced 78hp and 83ft-pds of torque. From 1981 on, the Mark I cars would be powered by a 1.7l variant of the same design that produced 74hp and 90ft-pds of torque. Also offered, was a diesel-fueled 1.6l that produced 50hp. Finally, introduced in the Rabbit GTi in 1983 and for the Jetta GLi in 1984, Volkswagen offered a performance orientated variant that produced 90hp and 105ft-pds of torque. Volkswagen enthusiasts elsewhere in the world, due to lax emission laws, enjoyed higher-performance versions of these engines including a 110hp 1.6 liter in the 1975 GTi. Oh, by the way, the Cabriolet (a convertible rabbit), the Scirocco (a low-slung fastback that barely pre-dated the original Golf) and the Caddy (a rabbit-based pick up truck) were also Mark I chassis cars. Both the European and US versions of the Golf/Jetta were light-weight and nimble cars that coupled practicality with fun. Needless to say, they were an instant hit.
The mark II Jetta/Golf introduced in 1985 was seen as the evolution of the breed. These new cars were still as square as the older versions but featured a larger, stiffer and more refined chassis. With the Mark IIs, as with the Mark Is, the Jetta was simply a Golf with a trunk. The Mark II was a heavier and larger car so, to make up for the weight gain, displacement was initially bumped to 1.8l, a size previously only offered for the sporty GTi and GLi. Later, in 1987, the GTi would be equipped with the 1.8l 16V DOHC engine which was good for 123hp. The Jetta GLi would soon follow with this engine selection and, in 1990, both models would be equipped with a 2.0l version that produced 134hp. In addition, diesel engines were offered with a common 1.6l displacement The basic non-turbo diesel produced 52hp while the turbo diesel and ECO diesel produced 68hp and 59hp, respectively. Production of the Mark II line came to an end in 1992.
Gobs of fun can be had with cars from either generation, and the potential for tuning these vehicles is only limited by the owner’s bank fold and mechanical aptitude. For me, that is where the junk yard comes in handy. Often, with a little diligence, the junkyard can yield effective and affordable performance upgrades. Certain components from the newer cars can be installed on the older cars to yield performance gains. Most Mark Is were equipped with 9.4 inch solid rotors and drum brake units in the rear. Whole rear disc brake set-ups can be scavenged from Mark II, Mark III and even Mark IV cars to increase stopping ability on the older models. Larger brake rotors and calipers for the front can be sourced from Mark IIs with vented 9.4 inch or 10.1 inch rotors.
Because fuel injection systems and motor mount locations are often the same from chassis to chassis, whole engines can be grafted across different generations, often with only a little modification. For example, the ’85 and ‘86 Mark II Jettas and Golfs make great powertrain donators because they had the same Bosch fuel injection as the Mark I Jetta and Rabbit but with a higher output engine, and, physical installation is made easy due to common location of motor mounts across the two generations. For even more power, later Mark II GLi and GTi 16V engines can be transplanted into the older, lighter Mark I models. The mechanic has a choice of carrying over the more advanced Motronic fuel injection or of kluging the older Bosch system into working with the newer engine. Another cheap but torquey alternative is to use the 115hp 2.0l 8V engine from a 93 to 99 Mark III. For obscene power gains, high output 20V turbo four-cylinders and narrow angle six-cylinders (known as the VR6) from late model VWs can be implanted into the older models producing awe inspiring power-to-weight ratios with OEM reliability.
And then there are all the little things. Steering wheels, seats, speakers, radios, shift knobs, window cranks and a whole lot more can be, with some restrictions, spliced across VW generations.
On the way out I did find those window cranks, eight in all. They didn’t come from a Volkswagen, but from two old BMW Bavarias.